Online learning is nothing new, but recent trends make it easier than ever for companies to boost employees’ productivity and ultimately company profits. For many businesses, the latest, greatest change has been the advent of MOOCs, or massive open online courses, which offer online classes to thousands of learners. All one needs is a computer, access to the Internet, the desire to learn and time to spare.

While MOOCs became popular in university settings, businesses are now realizing the amazing potential of this new type of online learning. It’s not just about the free content; here are three exciting ways that today’s online training can enhance productivity:

1.  Business Flexibility: MOOCs offer the flexibility that companies need for professional development training. Most platforms don’t require degree programs, instead allowing learners to pick and choose only the courses they really need. The most popular courses include business topics and valuable technical skills that companies must continually update. And MOOCs tailored to the corporate world are increasing by the day. Most recently launched SoundviewPro by Executive Book Summaries, targeted to the busy professional.

Because MOOCs allow learners to work at their own pace in practically any setting, the courses are suited to employees, who are typically juggling other priorities. MOOC providers have also added tools for tracking and verification. Many courses now offer data analytics to track employees’ progress and award certificates of completion to recognize new skills learned. With flexible scheduling, these options can translate into increased productivity at a fraction of conventional training costs.

2.  Team Building: MOOCs are not just a new technology and a new source of content; they embody a method of learning that asks learners to take center stage and work together. Lectures are part of the deal, but many courses reflect a strategy called “flipping the classroom,” where students are given materials to learn on their own and then must apply the material in class. Classroom applications include online discussions, debates with other learners, group projects, roleplaying, case studies, peer reviews and so forth.

These activities don’t just keep boredom at bay; and foster the confidence, interactive discussion and collaboration so key for business success and productivity. Svetlana Dotsenko, CEO of educational technology firm Project Lever, points out that companies can even learn from this model to create platforms that encourage dialogue in house, which helps to build individuals’ skills but can also improve team building and even employee retention. And when workers are learning to be more collaborative and productive, they also gain skills that encourage leadership.

3.  Setting Goals: The self-directed nature of online learning means that completing courses takes initiative and discipline. Dotsenko reports that, to help learners stay focused, some MOOCs, like those taught through Harvard’s edX platform, ask learners to state their goals as part of the courses, which helps to connect the hours of study to concrete outcomes. Businesses can highlight this strategy to help workers complete training, but they can also mobilize it in the workplace. Employees can set their own business goals and use them to map out their daily tasks and responsibilities, helping them stay motivated as they become more productive.

Today’s online courses offer much more than field-specific content, and corporate leaders are starting to understand the twofold value of the new brand of online learning. While employees gain key technical and business skills, the experience offered by online courses nurtures the team-building, collaboration and communication talent that is so essential for business success.

The new online learning platforms aren’t just changing higher education. They’re emerging as training forums that demand and encourage the skills and practices that make the best companies shine.