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Ongoing Learning

Harnessing New Skills Horizons

New skills are essential to remain competitive — and there’s more than one way to get them.

Juliet Pitman

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Ongoing Learning

Successful business people are those who have the ability to adapt to an ever-changing business environment, something that’s facilitated by new skills sets. It’s true that what got you where you are today won’t be enough to take you where you want to be tomorrow — ongoing learning is essential if you want to keep abreast of the latest business trends and information and give your business and career the best chance of success. Skills and knowledge are as much a differentiator as great business ideas or a top-notch product.

For most people the obvious route to learning is through structured courses at recognised learning institutions, but continuous skills development can take a variety of different forms. Business coaching, networking and online learning can all contribute to a rich learning experience, complementing traditional forms of learning and providing you with a diversity of theoretical, practical and ‘soft’ skills.

Institutional Learning

South Africa has some outstanding business schools with affiliations to international universities and institutions. A full-time business degree is a luxury few can afford, but most business schools recognise the impracticality of business people studying full-time and also offer part-time degrees, diplomas and short courses.

Few things can match classroom lectures in providing a well-rounded education experience — they enable you to interact with lecturers and fellow students and ask questions in real time.

Choose courses that will provide you with both knowledge and skills to enable you to go further in business. Have a clear idea of what you want to get out of your learning experience — do you want certain practical skills, a more in-depth and nuanced understanding of business or a qualification that will open new doors? This should inform the kind of course and institution you choose.

Online Learning

The Internet has opened up a world of learning that surpasses international barriers and allows learning to take place almost anywhere. Sam Paddock, managing director of online education company GetSmarter, points out, “Online learning is inherently flexible, which provides entrepreneurs with a chance to fit learning interventions into their hectic schedules.” He adds that provided the online education model is ‘high-touch’, incorporating regular proactive guidance and support, even the busiest of people will successfully complete online courses. For GetSmarter, ‘high-touch’ means a high level of proactive and personal contact with students, something that can approximate an in-lecture learning experience.

In addition, online courses enable entrepreneurs to gain access to many more learning opportunities than would usually be the case with contact-based learning, which is limited by their physical location. “When it comes to specialist skills this sort of access to education, which is independent of physical location, becomes critical for entrepreneurs,” Paddock explains.

Business Coaching

Business coaching is one of the fastest-growing professions in the world — and with good reason. It provides business people with (typically) one-on-one targeted assistance focused on solving specific problems or achieving particular goals.

“Business coaching won’t ever necessarily replace traditional modes of learning and nor should it, but it can complement them by providing business people with real implementation skills,” says Harry Welby-Cooke, master licensee of ActionCOACH South Africa. Welby-Cooke believes that while many business people have the necessary knowledge to take the next steps in business, they don’t know how or even where to implement it effectively.

“A good business coach provides an important outside perspective.

“They don’t collude with you or allow you to hide from the things in your business that are lacking or require your attention. So if you’re not good at finance and you typically ignore that side of your business, the coach will force you to look at it, acquire and implement the necessary financial knowledge to bring this aspect of your business on track,” he explains.

A business coach can also be a spurring and challenging influence, as the president of the Cape Town chapter of the International Coach Federation, Axel Ritterhaus, points out: “For start-ups, coaching can provide the self-confidence and stamina needed to get through the first hurdles and later on can help you to refocus on the business when you might otherwise get overwhelmed by the different tasks and demands of running a company,” he says.

“Coaching can help executives to be better leaders. A coach can be a sparring partner who challenges you to take things to the next level, someone who is honest with you and provides you with real and valuable feedback that you can use.”

Networking

While less formal than institutional and online learning, as well as coaching, networking can also provide you with valuable skills. Apart from providing you with the opportunity to bounce ideas off other entrepreneurs, it can help you to build your team skills set.

MBAconnect.net founder, Colette Symanowitz, explains, “If your networking efforts enable you to meet and partner with other entrepreneurs who are strong in the areas where you’re weak, your skills will complement each other and your collective skills as a team will grow stronger. This applies to professional, technical and soft skills.”

But she adds a note about the importance of seeking out people who have different skills to yours: “Be careful not to partner with others who you gravitate towards simply because they are similar to you, as this can be destructive for your business. As difficult as it may be, in your networking efforts it is vital to seek out partners who are your skill-set opposites and who you don’t naturally click with.”

Choosing a Partner for Education

Who you learn with is as important, and indeed will affect what you learn, so choosing the right education partner is critical. Whether you are selecting a bricks-and-mortar institution, an online education academy, a business coach or a networking group, look for the following:

  • An established reputation: Organisations of quality have a solid reputation for a reason. Beware of fly-by-night organisations and remember that education doesn’t come cheap, so you usually get what you pay for.
  • Recognised accreditation: Relevant to formal qualifications, accreditation is an external stamp of approval, providing assurance that the education you are getting meets a particular standard.
  • Endorsement from others: If other people in your field have found the institute, society or association helpful and valuable there’s a good chance you will too.
  • Depth of learning: The educators and courses on offer should provide you with a depth of learning.
  • Practical and theoretical skills: Business is about implementation so a quality institution will provide you with real-life and theoretical business knowledge.

Juliet Pitman is a features writer at Entrepreneur Magazine.

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“Free” Online Courses Versus Interactive Classroom Courses

Online learning should be considered a supplement and extension, rather than a replacement, to traditional classroom learning.

Wits Language School

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The Internet is currently abuzz with advertisements for “free” online language courses and online education. While developments in technology have undoubtedly created opportunities for more people to access education, the question still remains as to whether it is actually possible to learn a language solely with the use of an online platform. Whilst there are numerous advantages to using online platforms, there are equally as many disadvantages.

Online platforms are limited in their capacity to support group discussions, as well as the engagement with language facilitators and tutors. Many platforms are also unable to cope with the thousands of students that try to join online discussions. Language learners benefit greatly from human interaction within a classroom. Mark Edmundson (2012), an English professor at the University of Virginia, argued that online education creates a “monologue and not a real dialogue” in the learning environment.

Classroom environments allow learners to express their opinions, participate in debates, and engage in face-to-face interaction with classmates and their instructor.

Related: “Free” Online Courses Versus Interactive Classroom Courses

Language facilitators are responsible for explaining material, answering questions and guiding learning based on students’ needs and language levels in real time. From an online perspective, this resource becomes diluted, as often there exists back and forth communication between the student and the facilitator over an extended period of time. Within a classroom environment, learners are immersed in the language and encouraged to speak. Learning takes place in a pro-active way with a balance of learner-facilitator interaction and group work. Language learners receive undivided attention from the facilitator, and the pace and content of the tuition is thus tailored to the learner accordingly.

Two of the benefits of online courses are that they offer flexibility and convenient accessibility; however, they also require a greater amount of self-discipline, reading and time-management skills. Online courses tend to make it easier to procrastinate and they create a sense of isolation. These elements are not conducive to successful language learning. Motivation levels are likely to decrease when using online platforms, as learners have no real external influences to help keep them motivated and inspired.

The quality and accreditation of online language courses is also a concern to most learners, as many online courses lack valid accreditation and certification. It is crucial to enrol in a course that provides legitimate information and that is accredited with a relevant board or organisation. A course that does not provide valid accreditation will serve no purpose or advantage to the learner.

Wits Language School was established in 1997 and forms part of the Faculty of Humanities at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa. Over the last 19 years, the school has built a reputation for providing high-quality language services and short learning programmes in a dynamic and international learning environment. Wits Language School endorses interactive teaching styles, uses up-to-date teaching methods, and employs experienced and highly qualified teachers who are mother-tongue speakers to assist all participants in their quest to learn a second language.

Online learning should be considered a supplement and extension, rather than a replacement, to traditional classroom learning.

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Company Posts

Rethinking Learning In The 21st Century

The changing world of work has disrupted the three elements of the traditional ‘career’: Expertise, duration, and rewards.

Wits Plus

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Vital Stats

Traditionally the concept of a ‘career’ was considered to include three elements:

  1. A career represented our expertise, our profession, and ultimately our identity.
  2. A career was something that built over time and endured. It gave us the opportunity to progress and advance.
  3. A career gave us financial and psychological rewards. It made life meaningful and paid us enough to live well.

The changing world of work has disrupted all three elements: Expertise, duration, and rewards.

A career can now be as long as 60 years; at the same time, due to rapid advancements in technology and the changes that bring about in the workplace, skill sets can become obsolete in as little as five years.

Increasingly, companies need to rethink the way in which careers are managed and learning opportunities are delivered, and many have already begun to overhaul their career models and L&D (Learning and Development) infrastructure in line with the digital age.

Related: Your Investment In Knowledge

Employees’ learning behaviour is also changing. In the past, employees were able to obtain the skills required for their career early on and as a once-off; now, the career itself is a journey of learning, up-skilling, re-skilling and continuous reinvention to remain relevant and to thrive in the changing world of work.

Older employees who studied at a time where most of one’s learning occurred prior to entering the workplace, find themselves working alongside millennials who place greater value on learning and progression rather than on earning potential as a first priority.

Eighty-three percent of the respondents surveyed in Deloitte’s 2017 Global Human Capital Trends survey say their organisations are shifting to flexible, open career models that offer enriching assignments, projects, and experiences rather than a static career progression.

However, in today’s fast-paced business world, even if companies are restructuring L&D delivery, no one is going to make you engage in a strategy that is essential to your future success – continuous learning. You will have to take the initiative yourself.

Noted self-help expert W. Clement Stone, in his many writings on this topic, recommended that one spends anywhere from a half-hour to two hours a day in study and thinking time. This tireless dedication, combined with an insatiable curiosity, will equip you to excel in the future world of work. What’s more, learning new skills and knowledge can be fun!

The good news for both companies and for employees is that an explosion of high-quality content and digital delivery models offers employees ready access to continuous learning. The Wits DigitalCampus offers a range of accredited and fully online short courses to support your continuous learning.

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Company Posts

Your Investment In Knowledge

When you understand the value of knowledge, in this world where technology is rendering previously expensive products or services much cheaper (and even free), it’s just a matter of getting more of it. Dedicate yourself to constant learning!

Wits Plus

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Vital Stats

Most people spend their lives collecting, spending, and worrying about money — so much so, in fact, that they say they “don’t have time” to learn something new.

However, some of smartest and busiest people in the world — Barack Obama, Warren Buffet and Bill Gates — all spend at least one hour a day on deliberate learning. They see what others don’t: That learning is the single best investment of our time that we can make. As Benjamin Franklin said long ago, “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.”

When you understand the value of knowledge, in this world where technology is rendering previously expensive products or services much cheaper (and even free), it’s just a matter of getting more of it. Dedicate yourself to constant learning!

One of the very benefits of ongoing technological advances is that it empowers an accelerated and personalised learning experience that puts the learner in the driver’s seat. Modern learning harnesses the speed, power and ubiquity of digital capability. Online platforms, software and mobile devices means that the traditional hurdles to learning — such as income, status and location — have just about disappeared. Knowledge can now be gained by anyone with the passion to pursue it and the commitment to stick with it.

Related: Building Customer Relationships

We are only at the tipping point of what future learning technology can deliver. Artificial intelligence (AI) will transform all aspects of human capital management, including learning. Technology-enabled learning will be immediate and directly relevant to the task, for example:

  • personally tailored learning content and experiences delivered to you as and when you want or need them
  • chatbots and virtual assistants can source and categorise the information that you need for optimal decision-making
  • augmented and virtual reality simulations can provide a multi-sensory experience to speed up and embed learning.

Additionally, social connectivity already enables user-generated content to outpace and outstrip what traditional education and learning institutions can deliver.

Knowledge may be the new money but, unlike money, you don’t lose it when you use knowledge or give it away. Transferring knowledge anywhere in the world is free and instant. It’s fun to acquire and it makes your brain work better. It helps you think bigger and beyond your circumstances. It puts your life in perspective by essentially helping you live many lives in one life through other people’s experiences and wisdom.

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