Online approaches to learning and assessment are making a huge impact on professional development and training for finance professionals – and will continue to do so in the future - finds new research from ACCA (The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) and Lighthouse Global, the strategic research and consulting group.
For the report, called The e-professional: embracing learning technologies, a distinguished panel of experts from multinational corporations, global professional services firms, learning providers and other professional bodies offered their opinions about the present and future of online learning.
Their views reveal that:
- e-learning provides more sophisticated options for gaining knowledge and applying it than in the past, due to rapid developments in mobile devices and applications such as Skype and smart phones;
- these technological advancements are changing the way professionals learn, so that options are more flexible and fit for purpose. Learning now revolves around work, rather than work accommodating study leave.
Clare Minchington, ACCA’s executive director - learning and products, says: 'We commissioned this report to gauge how employers are adopting technology-enabled learning and assessment, and also to understand the key drivers for its adoption.
'Lighthouse’s research and the insights from the panellists dispel common myths about technology-based learning and development – for example that e-learning and assessment lack sophistication and rigour. This is clearly not the case, as the panellists pointed to rich and complex solutions to create a better learning experience, as well as developing more challenging and realistic tests of skills and competences. Importantly, this new way of developing professionals fits with the preferences and expectations of the 21st century finance professional.'
Panellists also believe that organisations cannot remain static when building an effective work and learning environment for finance professionals. As specialists, they offered four recommendations for the future:
- Technology is a means to an end, not an end in itself. Flashy techno gimmicks can blind an organisation to thinking that it is technology alone that is driving change in learning and assessment. Technology is a facilitator for change – not a silver bullet.
- Learning technologies need to be part of a wider integrated approach to learning and assessment – when developing e-learning content, it is important to think of how it will fit into a blended programme of learning – formal and informal learning options are needed.
- Invest sufficient time and resources on planning and design of the e-learning product – this will make it attractive for users.
- Technology must be user-friendly and intuitive to use – this will aid engagement in the product.
The panellists also clarified the benefits of e-learning, confirming that there was no perceived decrease in quality when technology-enhanced learning and assessment was compared with physical, classroom and paper-based learning and assessment. Not one panellist mentioned cost reduction as the driver for introducing and using more technology in the workplace.
Clare Minchington concludes: 'In the report, Richard Pollard, global development leader at PwC asked ‘Can we use technology better? Can we be more exciting with it?’ Like Richard, ACCA’s answer to both questions is ‘yes’. It is a challenge to which we are committed as we will be moving towards delivering all our exams on-line, through an e-assessment programme we announced earlier this year.'
The e-professional report panellists are:
- May Chan, learning designer, Standard Chartered Bank
- Damian Day, head of education and registration policy at the General Pharmaceutical Council
- Laura Overton, managing director, Towards Maturity
- Greg Owens, director of technical training and student qualifications, BDO
- Richard Pollard, global development leader, PwC
- Martin Ripley, CEO, World Class Arena
- Jim Robertson, VP, tax, Eastern Hemisphere and global tax practices, Shell
- Martin Taylor, CEO, BPP Business Schools
- Kristin Watson, director, national exam training team, Ernst & Young
Selected quotes from the panellists:
‘E-learning has become part of our formal learning culture and it starts from day one.’ May Chan, learning designer, Standard Chartered Bank.
‘E-learning is very much the norm today. But can we use technology better? Can we take it further? Can we be more exciting with it? The answer to those questions is yes.’ Richard Pollard, global development leader, PwC.
‘E-learning can be incredibly demanding because learners are doing a lot of the learning and the research themselves, which is incredibly beneficial to deep understanding.’ Martin Taylor, CEO BPP.
‘Once people have learned in an e-environment and realised that it is not a scary thing, they will do it again. This lays the ground for flexible common professional development to a much greater extent than we have yet seen.’ Damian Day, head of education and registration policy at the General Pharmaceutical Council.