The landscape for education and training is undergoing revolutionary change.
The landscape for education and training is undergoing revolutionary change.

Digitisation, accreditation, globalisation and informal learning

There is a pressing need for education, training and development that makes professionalism accessible and visible inside and outside the industry.

Peter Thomas

Peter Thomas

Professor Peter Thomas is COO of the Leasing Foundation, Director the Manifesto Group and Creative Director of Medicine Unboxed.
Peter Thomas

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Introduction from Executive Producer JO DAVIS
Peter Thomas, the Leasing Foundation COO and education expert, argues that there is revolutionary change in education and training and the leasing and asset finance industry needs to sit up and take note. More digital content, MOOCs, globalisation and workplace learning are all changing the way the learning can be experienced and the leasing and asset finance industry needs to take a coordinated, intelligent, forward-looking approach.

Who should be interested in this?
Anyone concerned with education, training and development, digital content strategists, marketing and communications professionals in organisations of all sizes.


Digitisation, accreditation, globalisation and informal learning

Education and training is  one of the most important issues facing the industry.

If we can’t recruit, retain and develop good people, the health of the industry, and so the companies in the industry, will suffer. The education sector is undergoing huge change and whatever directions we propose for education, training and development will need to be set in the context of that change.

The changes are enormous and are happening at an accelerating pace: the perceived value of qualifications, both for individuals and companies, is changing – people are now asking questions about the value of a traditional degree or diploma in career and self-development terms. The definition of ‘learning’ is changing –  people and companies are realising that application of knowledge is at least, and probably more, important than simply the acquisition of knowledge. Technology is changing the nature of learning – the availability of high quality digital content allows people to be more self-directed in what and how they learn. And finally, the nature of the education industry itself is changing – new entrants are coming into the market and are offering radically new alternatives.

These, and other developments,  mean that a coordinated, industry-based approach to education for the industry is worth developing.

The first of the transformative changes for education is the democratisation of knowledge and access to it through technology. Digital content on the internet has radically transformed the nature of knowledge, unlocking the potential for people to learn more, and more quickly, than ever could have been conceived of even 10 years ago. Slowly at school level, but more quickly higher up the education ladder, technology is changing the way education is delivered and accessed – which means the value that education providers offer, especially to business, is also changing.  We already see new providers coming into the education market with new kinds of product – the most obvious being MOOCs (Massively Open Online Courses) – that offer degree-level education to tens of thousands of students, for free. Although this is not sustainable, the models that follow will be: for example, specialist providers will increasingly own different parts of the education process – such as creating content, aggregating content, certifying outcomes or distributing content – with no need to own the entire process, as is the case now.

The MOOC revolution has also stimulated some experiments in learning that are delivering interesting results. 90,000 life-long learners from 143 countries enrolled in Foundations of Business Strategy, a MOOC offered by the University of Virginia's Darden School of Business. Some students came from leading international organizations such as General Electric, Grameenphone, Johnson & Johnson, Samsung, and Walmart. Many others were intrepid entrepreneurs, small business operators, and social venture founders. In an interesting twist on online learning, 100 companies also joined the course and actively connected with learners. Companies of all types participated, from resource-strapped small enterprises to established brick-and-mortar organizations, including one with close to 280,000 employees operating in over 30 countries. The outcome was that these organizations could engage with a huge number of talented people from around the world – 80% of whom had at least an undergraduate degree and over 50% were industry professionals – to participate in discussions about their challenges and receive strategic advice that had a game-changing impact on some of the companies.

There are new opportunities for industries to play a greater part in the education system: opportunities to move away from long-established programmes that don’t connect with business needs, opportunities to accredit specific parts of specialist programmes and opportunities to become partners with universities and other established providers. Those universities that don’t build truly reciprocal relationships with industry will find they are displaced by new entrants who specialise in specific segments (such as asset finance), blend parts of the learning and education process (for example, recruitment and apprenticeship training) or who provide the framework in which people can assemble credits earned from different educational experiences into credentials with real value in the labour market.

The implication for the leasing and asset finance industry is that we are in a strong position to cut deals with universities and other providers that offer better outcomes for them – brand preservation, access to a wider network of customers – and for us, through co-developing programmes that truly reflect industry needs and are unencumbered by bureaucratic processes or an outdated or one-size-fits-all syllabus. The model where professional bodies provide certification – such as for CPAs, for example – will also become more prominent as new professional bodies are able to deliver much greater amounts of content to much greater numbers of students. Education in the future will be about joint ventures that blend market credibility and academic capability.

For industries that partner effectively in education there are also revenue opportunities. The annual spend on higher education in Asia will grow by a trillion dollars or more over the next fifteen years; China’s tertiary education participation rate more than trebled from 8.0% to 25.9% in the first decade of this century and is likely to double again in the next 10-15 years; education participation rates in Latin America, ASEAN, the Middle East and North Africa are growing dramatically. The opportunity is to connect with the new middle classes in emerging markets for many products and services, not just education.

While lots of universities have international campuses, many of the newer entrants to education – especially those that offer online education – are instantly global. And while only a few elite universities – Harvard, MIT, Oxford, some of the emerging ‘C9’ Chinese universities – will achieve true global status, new kinds of educational institutions, especially ones that are based around industries like asset finance, are already global. This means that an approach to education coordinated across the industry will allow us to create partnerships across the global spectrum of education providers for the benefit of the industry.

Perhaps the greatest change is in the recognition that, because of the greater availability of digital materials, learning takes place constantly in the workplace outside of any structured programme and happens with no prescribed syllabus. On the job, peer-based, self-directed and informal learning experiences are part of the everyday life of companies, but very few of these experiences are ever are made visible even in performance appraisal systems. Currently the only way that people can evidence their learning is through transcripts offered by universities or other providers. These ‘report cards’ offer no insight into what students actually learned, but only show performance against a set of criteria; informal learning has no verifiable system of measurement and accreditation. The most an employer can know is that someone completed a degree, or successfully finished a diploma course – they cannot know how this learning might have been the catalyst for new competencies, or how it complements, extends or enhances peer-based, self-directed and informal learning experiences.

One approach to trying to provide this visibility and accreditation of learning is the Open Badges initiative by a non-profit technology organisation, the Mozilla Foundation. A badge is a digital symbol of recognition for learning that includes a set of metadata that explains the badge and the evidence behind it. Badges can represent formal and informal learning, achievements, skills, competencies, service to industry associations, involvement with CSR programmes or mentoring. Learners collect badges from badge issuers – who may or not be educational institutions – for their various learning experiences. One badge might represent a course on The Regulatory Framework for Financial Systems from an external provider; another might represent a company internal training course on Risk Management; another might be issued for taking the MIT Sloan School Open Courseware module on Data Analysis; or a badge might be issued for participation in Leasing Foundation Women in Leasing networking events.  All of these badges can be embedded in sites like LinkedIn or added to resumes or professional development records.

Open Badges launched in March 2012, and there are over 800 providers who have issued almost 100,000 badges. Chicago, for example, has developed a city-wide system where learners can pick up hundreds of different badges from across dozens of learning organisations; the Clinton Global Initiative and the National Science Foundation are also issuing badges, along with many other organisations. The value of the open badge approach is that it gives some context to both formal and informal learning experiences. It provides recognition to the learner for those experiences and a more accurate picture of the learner to an employer.

For online courses, it will not be course content, quality and participation that are used to assess their status, but the ability to measure and assess real learning and skills acquisition. Those courses that result in quality learning and measurable skills and competencies will be those that learners and employers find most valuable, and it is this that Open Badges make visible. One outcome of opening up a whole range of learning experiences for accreditation through badges is that it starts to make the job of recruiting much easier. In a time when employers turn to the internet to find talent – using LinkedIn, or data-mining sites like Gild or TalentBin – what is needed is valid and verifiable accreditation for learning experiences. For learners it is a way or empowering them to get the data and evidence necessary to achieve their career aspirations, to support their corporate professional development programmes, and to reward them in meaningful ways for what they have achieved.

The landscape for education and training is undergoing revolutionary change.  2014 will be the year that we start to see the revolution sweep over leasing and asset finance: the need for education, training and development that makes professionalism accessible and visible inside and outside the industry – both to signal that the industry is committed to professionalisation, but also to develop and retain the best people in the industry – will mean we can lead the revolution.

CC BY 4.0 Digitisation, accreditation, globalisation and informal learning by Peter Thomas is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.