In an earlier post I mentioned that I recently presented at a Blended Learning Conference in Auckland. I was one of only 2 or 3 who were at the conference from academia, the rest of the delegates were from the corporate, business or industry sectors. I found this very interesting as it highlighted one of the a major difference between Higher Education’s view of teaching and learning and that of the corporate / business and industry sectors.
It seems top me that HE has a preoccupation with qualifications and that the teaching and learning strategy, philosophy and practice all serve this end. This is entirely understandable as qualifications are what they get funded by the government to deliver. This does, in my view, place a particular emphasis on the way in which subjects are organised, structured and taught and how learning is measured. In the world of business and industry, modes of teaching and learning, apart from training for legal compliance and certification, are principally focused on addressing specific issues to do with the efficient and effective carrying out of the business of the enterprise, such as problems of performance, new skill development, teamwork and so on.
These differences in approach are mainly focused around the central teaching and learning paradigms of each sector. The HE sector, in general, aims to have their learners readied for the world of work, and so the focus is on having their learners gain the specified qualifications that the various occupational contexts demand as a means of gaining employment within that context. While strenuous efforts are made to bring industrial or business practice relevance to the taught subjects, and even in some cases strong emphasis placed on so-called authentic or “real world” assessment, it is not possible to know where a particular student might end up. Consequently the teaching and learning approach, by necessity, is generalised, with an emphasis on theoretical and prescribed knowledge with the expectation that this will be translated into the particular working context the learner will hopefully move into upon graduation.
On the other hand the business and industry sector learners are already employed and their context is well understood. The training and development that happens there is primarily centred on doing the work more efficiently. effectively and productively. Less emphasis is placed on the theoretical component of what’s being taught and far more focus is given to the experiential nature of the learning. Further, the teaching and learning is very specific to the workplace context and the particular conditions, product, profitability, sustainability and customer needs and demands of the enterprise.
For many years academic knowledge has been privileged over knowledge generated from the workplace. Somehow workplace knowledge was seen as less important, less intellectually pure and of less value to humankind than its academic counterpart. All this is changing. There a number of reasons for this, for a start workplace knowledge itself has become the study of academic researchers and theorists which is raising its stock as a worthy undertaking. Perhaps of more significance though, is the fact that new knowledge is being generated at a much faster rate in the worlds of business and industry than the halls of academy can keep up with. It is now essential that academic institutions, such as universities and polytechnics, engage and collaborate much more closely with business and industry, particularly in those technology rich enterprises where much of the new knowledge is being generated.
One area where teaching and learning approaches of both the HE and the business/industry sectors needs to converge, and do so rapidly, is in the realm of understanding how people actually learn and how to use techniques, strategies and technologies to enable learning to take place more rapidly, more relevantly and more effectively than has hitherto been the case.
Much of the teaching and learning practices of much of the business/industry sectors are, not to put too fine a point on it, antediluvian. This is not to say that much of the teaching and learning practices of our universities and polytechnics are models of excellence, far from it. However, by the very nature of these places, they produce significant pockets of innovation and breakthrough that really do perform at a very high level of excellence and effectiveness indeed. The challenge is to somehow migrate the knowledge and skills out of the silos of academic institutions into the workplace so that they may benefit the learners in the workplace.
Enough on this for now. More later.