A few months ago, the folks at the Center for Creative Leadership organized a free MOOC on Leadership. CCL did this because our mission is to "advance the understanding, practice and development of leadership for the benefit of society worldwide". There is still much to learn about MOOCs as they are an emerging approach to learning - but that's one of the reasons they ran this pilot! The intention was simple - find out if MOOCs allow us to scale up leadership development, reach people we otherwise couldn't reach, and learn what impact this new approach can have and for whom.
CCL has been doing research on leadership for over 40 years and are one of the pioneers in the field of leadership development. We publish tons of whitepapers and books on the subject. We have been in the top 10 of the Financial Time rankings for executive education for more than 12 years in a row. (This year we are number 8 in case you are wondering.) We are actually the only non-business school in that list. And we are also a global organisation: we have campuses and offices in Greensboro (USA), San Diego (USA), Colorado Springs (USA), Brussels (BE), Adis Abeba (ET), Johannesburg (SA), Moscow (RU), Singapore (SI), New Delhi (IN) and Shanghai (CH).
The New York Times declared 2012 - The Year of the MOOC. CCL has for decades been working to bring leadership development to as many people as possible. Our mission also drives us to set up leadership development initiatives for communities, youth and women in Africa, Latin America and other regions in need. The new freedom that comes with the digital platform allowed us to touch over 20,000 leaders who otherwise would have no access to world class leadership development programs.
There's a shortage of leaders in the world today. From research we know that leadership is pretty much like a muscle. By working it out, you can build it. It takes discipline and a lot of hard work but it can be done. With our heritage and not for profit philosophy, we felt compelled to take stand and begin to look at means to provide world class leadership development to as many people as possible.
From our experiences in Africa, we have learned that leadership is a lever to solve innumerable problems. In Gambella, Steadman Harrison III worked with warring tribes that had shed blood over decades to bring peace and co-operation. In other parts, leadership development had helped to boost efforts to eradicate illiteracy and reduce infanticide. In Ethiopia, leadership work with our Early Leadership Toolkits had helped generations of young girls. Initiatives like PYPA (Programs for Young Politicians in Africa) had proven that leadership development could change the future of countries.
There was a clarion call that the Center felt compelled to respond to. The new digital world allowed us to reach people that we could never have reached before. The Marrow Fund generously contributed to help us make this a reality.
The MOOC was an 8 week long module. We had 7 topics in 7 weeks, plus one orientation week at the start so that makes 8 weeks.
The MOOC began on 8th September, with an orientation week on how to make the most out of a MOOC. The week after, we started our journey with "the leader mindset" where you make up your own mind about what a good leadership is all about and the type of leader you want to become. Then we moved into the "fundamental four" of leadership. We also included a 'mystery week'. The topic of that week was decided by all of the participants by the end of the first week. Finally we ended with a week to bring it all together and 'make it real'. Every week also included one particular research spotlight relevant to the topic.
Week 0 : Orientation week
Week 1 : The leader mindset
Week 2 : Self-awareness*
Week 3 : Influence*
Week 4 : Communication*
Week 5 : Learning Agility*
Week 6 : Mystery week
Week 7 : Making it real
* = the "fundamental four" of leadership
Participants completed assignments to deepen their learning and were reviewed by peers. In order to get access to your results, it was necessary to review at least 3 peer assignments. This provided participants with diverse perspectives on leadership from different parts of the world.
A journey rather than an Event: Wvery week we helped participants to answer essential questions on how they can become a better leader "for real" in their particular context. You could think of LeaderMOOC as a GPS that helped you map out leadership development journies. Every week there were videos to cover the basics, one research spotlight, forum questions, guest speakers, a number of assignments and a badge to be earned.
Enroll Anytime: The content of the previous weeks would remain available, so you could join late and still complete the MOOC. The content would remain accessible for registered students until the end of the year.
Flexible Time Commitment: While we had a fixed start date and weekly schedules, within the weeks and the MOOC you could participate at times that are convenient for you. We made all materials and assignments for the week available on Sunday. Apart from a few virtual class sessions, you coould do all activities at your own time and pace. You could also access previous weeks in case you missed out, and after the MOOC finished, the materials remained up for registered users until the end of the year.
FREE FREE FREE: It was free for anyone to participate. We funded this pilot with a grant from the Marrow family (many thanks!) and we put in our hours because we really believe in this project making a difference.
Easy Access: To follow the MOOC, all you needed was a browser and an Internet connection. The MOOC platform we used was canvas.net and the platform supported mobile browsers. If you are using an iPad or Android tablet, you could download the Canvas app for iOS or Canvas app for Android.
1. Technology: This was the key challenge. Hosting more than 20,000 learners and facilitating peer assignment evaluation was a significant technology challenge that we over came by working with the canvas.net team. They were extremely helpful and worked closely with us to increase the interactivity in the design considerably.
2. Time: People are extraordinarily busy these days. They just don't have time to come back every single week. We created a short cut of just 3 hours to enable people to get the best out of the journey by investing just a small amount of time!
3. Making it Interactive: Any virtual training lacks the interactive element that is such an important element of a learning experience. To make it interactive, we encourage participants to evaluate peer assignments, share pictures and videos of themselves. We also threw in a number of LIVE sessions with subject matter experts.
4. What's the Reward: In any program like this, there are always students who are looking for a 'reward' or some sort of 'feedback' to let them know that they are doing well! We used free assessments, coaching sessions and badges imaginatively to keep people engaged through the 8-week journey.
1. Global Participation: We had people sign up for the MOOC from all over the world, but the came from the USA (54%). Here are the top 10 countries (in ascending order): France, Germany, Netherlands, Australia, Belgium, Spain, United Kingdom, Canada, India, United States.
2. People got help when they needed it: A survey of participants tells us that 45% stated - "I'm working and ready for the next step in my career" and 15% - "I've just started to lead and I'm looking for support". This MOOC helped them at this critical stage of their careers.
3. Connection and Discussions : We also had a lot of students, CCL faculty, youth leadership community and teachers sign up. Some of these groups started their own discussion forum to connect with each other and that's the connection we were hoping to facilitate when we set it up.
The top 3 reasons people came to the MOOC were
- To get practical tips we can use in our jobs and life,
- To gain insights into the field of leadership and
- To get support for the concrete challenges we face.
From CCL side we provided contents and frameworks and expert speakers to help you with the insights and gave some tips every week. Since this is a MOOC, we counted on the participants to connect with one another the provide support and give tips to each other. We noticed that some MeetUps were organised around LeaderMOOC and some people started creating LinkedIn groups etc. Other key lessons were:
Go Digital: That's the future. By partnering with Canvas.net we were able to get our research of over 40 years into the hands of thousands of aspiring leaders who would otherwise never had access to these resources.
Engagement is Key: There has to be new engaging content and discussions in progress to keep students coming back.
Visible Rewards make it Competitive: Badges and other rewards worked nicely to get students to stretch and compete for the coveted appreciation.
Appeal to all the different learners in the class: Content was designed to appeal to different learning styles. There was video, articles, discussion and written assignments to deepen learning.
Free is always nice: By ensuring that it was free we were able to get a large number of people to sign up and get the benefits of world class leadership development for free.
Ron Rabin, Bert de Coutere & Sandrine Tunezerwe are probably the most positive and eccentric people inside CCL. They wanted to help CCL expand its boundaries and proposed a ground-breaking project to the Marrow Fund, the MOOC: a massive open online course.
Ron is our learning technology guru and his role at CCL is to explore ways technology can make learning more impactful, engaging and fun. Bert is our blended learning lighthouse and Brussels’ office Friday fun man. Sandrine is the strangest of the three with roles in language strategy, grant writing, the Brussels employee committee on management team efficiency and LBB-Early Leadership EMEA. They spent hours, nights, weekends to make this happen and still have time to smile.
Kat Pappa & Paula Nielsen Lazo are the familiar faces that people saw through LeaderMOOC. Kat is a faculty member at our Greensboro, NC, USA campus, while Paula is a design faculty at our Brussels, BE campus. They both volunteered their time to get in front of our camera.
Obviously, we owe a great deal of thanks to the fantastic people of canvas.net who helped us setting up the MOOC on the platform, and gave us design tips. In particular we wanted to thank Katie Hocevar for her support.