HR professionals look after the greatest creators of value (and risk) in organisations: their people. On the course, HR Fundamentals by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), learners are given an introduction to the practice of Human Resources, and encouraged to develop the skills they need to become an HR professional. We spoke to the team at CIPD to find out more about the success of this course.
Can you tell us a bit about this course, who it’s aimed at and what it aims to achieve?
At the CIPD we believe that people professionals play a key role in creating better work and working lives. This course is designed to provide learners with a starting point and a basic set of tools to help them create better work and working lives.
The course provides a top-level overview of key elements within HR and potential scenarios HR professionals deal with daily. We understand that there are a lot of external factors that vary significantly across countries, such as employment law, culture and working practices. Therefore, the course focuses more on basic principles and defining key HR practices than providing specific answers to specific scenarios.
The course has been specifically aimed at learners who are new to the people profession and/or learners who have an interest in a career in the people profession.
What has been your experience of running this course online?
It’s been very positive and it’s astonishing how many people we have managed to reach with this course. We constantly see learners from remote parts of the globe that we would not have managed to engage with through our traditional learning channels. And you can see this truly reflected in the community. It has been great to see the community spirit between so many people with their different experiences, sharing, connecting and discussing their views during the course.
What is also impressive is that we have had many learners that used this course as a springboard to pursue further learning and work within the field. This is a key goal for us as the course is not a one-stop shop but designed to broaden the career path and development options for individuals, with CIPD as their career partner.
Has COVID-19 had an impact on the course? Be that the types of learners, the content, or the delivery?
The pandemic has had a huge effect on the course. We used to run the course on a cohort basis about 4-5 times a year. We had just started a new cohort at the end of March, just when we entered the lockdown in the UK, and the jump in numbers was incredible. On average each cohort had about 7000 learners but this one alone had over 15,000 learners. The increase in numbers was also perhaps a reflection on how people were affected by the lockdown and the pandemic. We had an increase in learners who suffered job losses or were on short-term work and/or furlough schemes. However, we also saw an increase in learners who were now working from home and who had more time to spend on their development.
From that experience, we also implemented changes to the course. Firstly, we added COVID-19 content as this was now a part of the people profession and working lives. Secondly, we switched to the ‘always on’ mode when that new content launched. With changes in working patterns and the pandemic ongoing, the course had to be as flexible as possible to accommodate any new spikes in interest or changing circumstances. It was also important for us to provide support to people when it comes to development opportunities.
What would be your advice for a professional body looking to build their first online course?
Think about the learners’ journey and what comes after the course. For us, our course is a great opportunity to showcase to learners who we are and what our principles are. We still have a high number of learners that have never heard about us until they have enrolled onto our course.
Mapping out the learners’ journey may be obvious, but organisations must ensure that the next steps are obtainable by the learners. We understand from their feedback that many of the learners from our course will not have the means to go for one of our qualifications or straight into membership. Therefore, we provide them with practical next steps such as our free resources and channels to engage with us further: their relationship with us doesn’t start and end with the course, and our goal for the course is much more than commercial. We use it to build true engagement and to point to all the ways we support people professionals in their development. We also found that by guiding learners through the options for engagement as part of the learning, for example referring to some of our free resources during an exercise, we see them returning after the course has ended to continue using our material and engaging with us in their work.
What have been some of your key learnings from running this course?
Our goal was to provide a course with low barriers to entry and expand our reach beyond our normal learning channels. This has been achieved and it has been great to see the audience we have reached. However, it’s also great to see that even long-standing members and experienced professionals have visited the course and recommended it to family and friends who are at the beginning of their career.
The biggest learning curve for us, however, was how quickly and exponentially leaner numbers can rise in an online setting. That really enforced the need to keep the course available 24/7. The speed and numbers of online courses compared to face-to-face or even blended are not comparable. Especially not when external factors like the pandemic occur. The great thing about the always on mode is that we know we will not miss any learners because the course is not available. This means we can work on adding more value to the courses rather than planning the next cohort.