Last week we launched the first in an ongoing series of MOOCs intended to teach creative professionals how to use emerging technologies. We are calling this program Aquent Gymnasium, drawing on the connotations of "gymnasium" as a place both for training and for engaging in intellectual pursuits.
We believe that Aquent Gymnasium changes the game in several important ways.
Filling the Skills Gap
First and foremost, Aquent Gymnasium changes the staffing game. Rather than simply looking for people with the skills that our clients are seeking (but can't find), we play an active role in helping people develop these skills.
The fact of the matter is, certain skill sets are in demand because they are critical to the success of businesses and, at the same time, rare. By offering practical courses focused on imparting these rare skills to working professionals, we effectively fill the skills gap. What's more we enable companies and creative professionals to achieve their goals.
As we mentioned, the courses we offer through Aquent Gymnasium are MOOCs, or, Massive Open Online Courses. They are massive because we expect to teach thousands of students (over 2500 have already enrolled in "Coding for Designers") and open because we are offering them free of charge. Finally, by being online, students can access our courses from any web browser anywhere on Earth.
While offering high quality, professional-grade training for free is itself game changing in the context of technical training/continuing education, we also believe that what we're doing is game changing in the broader field of MOOCs. Specifically, in contrast to the MOOCs being offered through services such as Coursera, edX and Udacity, our courses are not university-style introductory or survey courses.
Instead, we have chosen to use MOOC technology to deliver "just in time" training developed by real-world practitioners and informed by the real-world needs of our clients. We're not trying to replicate the university experience online; we're trying to get people the practically applicable knowledge they need right now in order to take on more challenging work, earn more money, and, ultimately, help a broad range of organizations do cool and creative things.
While university driven MOOCs may help with job training over the long haul, our use of MOOCs provides meaningful training right now. This approach is new when it comes to MOOCs and suggests that, as disruptive as MOOCs have been inside the halls of academe, they will be even more disruptive outside of them.
True Content Marketing
Finally, we would love to say that Aquent has made a significant investment in this MOOC initiative out of the goodness of our hearts, entirely motivated by an altruistic desire to help people better themselves. That would be less than accurate, however.
We are a for-profit business. When we invest resources, we need to see a tangible return in order to justify this investment. In other words, we wouldn't be putting money into the development and promotion of our MOOCs if we didn't believe that we could find and recruit talent or land new clients by doing so.
At the same time, though, we understand that our MOOCs will not attract anyone if they are not the real deal. We have to deliver on our promise ("these courses will teach you how to do things") and I think you will see that we do. Our courses are solid, well-crafted and intensely practical for the simple reason that this whole initiative will fail if they aren't.
For this reason, we say that Aquent Gymnasium ups the ante when it comes to content marketing. This content isn't just useful, it's usable. It's so good that people would pay for it (judging at least by the online training that people do seem willing to pay for and which, in my humble estimation, falls short of our exacting standards). It's what content marketing should be but rarely is: Valuable to people even if they never become a customer.
See for Yourself
We realize that it's easy to claim that you're changing the game and it's hard to actually change it.
Therefore, we suggest that you not take my word for it, but that you check out Aquent Gymnasium and decide for yourself. Alternately, if you know a designer who wants to learn (really learn) HTML and CSS, tell them about our "Coding for Designers" course and see what they think.
And if you know of any company that's trying to change the game at some many levels, and really doing it, let us know!