Microsoft Learning Partners with Intrepid Learning and INSEAD

Microsoft Learning partnered with Intrepid Learning and INSEAD business school to hold a corporate MOOC for 1,000 of its sellers around the world, resulting in a smashing success with an 85% completion rate and clear tangible results.

About Microsoft Learning:

Microsoft Learning provides education for Microsoft employees, partners, and suppliers.

Ludovic “Ludo” Fourrage, Head of Virtual Learning at Microsoft, led Microsoft’s corporate MOOC initiative, and provided details for this case study.

Learning need:

Microsoft’s salesforce needs to understand the changing business dynamics of their customers in an increasingly complex technological environment. Sellers need to know foundational business topics such as finance and marketing, and be able to apply that knowledge in real selling contexts.

Drivers to Launch Corporate MOOC Courses:

Microsoft Learning was looking for a way to scale in-depth training, typically delivered in classrooms, more cost-effectively across its worldwide salesforce. Fourrage took an interest in the MOOC model when he signed up for a public Coursera MOOC and was impressed with the quality of the online pedagogy. The financial costs of producing a course were low enough to make starting a pilot compelling (simply not holding three in-person training sessions covered the costs of MOOC development for a quarter). Microsoft started with a small beta in August 2014 with 150 people, and it was successful enough to warrant a larger pilot launched in October 2014 with the course titled “Business Strategy and Financial Acumen”.

Target Audience:

The audience for Business Strategy and Financial Acumen ’was Microsoft’s top sellers, as nominated by their managers. Just over 1,000 sellers were nominated and agreed to participate, from diverse geographic areas: 49% from EMEA, 31% from Asia Pacific, and 20% from the Americas.

Key Program Offered:

Microsoft Learning worked with INSEAD, a premier international business school, to customize its business skills content for this course. It was taught by three INSEAD faculty and produced in just four months.

The corporate MOOC was presented over 8 weeks, requiring a total commitment of 20-30 hours of work. During the course, sellers were asked to identify one of their current customer opportunities to use as applied example in their assignments. Fourrage explains, “We wanted that course to be embedded into the work they do on a daily basis.” The course culminated in an account plan that participants could immediately act upon, developed according to the concepts taught in the course and peer-reviewed by their fellow sellers.

To keep engagement high, gamification was built into the system, with a leaderboard based on activity, and the top 10% receiving a special badge. “It was incredible to see the motivation of the students,” Fourrage said. Upon successful completion, participants received a certificate from INSEAD, which sellers they could add their LinkedIn profiles with a couple of clicks. This certificate is similar to other business school executive certificate programs, often requiring 3-4 days on campus and costing $5,000-10,000.

Platforms Used:

Microsoft Learning partnered with Intrepid Learning and utilized their Corporate MOOC platform, which offers a robust set of features designed for producing and running internal MOOCs. The solution also incorporated Pearson Acclaim’s open badging platform to issue authenticated digital badges that could be easily posted onto participants’ LinkedIn profiles.

Resources Required:

Microsoft Learning licensed Intrepid Learning’s platform and INSEAD content, and the three organizations worked closely together. Video was filmed at the INSEAD campus in France, in a classroom with a live audience (to create a classroom atmosphere), and four cameras shooting footage from multiple angles. For some role-play demonstrations, actors were hired to provide high-quality demonstrations. A Microsoft staff video professional provided support, and the video production costs, in the $50-60K range, were not drastically higher than other high-quality e-learning content.

Microsoft Learning also worked with HR to develop the process for identifying high-potential sellers and setting up a nomination process through their managers.

Results / Impact:

Engagement in the course vastly exceeded expectations. In the first week, participants were invited to introduce themselves on the discussion board, and this resulted in a flurry of 1,500 posts, as sellers took the time to introduce themselves and describe their backgrounds. Of the ~1,000 sellers who started the training, 85% completed and passed it. Incredibly, participants gave the course a 99% positive satisfaction rating (rating it a 4 or 5 out of 5), and 95% agreed that taking the course would improve how they did their jobs.

An important goal for Microsoft was to have a tangible impact on sellers’ jobs. This was achieved through the creation of nearly 700 high-quality account plans by the sellers, based on the course concepts, and reviewed by peers and instructional staff. These account plans are designed to be acted upon right away, and thus represent the most immediate tangible benefit from the corporate MOOC.

As a result of this successful pilot, Microsoft is developing two other related courses (“Business Model Innovation” and “Interacting with the C-suite”), and plans to offer all three multiple times a year.

Lessons Learned:

  •  Select partners that share the vision of what you are trying to accomplish and are willing to be flexible when developing something new. Both Intrepid Learning and INSEAD were creative, flexible, and quick
  •  Set the right tone for the training by portraying a consistent image across the spectrum of the experience—Microsoft had an exclusive nomination process, chose a prestigious business school, used a high-quality platform, developed compelling video, and offered an easily-displayable digital certificate
  •  Make sure that the user interface is simple, and the course activity sequence is designed intuitively. It needs to be crystal clear what the participant is supposed to do next.
  •  Ensure that communications to participants are well-crafted and focused. These are the drivers that triggers people to engage with the MOOC each week.

“Our only concern was that content from a business school would be too academic and not relevant to salespeople. That concern was crushed-they really knocked it out of the park” – Ludo Fourrage, Head of Virtual Learning, Microsoft Learning

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