Mobility as a Learning Component in Executive Education & Professional Development

As we redefine the classroom, mobility should be at the forefront. In my years of collaborating with professional development providers - business schools, companies and consultants – I’ve discovered a timidness in leveraging mobility and maximizing the value of content through a multi-device delivery approach.

Building on the concept of hyper-specialization from my last article, mobility can play a key role for professional development but is underutilized. Hyper-specialization is defined as the division of labor dividing ever smaller tasks performed by ever more specialized workers. To solve a large problem, we break it down into smaller, more manageable pieces, solving each piece at the most granular level just prior to reaching a point of depreciating return. In professional development, this divide and conquer approach can be complemented with mobility. Beyond “learning tools” which I’ve defined as – digital components or micro-applications that facilitate learning through interaction and combine to form dynamic learning paths – the devices we use can also combine to facilitate new learning delivery methods with a divide-and-conquer approach.

Professional Development delivery should be diverse in form including face to face when applicable and hybrid or fully online to include desktops, laptops, tablets and smartphones. Just as the right learning material is considered for a program, so should the learning tools and devices be considered with the same thoughtfulness.

An example is a reading tool which allows the participant to read a book or article, share excerpts with peers and make annotations. A video tool allows the participant to watch a video, upload videos and share them. These tools combine with other tools like notes, slides, discussions, assessments, unique simulations and teaching methods turned digital, and collect learning data with each interaction. Now, consider the devices these tools should be used with. Each device presents learning tools differently to the participant based on screen size, content type and desired interaction. More accurately, learning tools adapt their design and even their behavior for the device upon which they are being displayed and engaged. As you create learning objectives within a program, consider participant interaction with these objectives such as teams collaborating to solve challenges; a multi-device approach should be part of the training itself.

Consider multiple devices combined with learning tools and learning material to compound learning value. Too often, professional development providers shy away from the need for technical savvy to ease the learning experience. I’m not suggesting an overly complex application that takes significant time away from the core learning objectives, but if combining technical savvy with the core learning goal ultimately provides more real-world value, then participant adaptation is justified as a component of the learning.

Rather than viewing technology as a potential inhibitor to the training and pampering participants with spoon-fed material, move them out of their comfort zone a bit and choose the best learning tools and devices to simulate a real-world experience.

When we designed and architected Volute, we set out to blur the lines between academic and real-world, between facilitator and participant, between classroom and the boardroom and between desktops, laptops, tablets and smartphones. It’s Volute’s philosophy to use the right tools for the job and therefore our focus is the delivery of learning via tools and the devices upon which these tools will be engaged.

This is well beyond responsive web and is a weapon in your arsenal to deliver powerful, unique and effective learning experiences. If we’re setting out to train executives and professionals on the latest and greatest processes, methods and topics, then delivery should match. This is also a notice to participants using dated laptops with old operating systems and browsers, and to organizations hosting professional development seminars and training with a low-resolution projector and dated devices we're forced to use at the podium. This is not only a frustrating experience for participants and facilitators, it creates disadvantages for your organization by not leveraging today’s technology capabilities.

Volute is a global ecosystem where thought leaders contribute learning tools to a shared marketplace. Volute is seamless across devices and introduces a new mobile experience for facilitators and participants alike. To maximize its effect, the facilitator should understand the learning tools available in our marketplace and consider devices she intends the learning activities to be experienced. The participant can use the same devices they would during their work day; each device fulfilling utility best suited for the objective.

In a recent meeting with a renowned business school, I was told participants of their EMBA program use a traditional LMS and their own devices and apps. Along with the LMS, students use WhatsApp and similar apps to communicate which reflects their real-world experience and comfort level with specific “tools”. However, most of the program content is delivered through the LMS and these “outside” tools and interactions cannot be well facilitated or governed. There is no means by which to collect key data around these external apps and map competency as it relates to the learning objectives. In lieu of integrating external tools into a facilitated and governed learning experience, which we do when integration is available, we need to bend a bit – we want to create a real-world experience while still being obligated to facilitate the learning and know when intervention is needed.

Collaboration is such an integral part of learning and professional success that these interactions hold tremendous value, and data, for competency progression or lack thereof. By providing learning tools that are seamless across devices, familiar in design and function and connect in a centralized and facilitated fashion, we can mimic situational business scenarios and nudge participants to adapt to the technology for learning delivery, which is a valuable skill in and of itself.

Michael Croft is founder and CEO of Volute, a global initiative and new collaborative economy for executive education & professional development.

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