Tenaris University Replaces In-Person Training with MOOCs

Tenaris University saves training costs and increases access by replacing in-person training with internal MOOC-type courses, ranging from small, technical subjects with 30 students, to broad subjects with over a thousand students.

About TenarisUniversity:

TenarisUniversity is the corporate university for Tenaris, a leading supplier of tubes and related services for the world’s energy industry and certain other industrial applications. Annual net sales equal over $10B and the company has more than 27,800 employees (data as of 2014) located in more than 45 countries. TenarisUniversity is responsible for ensuring that its employees receive the same high-quality training around the world.

Ingrid Urman, Head of Learning Methods at TenarisUniversity, leads the company’s corporate MOOC efforts, and provided information for this case study.

TenarisUniversity also runs the TenarisUniversityX initiative, which offers free MOOCs to the public via edX.com.

Learning Need:

As a leader in a highly technical product space undergoing rapid advancements, Tenaris has many training needs in specialized areas. Due to the global nature of the business, employees also need strong international business skills. TenarisUniversity seeks out expert instructors worldwide, within or outside the company, to provide the best education for Tenaris employees.

Drivers to Launch Corporate MOOC Courses:

In 2013, Rolando Lange, the Global Director of TenarisUniversity and internal advisor Raul Topolevsky, discussed the MOOC trend and the possibilities it offered for improving the effectiveness and efficiency of corporate training. Topolevsky brokered an introduction to edX, the MOOC platform founded by Harvard and MIT, and Tenaris became the first corporate partner for edX.

Target Audience:

The target audience for the corporate MOOCs is Tenaris employees worldwide who have a need for specific knowledge and skills, often in deep technical areas. Going forward, TenarisUniversity will focus on MOOCs that can be re-run multiple times, and topics that provide natural opportunities for employees worldwide to make connections with each other via discussion forums.

Key Programs Offered:

In 2013, TenarisUniversity started with a pilot MOOC on Thermo-Mechanical Processing of Metals, taught by a team of researchers at The University of Sheffield in the UK. Rather than sending 40 employees to the university, one course designer was sent to develop a private MOOC-based course, using the Moodle platform. This resulted in an 80% cost savings, and more importantly, made this training available to the specific individuals who needed it. The second session of the course is already underway, and will be offered multiple times in the future.

Other courses either delivered or planned are the following:

  •  Seam Heat Treatment for ERW Pipes (6 week course,~30 students)
  •  Relationship Marketing (4 week course, targeting ~1000 students)
  •  International Trade (4 week course, targeting ~600 students)

Introduction to Computer Numerical Control (4 week course, 29 students, re-launching as an open MOOC with 4,000+ students)

The average duration of each course is four weeks with an expected time commitment of 2- 3 hours per week. Worth noting is that the MOOC format enables a greater amount of content versus traditional e-learning, as Tenaris generally keeps e-learning content to less than one hour.

The planned public MOOCs that will be offered via TenarisUniversityX are:

  • Introduction to Computer Numerical Control in conjunction with a high school in Argentina, Escuela Tecnica Roberto Rocca (4 weeks)
  • Introduction to Steel in conjunction with the steeluniversity.org and Ternium (2 weeks)
  • Introduction to Oil Country Tubular Goods (OCTG) covering one of Tenaris’ main products (3 weeks)
  • Handling and Use of Oil Country Tubular Goods (OCTG) covering one of Tenaris’ mainservices (2 weeks)Platforms Used:Tenaris was the first edX corporate partner, and uses the edX Edge platform to create private courses, which Tenaris calls SPOCs (small, private online courses). For the free public MOOCs, they use the standard edX.com platform. Because Tenaris uses both the edX Edge and edX.com platforms, the company makes an annual contribution to edX.Resources Required:Urman has three people on her team who spend 30% of their time as product leaders of these corporate MOOCs. “It is much more demanding to develop a MOOC versus a traditional e-learning course,” says Urman. It took a year to develop the first MOOC, but the process has been refined and now requires about six months. Besides using in-house project leaders, they contract for instructional design, video editing, production, and community managers. Urman recommends having a full-time person work on a course to define the objectives and manage the development of the content.When a course is re-run the content can largely be re-used, and thus only requires 1-2 hours a week from the instructor to answer questions, along with a community manager. If some of the content does need to be updated, one of the benefits of the MOOC format is that it is very easy to do, since the content is divided into short video clips, which can be re- shot.

Results / Impact:

TenarisUniversity publishes an internal report of their activities and results, and meets with an advisory board every quarter to review the initiative. The achievements are also shared annually with the CEO, who is the project sponsor. Although ROI is not currently being calculated, there are concrete measures of cost savings which are very compelling.

One clear example of cost savings is the International Trade course: the instructor, Tenaris’ expert on the topic, is located in Uruguay, and she used to travel all over the world to lead training events. But now she can stay in a central location and reach more than 600 employees through a corporate MOOC. Furthermore, future sessions of the course will require just 1-2 hours a week of her time.

A benefit from TenarisUniversity’s relationship with edX is being able to leverage best practices from public MOOCs and apply them internally. There is also the positive brand image of being affiliated with high-quality academic institutions like Harvard and MIT, as well the positive corporate social responsibility aspect of contributing knowledge to the world.

Lessons Learned:

  • Start with identifying the best expert instructor first, whether inside or outside your company, and thus maximize the expertise brought to your online students
  • Develop a project plan specifically geared to the instructor that simply describes the development stages, schedule, and the tasks they need to complete
  • Marketing and promoting the course are very important (especially for public MOOCs), and should start at least two months ahead of the launch date
  • For courses that require higher time demands of students, recruit them through their managers, and also make sure someone with a high level of credibility explains the importance of learning the topic

“In e-learning, the main focus is on creating interactive animations, while in a MOOC, the main focus is on letting the instructor communicate and getting people to participate actively.”
-Ingrid Urman, Head of Learning Methods, TenarisUniversity

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