By Michael Curry, co-founder, Floream (www.floream.com)
Only a few weeks ago, the UK Minister of State for Skills & Education, Matthew Hancock voiced his support for the role of mobile technology in helping to close the UK’s skills gap: “…If we take learning out of the classroom and put it online, or indeed make it accessible on a mobile phone, then suddenly those people that were previously excluded are able to make learning a part of their lives.”
In truth, the UK does not have a culture of lifelong learning – for the majority, their education stops when they leave school or University. The classic white collar professions such as Accounting, Bookkeeping and Human Resources place a high value on rigorous qualifications and ongoing professional development but the majority of people must learn on the job. Companies lose out because they must hire someone untrained and then invest weeks in training before they are productive; employees suffer because they cannot truly understand a profession until they are in it.
For those with the time and resources, training in a profession such as accounting brings significant rewards, but the courses demand years of study and significant expense. Technology is dramatically changing the economics of delivery and spawning new business models that can provide a high quality learning experience at little or no cost to the student. MOOCs (massively open online courses) have already gained significant traction in the academic world but they need a live Internet connection.
Yet the latest generation of mobile courses from companies like Qualt.com are built as self-contained apps, so you can study anywhere without racking up mobile data charges. They are not yet at the stage where they can deliver a formal qualification, but they provide a valuable gateway into a profession – simultaneously a taster and an aptitude test with benefits for employee and employer alike.
The free mobile format means that prospective employees can learn about a role through a medium they use every day. Such courses are not limited only to the mainstream professions – the modest cost of building and delivery is such that companies could develop their own courses around specific roles. For example, a security company might require certain skills for their staff. Their mobile course would have two functions: firstly, to introduce prospective recruits to the role and their way of working and secondly to screen candidates for aptitude. Timed self-tests within the app check understanding and provide scores that could be used to filter candidates for interview.
As well as providing an introduction to a career, mobile courses can also act as a bridge into more formal education and full qualifications. Professional accrediting bodies are already getting involved, including the AAT for accounting and the IDM for digital marketing. In these cases, the mobile course content is designed to work cohesively with their existing qualifications. It will only be a matter of time before such courses qualify for exemptions against further study, and potentially qualifications in their own right.