Executive education has evolved considerably over the last 50 years and the industry is now faced with a series of significant trends that offer the potential to create dramatic new opportunities for effective learning.
New research reveals that most business schools across the globe have untapped opportunities to provide innovative executive education programmes enabled by mobile technology.
The UNICON (International University Consortium for Executive Education) report, ‘Going mobile in executive education,’ analyses the potential impact of mobile technologies on the executive education learning landscape around the world. The report looks at mobile learning, and how portable technologies - smartphones, PDAs (Personal Digital Assistants), handheld computers and personal media players - can support and extend the reach of teaching and learning.
The report finds that some learning providers are embracing mobile learning and developing new approaches to learning. While the research highlights examples of innovative applications of mobile learning in business schools, universities and the private sector around the globe, it concludes that more executive education providers could be maximising the vast potential of mobile devices for learning. Many providers are yet to exploit the true potential of mobile devices for learning, despite them being tools that most senior executives bring with them to the classroom.
In short, business schools must continue to innovate if they are to continue to meet the needs of employers and senior executives. The global nature of businesses and the growing capabilities of powerful mobile devices mean that adopting new technologies in learning is essential to continuing to attract clients in the competitive executive education market.
Dr Carina Paine Schofield, Research Fellow at Ashridge Business School and report co-author, said: "Advances in mobile technologies and high levels of mobile phone penetration are changing the way that learning is being adopted and used in education. It has evolved into more than e-learning with a phone. Mobile learning offers easier access to learning materials so students can be more productive with their time. It empowers executive education providers to serve up learning in multiple formats – audio, visual or text – to suit individual learning styles.
"The report looks at practice beyond the business education market. Using mobile devices to network socially or learn collaboratively as part of education is second nature to many undergraduates, which is important because today’s undergraduates may well be tomorrow’s executive education participants.”
Mobile technology can help provide executives with pre- and post-course support, and the latest mobile learning applications can extend their access to a multimedia-rich education. It also provides a means for participants to stay connected with one another as professional resources after a programme ends. Other benefits of mobile learning identified by the report include:
- ‘Just enough’ learning – highly applied, easily digestible learning for busy executives.
- ‘Just-in-time’ learning – convenient, flexible and relevant learning at the exact moment learning is required.
- ‘Just-for-me’ learning – learning can be accessed via mobile devices in many different ways, which means that there are opportunities for it to appeal to many different learning styles.
Mobile devices can facilitate collaboration. SMS texting reminders, knowledge sharing forums and ‘ask a question’ forums enable and enhance interaction between participants and tutors.
Director of Learning Services at Ashridge Business School Tony Sheehan said: "Many executives are time starved, over worked yet under increasing pressure to make the best decisions in an increasingly competitive environment. Mobile learning offers a powerful opportunity to introduce learning ‘on demand’. It allows individuals to connect to executive education at a time that suits them and in a way that can support current business challenges. Learners are no longer dependent on the classroom, as mobile devices allow learners to connect in times of reflection – a long train journey, a daily commute – where the mind is alert and open to new insights.”
Ashridge Business School was one of the first executive education providers to establish an online learning resource. Its online learning platform, Virtual Ashridge, lets students home in on certain interests and choose a style of learning that fits their personality without information overload: some may want to listen to an audio file or read text, while others may want to take part in an online discussion.
“The future of executive education is about choice and personalisation.” said UNICON Chairman Bill Shedden, who also serves as Director of the Centre for Customised Executive Education at the Cranfield School of Management in Bedford, England. “Our recent State of the Industry survey also found that while many executive education providers are moving cautiously, they have begun experimenting with technology and – in many cases – are taking more technology initiative than clients expect or demand”.