Dr David Lefevre and Bhav Radia from Imperial College Business School’s Edtech Lab explain why organisations need to encourage a culture of lifelong learning.
In 2016 Faiz Siddiqui made headlines when he sued Oxford University for £1 million. The former student built a case around his failure to gain a first class degree, due to what he claimed was subpar teaching. This, he argued, had had dire consequences for both his personal and professional life.
A crucial detail of the case was that the 38-year-old Siddiqui graduated from Oxford’s Brasenose College with a 2:1 in Modern History in June 2000. Suing your alma mater for a faltering career that has spanned almost two decades seems an odd argument to make. Can his undergraduate experience really be to blame when so much time has passed?
This story is of particular interest in the context of today’s business environment, where there is an ever-growing threat to jobs due to automation. A study by Michael Osborne and Carl Frey, from the Oxford Martin School, estimated that nearly 50 per cent of all jobs in the US were at risk of automation in the not so distant future. Just a month ago, Fukoku Mutual Life Insurance made 34 employees redundant with IBM’s Watson Explorer AI, which will now be used to calculate insurance settlements. Furthermore, recent political events have shown how jobs can be taken away from countries in a heartbeat.
It is becoming clear, as Eric Weber of Iese Business School says, that “there is an endless need for maintaining one’s employability”. To accomplish this, there is a pressing need for individuals to upskill and develop throughout their career, and for organisations to support this and foster a culture of lifelong learning.
The Edtech Lab, based within Imperial College Business School, uses technology to facilitate this and has developed a range of online and blended courses that supports individuals and organisations to learn and develop throughout their careers in a flexible and effective way.
We recently completed a run of Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs) on EdX, called Essentials for MBA Success, which provided over 20,000 students across the world with a manageable but rigorous introduction to key principles in business. People at all stages of their careers can take these free courses – from those with limited work or business experience to those in senior positions within multinational organisations looking to develop their skillset.
We also collaborate with organisations to develop executive education for their employees. This often entails customising business education to fit challenging circumstances. For example, we are currently working with a global firm to develop a learning environment where staff operating across a range of continents and time zones can come together to develop skills in Strategy and Economics within a collaborative environment, and then rapidly apply these skills in their organisation without having to be in the same place at the same time.
In 2017, we relaunched our Executive MBA as a blended programme that is designed for senior executives who want to accelerate their career whilst continuing to excel in a demanding job. The programme breaks down online material into one-hour blocks, allowing learning to be squeezed into even the busiest of schedules. These online sessions are then followed up with a mixture of in-class lectures and activities and international residencies, which focuses on local application of key topics.
It is clear to us that lifelong learning is here to stay – and we at Imperial College Business School are excited to take on the challenge of opening up world-class business education to a growing and diversifying global audience through using innovative technologies, partnerships and pedagogies.