David Cartwright emphasises why accreditation should be all about the learner.
Humans have a psychological need to develop and grow; it’s fundamental to wellbeing and self-esteem. It’s important in both our personal and professional lives. We are born unique with the capacity to do far more than we believe.
In our personal lives there are developmental milestones. Holding our heads up, learning to walk, starting school, our first sleepover at a friend’s house, graduating from senior school, moving from dependant to independent living and earning a wage.
Milestones also exist in our professional lives. These could be the acquisition of new skills, trying out new activities, or promotion to more responsible positions. However, unlike the linear progression we experience in our personal lives, the professional one is much more haphazard.
If we don’t develop to capacity we stagnate. This leads to frustration and, in the most extreme cases, to a diminished view of one’s own capability. In the world of work this results in disengagement that benefits neither employer nor employee, leading to a detrimental impact for customers and commercial profitability.
When considering L&D in the context of work, it’s easy to think that any investment is better than none. Organisations might trot out statistics confirming the number of man-hours invested per capita as a metric of successful investment. However, we all know at best it’s a statistic and at worst tokenism to infer serious activity.
The learner experience
L&D investment is only ever better than no investment if the interests of the learner and their organisation are understood. If it doesn’t benefit the organisation, then what’s the point of investing, other than for outplacement activities resulting from redundancy?
Learner benefit is the critical component to get right. The following criteria checklist can help monitor the learner experience:
- What are the learner needs and why are these important?
- Is there a clear projection of how the learner will be post development?
- Is the content fit for purpose; does it stand a chance of delivering?
- Is the learning modality the best fit for the learner?
- How will you assess learning post development?
- How will the learner’s learning be embedded post development?
These criteria comprise the learning journey. No one criterion is more important than the other; together they provide the best learner experience possible. Does your organisation ever consider these criteria?
The learners’ sponsoring organisation
As the sponsoring organisation how do you assess the utility and validity of internal and external L&D programmes? How do you meet the above criteria? How do you ensure content is fit for purpose, is delivered in a manner that encourages engagement and can be easily transferred back into the workplace?
Do you assess the content on offer or simply view the headline summary? Often, organisations sub-contract out this ‘fit for purpose’ piece believing that if the course title has been accredited to a recognised industry level then all will be well.
What is given less attention by accrediting bodies is the learner journey. Yes, the content is pitched correctly at a recognised level and the provider is recognised as an accredited deliverer of the content, but what about its practical relevance, its traction with learners and the support offered to embed the learning?
We cannot measure the impact of investing in people on a simple ROI calculation, but we can assess its impact over time by reviewing growth in confidence and capability of those who have benefited from the investment.
The accrediting organisation
The accreditation process has a role in many environments, primarily education. In my experience accrediting organisations are adept at introducing protocols that ensure quality standards are achieved. However, their focus is on conformity rather than uniqueness.
Once processes have been established, they become the barometer of success rather than the output of the activity they are there to assess – in this case the benefit to both learner and organisation.
The provider of learning resources
Whether you do or do not seek external validation to support your choice of provider, the most important element of your decision-making must be the quality of the learner journey. If learners become capable of doing more post-learning and embrace their roles with growing confidence, then with or without external validation you’re making the right choice.
About the author
David Cartwright is founder of coaching-supported online learning platform OBD Academy.
Read more from David here