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‘Bricks-and-clicks’: The future for Business Schools


At the beginning of last month, when we launched the CPD Business School on TrainingZONE, we introduced it by suggesting that one of the key benefits of using an action learning approach is its flexibility in allowing the individual to gain an insight into their own learning.

In this article, Jonathan Hollands of Warwick Business School counters this by explaining the work that many traditional Business Schools are carrying out using a number of different teaching styles, including online delivery.

As the impetus of online learning methodologies begins to build, many UK Business Schools are seeking ways in which they can offer something that is appealing. The driving factor is the need to demonstrate the worth of the learning experience for practicing business people. The challenge of online learning has taken away any temptation to rest on our laurels.

Online learning is shaking up the market for management development and Business Schools are waking up to the notion that people want to learn in a variety of ways. Sometimes that means visiting a leafy campus. Other times it means accessing faculty expertise via the web. It is clear that most business schools need to radically change the ways they use the web if they are to compete head-to-head with the best of the online providers. The fact is, however, that people want to learn in a variety of ways. Very few people that I know are ready to do all their learning in front of a computer monitor.

The best UK Schools are successful because their teaching allows people to learn in the ways they prefer. If you use one of the top UK Schools, you can expect to experience a variety of learning styles, both in the classroom and online. The top UK Schools generally have top-class conference facilities and build online learning facilities into their programmes. Business Schools at this level also offer learning groups of one form or another, where people learn from each other as well as the academics.

We are seeing a number of schools becoming 'bricks-and-clicks' learning providers, blending face-to-face with online teaching styles to offer real and virtual learning in the same programme. In this respect, they score a significant advantage over the purely virtual learning providers, whose reputation and brand values rely entirely on the online experience. Pure online learning has a long way to go before it can seriously threaten the 'bricks-and-clicks' teachers.

And that's the point: those management development activities that rely on just one or two teaching styles are those who are short-changing their learners. Managing a business is about being flexible and being able to respond effectively in any situation. Learning should echo life – it should embrace a multitude of approaches and give people the skills to work effectively in any situation. There are few alternatives that rival the value of meeting with other people, learning from their experiences and solving problems with the help of others.


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