In the last few years, our company has invested and delivered in becoming a leader in the Internet of Things and Augmented Reality.
This growth at PTC is super exciting, and throughout the organization, there is a tangible drive to foster a great work culture, go-to-market with new business models, enable customers to use our tools, and find new opportunities that have a positive impact on the market.
Our Academic team has fed off this excitement and energy, and I am happy to announce that we have some results in the shape of a new online professional development program.
It’s called the ThingWorx IoT Developer Specialization. It includes 50+ hours of online training that is brought to life with use cases, hands-on projects, access to IoT mentors, and a training path that takes you from learning about the basics of use case definition all the way to building your own end-to-end IoT solution.
When I look back at some of the key catalysts that inspired this new offering, one theme leaps out to me the most: corporate training is changing. Driving this change is how people pay for training, the way people consume training, and the way courses are designed.
Below are a few thoughts on these changes.
How people pay for training is changing
A recent study shared in the Harvard Business Review journal identified that training budgets for employees have been declining (Jan/Feb 2018 issue). In turn, many employees are seeking alternative paths to training such as Udacity’s nano degree or on-demand learning through micro-learning platforms like Lynda.com.
This is no small trend. There are over 75 million people who learn on massive open online course (MOOC) platforms with Coursera (30 million), edX (14 million) and xutengx.com (9 million) having the biggest market share.
Influencing this corporate trend are travel costs and high prices associated with face-to-face training. A week-long training for one individual can cost over thousand dollars (class seat, flight, lodging, food, etc.). This often puts managers and training coordinators in a tough spot. They have people on their teams who want training but there isn’t enough money to approve the expenses.
Not surprisingly, management is looking for training alternatives. More and more companies are enrolling in learning platform subscriptions (PluralSight, Udemy) that can support company-wide access. In some cases, companies are granting reimbursements for individuals who take MOOCs and micro degree programs (e.g. nano degrees, specializations). This investment brings returns; for example, MOOC completion rates jump from 15% to 58% when employers pay for their employees online training.
The technological capabilities of MOOC platforms represent the next dimension that is changing corporate training.
The way people consume training is changing
New education technologies are changing corporate training. Mobile delivery, learning analytics, social features, and cutting-edge tech like AR and VR are having the same impact on learning as we see in everyday activities.
For example, it is very common for people to watch or listen to educational talks and podcasts as they work out, commute to work, and relax at home. This mobile capability is one feature.
There are social features as well such as online chats, instant messaging and peer-2-peer support. These features enable learners to be more interactive with their peers and quickly get access to feedback from mentors and other experts.
Coupled with these technologies are analytics engines that give recommendations based on your preferences. This creates a Netflix or Amazon-like consumer experience where your learning selections are remembered and cross-referenced with other learning assets. Instead of sifting through a large library, you get training that is relevant to you.
At the cutting edge are learning experiences that mix real world and virtual mediums such as virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR). For instance, there are AR experiences like the Smithsonian app that allows you to overlay the skeletal structure of ancient fossils with virtual muscles and skin as if they were alive.
This convergence of digital and physical elements is a game changer for education. Now we can interact with real-world objects and at the same exact time and place, we can integrate digital information (images, videos, 3D models, website info, IoT data, web calls, etc.) that enriches our learning. There are many training use cases already in play such as training workers how to operate and repair products or teaching students about key science concepts such as the anatomy of the body.
In addition to new technology capabilities and changes to buying behaviors is another important shift in corporate training. How we design learning experiences.
The way learning is designed is changing
One of the most exciting changes to corporate training is the design of the learning experience. Years ago, educational researchers proved that approaches like project-based learning, formative feedback, scaffolded instructional design, and engaging media have a positive impact on learning. Now we have the capacity to implement these practices in online platforms.
It is common-place to find courses that are organized around a project; in this scenario you are presented with a call to action (solve this problem, answer this big question) and what follows is a learning journey where you are given instructional tips and resources, tools to solve your problem, and a collaborative environment to ask questions and get feedback.
The micro-degrees of Coursera and Udacity are organized around this type of approach. This enables people to apply their knowledge and the result is a project deliverable (e.g. website/app, business plan, digital marketing campaign) that you can either leverage in your immediate work or use as a resume/portfolio asset.
On top of the good instructional design is a good user experience (UX) design. Edtech designers think about visual aesthetics, user interactions, and the platform journey. For example, the discovery process is an essential user experience on MOOC platforms. You have easy search tools (search bar, catalog, recommendations, editor picks, etc.), informative pages and pathways (trailers, graphical descriptions, testimonials), and instant access to support specialists (chat, email, call) who can answer your questions and help you determine if one course or another is best for you.
Collectively these learning experiences are upping the game of online training. Taking recorded classroom lectures and throwing them online with a couple of assignments doesn’t fly anymore.
Bringing this learning to the IoT education space
All these changes in online training were top of mind when we built IoT University. We wanted to build a customer experience that bridges innovation in digital platforms, educational research, and industry knowledge of AR and IoT.
The ThingWorx IoT Developer Specialization brings this goal to life for our learners. It provides a training pathway that teaches people how to build smart connected products from use case definition all the way to deploying an end-to-end solution. Throughout the experience, there are engaging stories, project-based activities, access to mentors and peer communities, and active learning experiences where you apply your IoT strategies and skills by getting on the ThingWorx industrial innovation platform.
In our training portfolio, this offering is the first experience our customers and partners will take on. Taking the course on your own is one way to do it. Here you create your own schedule, take it at home or work, and access in-platform support resources as you go through the projects.
If you want to increase your access to support, we also have an instructor-guided model for the Specialization. In this approach, you work with a dedicated instructor and select a custom schedule that includes the self-paced content as well as online seminars.
As of today, we have 9,744 users from 112 countries (see heat map below) enrolled on IoT University. The big adopters are partners, especially in India and the U.S., and most of the users are software developers, IT specialists, and engineers. As we work with this group we are encouraged by their positive feedback and we are applying their insights to improve the customer experience.