The skills shortage is a big problem for businesses. Around 40% of companies across the EU struggle to find employees with the right skills and 63% of CEOs say availability of skills is a serious issue. Concern isn’t restricted to companies – the Department for Business Innovation and Skills’ recent ‘Digital Skills Report’ highlighted the risks the skill shortage poses to economic prosperity and societal development. Fortunately, online learning, specifically Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), are proving to be an efficient way for businesses to overcome the problem.

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) offer the possibility of interactive learning from almost anywhere in the world. They are designed for larger numbers of students and are accessible to anyone with an internet connection looking to improve their current skills or learn something entirely new. They are particularly appealing to the increasing number of people who expect greater flexibility, more accessibility, increased peer-to-peer collaboration, new digital delivery methods and expanded lifelong learning opportunities.

Educational institutions are already embracing the ability of MOOCs to enhance traditional teaching methods - Harvard, Edinburgh and Bath universities to name a few. They enable teachers to run lectures and assignments out of “usual” hours, meaning class time can be reserved for interactive activities and in-depth discussions. The benefits of this are obvious and are also immediately transferable to a professional learning environment.

Using MOOCs to upskill staff flexibly around working hours allows organisations to cost and time-efficiently build a talent pool with the core competencies they require, ensuring the workforce remains relevant and competitive. In the UK, the average employer expends £2,500 to train a single employee using traditional methods, while an equivalent MOOC costs approximately 100 Euros.

Security software company McAfee has already successfully used MOOCs to improve its new-hire orientation training. The original method took over 80 hours of training, new hires were finding the course moved either too fast or too slow and the sales associates running the sessions were being taken away from closing valuable sales. Since moving to a MOOC model, McAfee has seen a big reduction in training costs and significant increase in sales.

Similarly, Bank of America has teamed up with leading European universities to offer MOOCs that align with the core competencies needed for specific roles, turning MOOCs into an effective recruitment tool that enables companies to build a potential talent pool and identify job candidates with the right skills.

As it stands, 70% of corporate training and HR professionals say they see opportunities to integrate MOOCs into their companies’ learning programmes and 44% of organisations are interested in creating internal courses and curating external ones. And with research suggesting that the skills shortage shows no signs of abating anytime soon, there’s no better time for those not already considering them to make sure they capitalise.

By Rob Clark, Managing Director, Epson UK and Ireland