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Reimagining Corporate Education in a Post-COVID World

A corporate education class in progress at QUTeX

We’re almost a third of our way into 2021 and Australians are starting to experience what we hope is the ‘post-pandemic phase’. As we head back to the corporate classroom, it has become abundantly clear there is a resounding ‘yes’ to a reimagined approach. With international conferences relegated to virtual mode, there is an expected rise in the demand for locally sourced corporate education that offers an adaptable and immersive experience.

As educational institutions are faced with the dilemma of when and how to re-open, the desire for knowledge and discussion has never been greater.

To help us process what has happened over the past year, a renaissance in the delivery of corporate education has spawned.  The question is: how do we deliver education to prepare our workforces for the new challenges? With terms such as ‘hybrid delivery’, something rarely marketed pre-2020, becoming a norm for the current cohort of learners, there is now a resounding echo from organisations asking, “where to from here?”.

Let’s, for a moment, reimagine the corporate classroom by considering what we know about learning and how technology can add value to our learning experiences.

Social learning

Research combined with anecdotal evidence has shown us that social learning is one of the most powerful ways to engage learners with content. We learn from others through rich discussion and dialogue, and even argument. By learning in a corporate classroom whether online or face to face- via observation, modelling and shared experiences, we are far likely to embed and retain knowledge and build greater application to work. Psychologist, Albert Bandura, who coined the term ‘social learning’, believed leaders who champion this approach reap both short and long-term organisational benefits – which include a more engaged workforce.

Learner led

With the time in a shared physical space likely to be reduced, it’s vital the online classroom allows learners to take part in meaningful learning engagement. With the opportunity to ‘front load’ learning online, the participants can be primed before entering the active classroom. That is, learners can accelerate or decelerate their learning depending on their needs. They can then engage and learn with others via rich classroom discussions or moderated online forums.

AI inspired

With timers set and activities following a learners’ journey, there is an opportunity for ‘experiences’ to be triggered by algorithms and artificial intelligence, driven by competency and interests of the learner. Akin to the choose your own adventure books of the 1980s, learners can make their way through content in a way that is meaningful to them. The use of badges and gamification are likely to keep learners connected to the task and embrace and develop them through an exciting experience.

Conclusion

The often economic rationalist approach to corporate education has meant it has, at times, fallen into a compliance exercise. Organisations now have the opportunity to reimagine their approach and reap the benefits of social learning, supported by technology and potentially driven by learner led AI. Learning and development links to an individual’s improved mental acuity, combined with the soft benefits of employee retention and wellness. But often what drives organisational engagement in corporate education is the per seat investment that in turn drives an organisation’s growth and bottom line. That is, organisations are looking to quantify the edge that corporate education brings as a dollar figure. In most cases they are looking for a neat percentage.  Whatever the motivation of organisations, there is a risk of not developing people.  The risk is that they will stay in their current state, in their current organisation, delivering the status quo.  It is time to reimagine the possibilities of corporate education post-COVID.

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Catherine is a Corporate Educator for QUT, teaching subjects in MBA and public sector management. She has a strong expertise in communication with a focus on its application for business technology. Her PhD research is on the role trust plays in artificial intelligence for ASX listed companies. Her aim is help ASX companies understand the requisite trust factors online when considering the application of artificial intelligence.

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