It’s magical to watch the best executive education professors perform their craft. A group of executives sits attentively, off-site and open minded. The professor is both an intellect and a performer who leads the executives down a path no less carefully crafted than if by George Lucas. It’s a path that imparts practical knowledge and leads to key moments of insight and self-enlightenment.
These face-to-face learning experiences are the result of significant resources expended by the business school and often a sponsoring client organization. When all goes well, the executives leave rave reviews about their experience.
The important question, however, is whether the executives’ behavior changes when they settle back into their day-to-day work routine. Does the knowledge transmitted at a certain space and time translate to improved performance?
This is every organization’s chief concern, yet efforts to bridge the gap between the face-to-face lecture and the daily actions of executives receive fewer resources and have seen little innovation. Executives typically leave with a folder with printed slides and a few pen and paper exercises. In select cases, a work-based project is done during the program or personal coaches are assigned.
It might seem obvious to an outside observer that technology presents an opportunity to enhance the application of knowledge gained from face-to-face lectures. However, a close look at the use of technology by business school executive programs reveals an opposite trend. Technology is mainly used to broadcast an inferior product—video lectures, PDF files, and impersonal interactions—online at a lower cost to a larger audience. There is a paying audience but engagement remains weak.
This trend is not an indication of business school leaders’ exclusive preference for low hanging fruit, but a function of the learning platforms they are aware exist. MOOC platforms and LMSs are fundamentally tied to a course-based model of education. They provide one-size-fits-all means to upload traditional course content to web pages that many people can pay to access. Ask anyone from a dean to an instructional designer about their MOOC and LMS platforms and the response is more likely to be resigned acceptance than excitement.
While there is value and opportunity in lowering the barrier to entry for executive education, it shouldn’t come at the expense of broader innovation. Unfortunately, most elite institutions have been complacent because the lack of technology differentiation means they can compete and win based on their superior brand, content, and resources to support face-to-face programs.
At Volute, we are partnering with innovative business schools that see their faculty research and knowledge as an executive education resource that extends far beyond lectures to improve executive performance. These business schools are investing in the next frontier of technology–enabled learning.
This often starts with taking a multitude of exercises, guides, and action plans and moving them online—not as links to PDFs, but as reinvented and productized digital tools that can be used by executives pre-program and indefinitely following the program. Executives can use them individually or with their teams to actualize the lessons presented during the program. Data collected from these tools can give personalized, real-time feedback and create benchmarks that allow executives to compare themselves to anonymous peers groups.
Columbia Business School has been a leader and partner in using advanced technology to productize its intellectual property (IP). For example, two years ago executives were taught a step-by-step process for teams to solve difficult new challenges by creating strategic innovations. Executives experienced riveting lectures at Columbia Business School and then went home with a book and folder of handouts. Today, they experience a riveting lecture—online or face-to-face—and are given a digital tool that allows their work team to collaborate from anywhere in the world anytime they face a challenge that requires a strategic innovation.
Others schools are doing the same as they realize technology is on the verge of creating a new domain of competition in the executive education market—one in which the plethora of IP with practical value housed at business schools can be modernized and monetized.
Volute is launching the Learning Marketplace—a next generation learning platform designed specifically for this next frontier in executive education. Volute’s Learning Marketplace supports everything from just-in-time education and competency-based learning to action-oriented learning tools that can personalize and embed the lessons in executives’ daily behavior. What makes all tools on Volute’s platform unique is their consistent user interface, device ubiquity, and ability to snap together like Lego bricks to build custom program learning environments.
Volute provides a one-stop shop with the consulting expertise and technology to help innovate the education and business models of executive programs. In the coming weeks I’ll share new tools and educational use cases we are partnering with education thought leaders to make a reality.
In the meantime, take a look at the Volute App Catalog—a constantly growing list of the plug-n-play tools schools are working with us to build, own and make available to other schools and organizations. We welcome all ideas and feedback.
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