Leader-sponsored MOOC to foster culture change


This learning solution focused on the idea of a MOOC, sponsored by a individual organization leader, with the intention to foster culture change through innovation toward a specific company goal (i.e., speed-to-market, market growth, innovation, etc.). The MOOC features elements such as crowdsourcing, working out loud, collaboration, expert-led facilitation, and problem-based learning.


Who is this for?

In the casework that led to the design of this solution, the company’s senior leadership team included an individual executive who was deeply motivated to change the culture of his own organization, which played a crucial role in developing the innovations that would help the company maintain its competitive position. The executive’s organization was made up of highly tenured and knowledgeable practitioners who needed to innovate better, faster, and cheaper to stay competitive in their industry. This solution may be most helpful to organizations with a similar context: A senior leader who recognizes the need for a culture shift, has a specific business goal that can be used to motivate the shift (i.e., speed-to-market, innovation) and is enthusiastic about playing an active role in the learning solution.

How might it work?

Course Description

The initial course will be six weeks in duration, with a total time commitment of approximately one to two hours per week. We believe that this is sufficient time to delve into a new topic and inspire learning, without the time commitment being too burdensome as to inhibit participation. Within this two-hour time period, learners will participate in various activities, such as:

  • View recorded presentation from the MOOC facilitator
  • Participate in location-specific live events, with facilitated live Q&A chat sessions by local SMEs
  • Participate in regional-specific content
  • Dialogue with learning buddies, who may be geographically dispersed
  • Online question and answer opportunities to gauge learning and create dialogue.

Program Overview

  • Audience:  Employees of the sponsoring executive’s organization.
  • Content:  Industry trends and business challenges.
  • Learning: Understand the future marketplace and the business needs of our customers.
  • Branding: Theme – “inspired” interpreted into hashtag used throughout the program #[companyname]inspired
  • Length:  1-2 hours per week for 6 weeks (approx. 12 hours in total).  Each lesson should be completed within a weekly time period.
  • Regions: Various global regions which are home to the executive’s organization.
  • Online surveys: Surveys will be utilized to receive feedback after each lesson.  This will help give feedback on the effectiveness of the MOOCs and provide information on how to provide better MOOCs in the future.
  • Each session can be attended individually.
  • Even if a lesson is finished, a group can continue to discuss and collaborate on a particular topic(s).
  • Points gathered throughout for competitions between teams, regions, and individuals
    • Attendance
    • Comments online
    • Liking others comments
    • Participation in discussions – creating original posts and building on others

Lesson Outlines

Nudges for Lesson 1

  • Blog from sponsoring executive about the series encouraging employees to attend, including the biographies of expert facilitators
  • Competition for the region with the greatest percentage attending the first class. (Prizes awarded for team attendance).
  • 15 minutes: Recorded external speaker content highlights prior to start of Lesson 1

Lesson One

Pre-recorded content:

  • 30 minutes: Recorded expert speaker for 30 minutes painting the picture of the future employee
  • 15 minutes: External speaker

Corresponding Activity:

  • Live events in each region
  • Live Q&A facilitated by specialists in each area brainstorming on more attributes of the future user of the software (persona)
  • Form learning buddies (i.e. “thought partners”)
    • Must be working on one project together
    • Do not know each other very well
    • Buddies can be located in different locations
  • Discuss homework for the learning partners
  • Goal: Learning and community building

Nudge for Lesson Two

Another video blog from sponsoring executive with a tantalizing overview of the content of lesson two and what it means for the organization.

Lesson Two

Pre-recorded content:

  • Recorded lesson for 80 minutes diving into two industry/customer trends
  • Each employee completes the lesson
  • The lesson is divided into four 20 minute videos
  • Each video is followed by questions for each employee to answer (gamification for answers)
  • Employees can also participate in a comment session (part of gamification)

Corresponding Activity:

  • Printed infographic of industry trends that employees can display in cube or office
  • Printed certificate of completion with #[companyname]inspired logo that can be put in cube or office
  • Learning partner exercise during the week

Nudge for Lesson Three

Blog from sponsoring executive introducing crowdsourcing (provide example of Open IDEO for others to see “real” example competitions). The region with the greatest percentage of ideas wins another #[companyname]inspired branded prize.

Lesson Three

Pre-Recorded Content:

  • 10 minute video introducing the exercise
  • Can be done as a group or individually

Corresponding Activities:

  • Ideas for product/service capabilities that would support future trends as outlined during previous sessions.  The goal would be to generate innovation and new ideas.
  • The ideas will then be crowdsourced and evaluated.  Points/some sort of way to prioritize the ideas.
  • Everyone makes a short video of their idea introducing it (five minutes or less)
  • Videos posted
  • People can comment on the videos and ask questions
  • People can rate the videos and give videos points to filter down the ideas
  • Narrow down to top five ideas, with points awarded if ideas make it to this stage

Nudges for Lesson 4

  • Food provided in each region during the session
  • Management attends each session in-person
  • The CEO creates a video on the importance of these lessons for the success of company over the long term
  • Competition: The region that has the largest percentage of people who attended all sessions will win a private lunch with the CEO

Lesson 4

Pre-recorded/live content:

  • Live Session in each region
  • Length: 90 minutes
  • Lessons Learned
  • Content created centrally by sponsoring executive and then used within each region.  Can be customized for each region.
  • Create a safe space to honestly discuss what happened and lessons learned

Corresponding Activities:

  • Key lessons learned will be posted online for others to see and comment on
  • Each set of learning partners must come up with two new process ideas which will enable the company to make progress on the specific business challenge presented as part of this MOOC (i.e., speed-to-market, market growth, innovation, etc.).

Nudges for Lesson Five

  • Video blog from sponsoring executive
  • Video blog from an industry speaker
  • Competition for the region with the greatest percentage of people who listen to and comment on lesson five.  Bragging rights for the ‘most inspired’ region.

Lesson Five

Pre-recorded Content:

  • Focus on the next generation industry issues
  • Industry speaker
  • 60-minute recorded presentation
  • Online questions to the industry speaker and cross collaboration

Corresponding Activities:

  • Regional activity for homework/virtual

Nudges for Lesson Six

  • Announcement of the competition and the process
  • Competition for ideas
  • Competition for the region with the greatest number of points

Lesson Six


  • Online crowdsourcing
  • Take the top five ideas identified in previous weeks and continue to evolve them and involve more people.
  • Competition at the end of the week to bring the five ideas down to three.
  • Potentially use world cafe process to help evolve the ideas.
  • Everyone is assigned a cross-regional project who wishes to participate.
  • The expectation is that groups are working on these projects.
  • The top three projects will be allocated funding to continue to evolve the projects for the next six months with a team of five on each.

Anticipated Outcomes of MOOC:

  • Personal learning networks formed
  • Communities of Practice around participant concepts and ideas


Challenges that the organization might anticipate if they were to try implementing a learning solution through MOOCs would include the following:

  • Executive leadership sponsorship and engagement – will leadership give the time, money, and resources to sponsor a learning intervention, learn themselves, and engage employees to participate as well?
  • Power dynamics, transparency, and building of trust in a culture that has not traditionally honored or invested in learning and collaboration either face-to-face or online.
  • Creating a realistic workload for those who are participating. For example, adjusting project schedules.
  • Creating an environment where employees feel like they can translate their learning to their day jobs, work, and practices.
  • Cross-cultural challenges (time zones, language barrier, cultural traditions, and customs) in multinational organizations.
  • Adaptability to multi-generational workforce.


Experiments to help organizations test elements of this innovation idea include the following:

  • Pilot an xMOOC with an external subject matter expert or internal subject matter expert if there are resource constraints; start with a topic that is relevant to many of the employees.
  • Use an existing xMOOC (via Coursera or other provider) and encourage employees to sign up for one on their own time followed by soliciting feedback surveys on the employee experience (sponsored by leadership team members). This step allows for members to individually play in the MOOC “sandbox” and see that leadership values employees’ opinions and employee involvement in the learning cause.

Innovation developed by:

Lynne Levy
Thyra Nast
Pooja Patankar
Laura Pepper

MSLOC 430 Spring 2016