The Challenges of Executive Education
Today, we need to know everything, right away, at all times, whenever it suits us. This “anytime, anywhere, any device” trend has entered the world of education. Participants play an active role in their training, and their personal investment in the learning process has grown. Training is an essential career development lever.
My role is to offer short certificate programs to companies. It’s an experience that has made me realize just how many challenges there are in the highly competitive world of executive education.
These challenges include the transformation of the traditional learning model, the need to be agile and the existence of communities of practice. It’s not enough to simply digitalize your offering; new ways of passing on knowledge must be considered, including educational after-sales service, co-development, follow-up and on-demand virtual classes. These changes require us to change our business practice, whether in terms of training, sales, marketing or other areas.
Higher Education: The State of Play
For higher education institutions, the situation is far from easy. The competition is increasingly tough. The traditional model has run out of steam, and the emergence of new training initiatives is disrupting the market. Digital technology has brought with it new players, and it is now crucial for institutions to turn the corner and find new ways forward while somehow preserving their DNA.
“Adapt or die” is the unavoidable watchword in a landscape that has become global yet splintered, increasing the competitive pressure. Some of these institutions are growing in number, including business schools; in France, the public Grandes Écoles; universities; and specialized graduate schools.
Education’s Digital (R)evolution
Radical changes in education are nothing new. The University of Bologna (Europe’s first university, founded in 1088), Oxford (founded in 1166) and the Sorbonne (founded in 1253) have all been faced with several upheavals, including the birth of the printing press, the telephone and now new information technologies. All these transformations seemed to point to the demise of campuses and universities at the time, yet these institutions are still there.
The sector has seen numerous developments over the past 30 years, with increasingly rapid changes in professions, techniques, etc. Employees and employers alike have demonstrated their enthusiasm for lifelong learning, while the recent introduction of the personal training account in France has been another significant evolution.
While digital technology has its own added value as a tool offering greater flexibility, customization and more suitable formats, classroom learning is and will remain necessary. Education requires interaction between the learner and the teacher, so distance learning must overcome significant barriers to be as efficient as classroom learning.
Massive open online courses (MOOCs), small private online courses (SPOCs), corporate open online courses (COOCs), blended learning … These new training formats have won over companies that are increasingly swayed by the idea of “hybrid” learning. It is essential to take this new need into account and to adopt a strategy in line with market expectations.
To be effective, these new initiatives must:
- Offer clients an experience, by creating a genuine bond among participant, teacher and institution
- Foster a collaborative and participatory approach through peer networks
- Provide complementary and engaging solutions
One of the limitations I have noticed is that the success of these new formats relies on the smooth operation of the technologies themselves and a good understanding of them by participants, a factor that may be an obstacle for some.
New Learning Initiatives
While the concept of a group is essential in training, participants can learn alone to a certain extent, provided they are given the tools they need. The trainer then becomes a mentor providing individual support. So-called traditional training courses must add significant value.
One differentiation for some organizations is an approach based on knowledge co-creation, combining academic, technical and professional skills so that the course design is object-oriented. The course is autonomous, reusable and modular, allowing the training supplier to respond to a significant change in the participant profile: People no longer come looking for a theoretical course but for a solution to their everyday problems.
According to Jean Houssaye’s Pedagogical Triangle, the pedagogical space is framed by three essential poles.
- Didactics = Teaching: the relationship between the teacher and knowledge, allowing him or her to convey – to teach
- Pedagogy = Training: the relationship between the teacher and the learner, guaranteeing the training action
- Learning = Acquisition: the relationship that the learner will build by developing knowledge in his or her learning process
Learning is a lifelong experience. Although there are now many tools that make knowledge acquisition more interactive, real-life contact is necessary, whether with the teacher or the learner’s peers.
Aurélia Le Roy is the open/certificate programs director at HEC Executive Education.
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