There are many different models for online learning that are currently employed successfully. When it comes to training for software applications, we’ve observed primarily two methods: a MOOC (aka Massive Online Open Course) and structured courses where users are enrolled and evaluated. Our goal in writing this today is to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of each method, as well as the goals for each one.

Before we get too far into the subject, I’d like to make clear that I’m not advocating for one style of eLearning over the other. The coexistence of learning content is powerful. Many of you know that we currently offer an eTraining product for Acumatica ERP called AcuCademy. One of the benefits of online learning in 2016 is that there is so much content available, free or paid, on the web for users to digest, and any opportunity someone has to learn something new is a good opportunity.

My entrance to ERP was through the development of our eTraining Tool, AcuCademy. Before working for NonProfitPlus, I was a Spanish teacher. I was also involved in the development of various language courses delivered specifically in an online environment.

So what is a MOOC anyway? A MOOC, also known as a Massive Open Online Course, is a place where an institution of education or some other organization provides open content for anyone that can access it. There are some fantastic organizations out there, like iTunes University or Khan Academy that provide incredible, high-quality instruction for anyone interested in learning about the topics posted. The biggest advantage of a MOOC is that these open course environments are created to scale to a large user base, and they are free! The goal of an open course is to provide useful content and learning opportunities to the general public.

A structured course environment, like or AcuCademy, is a tool with a specific purpose. Rosetta Stone or Mango Languages are also great examples of subscription learning services. If learners are interested in learning about something and achieving success in it within a highly structured curriculum, a MOOC may not be the best option. If someone is serious about learning French, enrolling in a course inside of an online program like Mango or Rosetta Stone could be a much better option than depending on free material that they stitch together into a sequence that makes sense for them.

There are two areas in which a MOOC and a structured eLearning course differ that we’ll highlight here together: User retention and User engagement. MOOC’s are notorious for having hundreds of thousands of users. As a free resource, users enroll with excitement and enthusiasm. The flipside of high enrollment is low completion ratios. According to the Educause Review Online, only between 2 and 10 percent of students that enroll themselves in a MOOC will complete the course.

Structured learning subscriptions have lower course registrations, but yield much higher completion rates. This is often due to the fact that many users in a structured course are completing professional development hours or certifications for their careers. When we sign up users for AcuCademy, a group administrator is often designated. The group administrator might be the CFO, Acumatica Partner or another type of Financial Administrator of an organization. In this type of scenario, the goals are much more defined for practical application. This in turn raises the accountability.

As mentioned earlier, we recommend that these two methods of online learning coexist. It is always better to take advantage of any learning opportunity you have access to!