Future of learning 2011

26 01 2010

In August 2009 we hosted a conference on The Future of Learning in partnership with Mt Eliza Executive Education, Melbourne, and the University of Cape Town Graduate School of Business Executive Education Unit.  Our concept was to bring together executive education clients and researchers and practitioners from a range of related fields to discuss topical issues around the future of learning, in relation to the demands and needs of executive education. 

The conference  was a real hit.  It involved workshops, presentations, and some great keynote speeches on topics including: Virtual/Audio Action Learning, Curiosity as an Enabler of Learning, the Effects of Ego Depletion on Learning & Performance, the Use of Implant and Electrode Technology to create Biological Brains for Robots – aka the Cyborg Experiments… and so on…Details of all of these sessions are available on the conference webpages.  Plus, we’re publishing a book in a few months time with chapters developed from the best conference papers.

Now, on to the future: It was our intention for this conference to be the first of a series, with each partner institution taking turns to host a subsequent conference, adding their own particular flavour to the content and form.  At the moment we’re talking to our partners in Cape Town and Melbourne about who will be hosting the next conference.  It’s still to be finalised, but early 2011 is looking like a hot prospect – both literally and figuratively, so watch out for further updates!!


Evaluation in the new year

7 01 2010

While the big chill continues, there’s certainly lots of research activity to keep Ashridge braincells warm as 2010 gets going.  A few snippets of interest:

We’ve won a bid with the Institute of Customer Service for a research project on Return on Investment in Customer Facing Initiatives.  This will leverage the extensive experience of Ashridge researchers and Associates in the area of evaluation, and specificially the thorny issue of ROI. 

While that project is getting underway, other evaluation work is chugging along, including work with Earthwatch, E.on and a project focusing on learning transfer that is employing Robert Brinkerhoff’s Success Case Method as a pragmatic methodology for evaluation. 

Our capacity to deliver evaluation work has increased, actually, with the arrival of Professor John Burgoyne Dr. Sadie Williams from their recent affiliation with Henley to work in association with Ashridge on evaluation projects.  This is great news, as client demand in this area seems to be growing!

I personally have just completed a major literature review on evaluation and what it says about the impact of management education.  It’s interesting to see how the focus has shifted over time from designs that emphasised the experimental and involved control groups, attempts to minimise all variables other than those under study etc, towards holistic, explanatory, single-case designs. There is less emphasis on quantifying impact, and more on understanding the complex suite of factors that interplay to provide value (or not) to an organisation and the individuals within it from management development.  Of course, what is published in the academic literature – where I focused for this particular piece of work – is not necessarily representative of the wider field of practice.  It may be the case that similar shifts are going on in how organisations in general are judging the value of management development, though I suspect that levels of evaluation activity – for all sorts of good reasons – are in general still fairly low. 

So, in sum, amongst all the other research we’re doing, evaluation is quite high on the agenda!