Here is something that surprised me….you can get college credit for training at McDonalds.

At the age of fifteen, McDonalds was the only place I could get a job so I could stop delivering newspapers at 6:00 am.  I enjoyed working with other teenagers, and it was great experience.  I learned many concepts of production management from working in the burger assembly line.  It may seem like a menial job, but I truly learned some valuable lessons in that job.  It was my first exposure to job politics – and to the difference between good and bad bosses.  Manufacturing efficiency at McDonalds was simply a given.  I was appalled years later when I worked at General Motors Technical Center and observed the enormous inefficiencies and bureaucracy – which made me frequently revisit my McDonalds’ experience.

We even had early e-Learning at McDonalds.  On breaks, before, or after work we could go into the break room and select a training video tape on subjects like order fulfillment, french fry preparation, and dining room operations.  It was relatively easy to watch a 10 minute tape and then take a test.  Passing tests got you gold stars on a big board in the manager’s office.  And after several gold stars, you got a raise and a shot at a manager’s job. 

A recent press release brought my attention to the fact that corporate universities can play a role in college credit.  With college credit possible at Hamburger U., it makes me wonder how e-Learning plays a role in such a corporate university.  How far away could we be from corporate online training having impact on higher education?  That sounds like a stretch, but maybe not.

I have personally witnessed the shift from all instructor-led classroom training in the corporation to hundreds of thousands of student classes being accomplished online.  Most are self-paced, and many are blended learning models.  And those e-Learning initiatives have proven cost-effective with high levels of student satisfaction.  Also, managers have reported improved retention and ability to apply new skills.  With the connection between corporate universities and college credit, what are the obstacles to corporate e-Learning gaining acceptance and recommendation from an organization such as ACE? 

I predict it will happen.  And I also predict that online higher education organizations will start sponsoring companies like McDonalds.  The financial incentives are too large to ignore.  The marketing benefits of expansion into untapped student bases will create the demand for Phoenix U to cut deals with Hamburger U to collaborate on delivering e-Learning.  Phoenix can provide excellent management training developed by McDonalds, and McDonalds can provide better management training for its workforce.  Seems inevitable to me.  However, the political and bureaucratic barriers will take years to overcome.  

It isn’t a technical issue.  It isn’t a demand issue.  It isn’t an effectiveness issue.  The reason that corporate e-Learning courses won’t get into the mainstream and receive college credit recommendations is because corporate executives will suddenly awaken to the fact that their training courses contain valuable assets of their company.  They will start to guard the knowledge inside their online training systems as key components of their shareholder ROI. 

Ironic, to me at least, since training budgets are the first to be cut.  But I believe the reason e-Learning will elevate this issue more than traditional training is the portability.  If anyone could buy the course from anywhere in the world, the exposure of Hamburger U would be nearly universal.  And of course, McDonalds wouldn’t want Wendy’s managers getting better from its training material. <smile>

Here is the press release about McDonalds getting college credit for their management training: 

Oak Brook, Ill. — Nov. 22
McDonald’s U.S. training curriculum for restaurant managers and mid-management employees has been awarded 46 college credit recommendations by the American Council on Education (ACE), the nation’s oldest and most-recognized unifying body for higher education. The ACE recommendation for McDonald’s is a 77 percent increase over previous college credit recommendations.

McDonald’s training for restaurant managers is equivalent to college course work and includes extensive classroom and field instruction, as well as competency evaluations. The training is transferable to traditional colleges and universities and can be applied toward a two-year or four-year degree.

“Opportunity is always on the menu at McDonald’s,” said Ralph Alvarez, president, McDonald’s North America. “College credit recommendations from ACE for our training curriculum further validates our belief that a job at McDonald’s is much more than a paycheck–it’s also an opportunity for our employees to learn management and business concepts that will benefit them for a lifetime,” said Alvarez.

A recent ACE evaluation of McDonald’s training curriculum at the company’s corporate training facility, Hamburger University, determined that 100 percent of McDonald’s training courses for restaurant managers and mid-management staff received college credit recommendations from ACE.

“McDonald’s interactive curriculum is a great example of quality training that not only recognizes, but also meets the unique needs of adult learners,” said Jo Ann Robinson, director of corporate programs for the American Council on Education.

“McDonald’s commitment to providing education opportunities for their employees is most evident by the 2005 Adult Learner of the Year, Shelly Hicks,” said Robinson. Hicks, a McDonald’s operations training consultant and recent graduate of the University of Phoenix, earned her bachelor’s degree in business management in May 2004. “Shelly Hicks was able to apply her McDonald’s training to a four-year degree, graduate from a university and achieve this award,” added Robinson.

“Providing opportunities for our employees to achieve their personal, professional and academic goals is integral to their success and ours,” said Diana Thomas, vice president of U.S. training, learning and development and Dean of McDonald’s Hamburger University. “As a brand, we cannot be successful, unless our employees are successful. And education provides a solid foundation to achieve success,” added Thomas.

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