Education, Instructional Design, Learning and Development

Academia vs Corporate Learning

I recently read an article that was almost condemning of one in academia attempting to transition to corporate learning and development. As someone who would love to step out of the classroom I was perplexed. Is this going to be possible for me? Do I have anything to offer corporate instructional needs? Rather than embracing the initial defensive response, I chose to delve deeper. It is the 21st Century, learning is at your fingertips and it seems everyone has an opinion. Since I am part of everyone, and this is my spot on the web, I will explore my opinion.

Is there really a difference in corporate learning and academia? Yes…and no. I choose the focus on the following three categories: purpose, audience, and method of instruction.

Nikos Andriotis posted an article on TalentLMS that explores this topic. The key difference is stated simply:

Instead of paying attention to facts, details, and knowledge, corporate eLearning plays up skills and how they’re applied in the workplace.

Academia focuses on learning objectives. Corporate learning focuses on performance. In both you are restricted to the objectives of the course. Whether it is the department of instruction for a state or the CEO of a company, someone is deciding what the trainer should present. In academia the trainer is typically well versed in the subject being taught. In corporate, subject matter experts provide the content and the trainer facilitates the instruction.

The audience needs also differ. Primary, secondary, and post-secondary academic settings are for preparing students to function in society. Learning is broad. Learning is broken down into steps and each new academic year builds on the foundational learning skills of the previous. Knowledge is measured by regular assessments of knowledge and understanding of content. In the corporate setting, it is assumed that the learner already possesses the basic skills for the job at hand. It is also assumed that the learner knows how to learn. The performance improving goal is stated and over time success is measured based on periodic performance indicators. Very specific business skills are measured.

In academia the learning time frames are broken into quarters, semesters or trimesters, and academic years. The time frames for corporate learning are much more compact. As the market changes, demands and needs change, therefore learning opportunities/requirements are quickly revamped to meet those needs. To simplify it, academia is about learning, content, and theory. The corporate world is about training.

Are instructional experiences transferable between academia and corporate? It depends on who you ask. If you ask someone who lacks knowledge beyond their own personal attendance of a school, then no and academic simply cannot successfully transition to instructional design, and corporate learning and development. If you ask someone who is not so short sighted and does not buy into the vilification of teachers, then yes the instructional skills are transferrable. One should not make any career transition without careful consideration and research. There are frustrations in every job. Skill sets are transferrable. Both academia and corporate learning require the ability to communicate. Both require time management and the ability to meet deadlines. Both require patience with clients who are not always eager to learn. Both require creativity. Finally, both require a dedication to success.

Does this over simplify the comparison? Probably, but that does not make it any less real.

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