Jun/07

7

Learning Experiences as Credentials

There’s an interesting post on Terra Nova this week by Robert Bloomfield, entitled Will we ever see this on a Resume?

Bloomfield posits a mythical “World of Bizquest” – a virtual world in which an individual interested in commercial banking could rise through various levels, learning skills which are sufficiently transferable to the real world that they’d be worth listing on a resume in the Education section:

Education

  • Cornell University, 2010, Bachelor of Science, Computer Science
  • University of Michigan, 2012, Masters of Engineering, Software Architecture
  • World of Bizquest, 35th level commercial banker, with certificates of achievement in credit analysis (Gold), interest rate risk management (Gold), financial instruments (Silver), and fixed income investing (Platinum).

Now, of course, not every learning experience needs to result in a credential. There is joy to be had in learning just for the sake of exploring the new. But given that much of the demand for learning is indeed driven by such prosaic concerns as needing to earn a living, it’s worthwhile to consider what kind of training does indeed produce the kind of credential which facilitates the learner’s professional progress.

It seems to me unlikely that a commercial banking simulation which is sufficiently close to Real World commercial banking to be of interest to people hiring commercial bankers could be constructed without significant investment of time from subject matter experts–actual veteran commercial bankers.  It’s difficult enough to obtain the time of such highly skilled individuals in order to resource training programs sponsored by their employers. The likelihood that such folks would be volunteering their time to create a banking environment in a virtual world like Second Life, let alone serving in a mentorship role for new players who come in off the street, is remote.  Banks, like many fairly conservative organizations, buy some of their training off the shelf, but keep certain strategic aspects of it proprietary, so it’s hard to imagine banks paying their expert bankers to staff a publicly accessible simulation.

It’s possible that academics such as Dr. Bloomfield might find sponsorship to bring such a thing to life under the aegis of their employers, though.  A Cornell accounting prof who previously worked for KPMG, he’s qualified to offer some pretty good advice about how an accounting firm sim might work.

Unfortunately, there’s still the rub that in a virtual world, much of the learning is from the people there. No matter how elaborately various scenarios are fleshed out,  unless the people one interacts with know the real world of the industry and can model typical responses of industry co-workers, what new folks will learn when they work through a scenario will be how to play the sim, rather than how to do the job.

To be credential-worthy, to have value to someone considering my job candidacy, my learning experiences must be at the hands of people known for their competence in the domain, and be sufficiently close to the tasks faced in the job I’m applying for to be readily transferable to that job.

How credential-worthy are your training initiatives? Do managers hiring new staff seek out people who have been through your training?  Do people line up to take advantage of your training offerings? 

There’s an interesting post on Terra Nova this week by Robert Bloomfield, entitled Will we ever see this on a Resume?

Bloomfield posits a mythical “World of Bizquest” – a virtual world in which an individual interested in commercial banking could rise through various levels, learning skills which are sufficiently transferable to the real world that they’d be worth listing on a resume in the Education section:

Education

  • Cornell University, 2010, Bachelor of Science, Computer Science
  • University of Michigan, 2012, Masters of Engineering, Software Architecture
  • World of Bizquest, 35th level commercial banker, with certificates of achievement in credit analysis (Gold), interest rate risk management (Gold), financial instruments (Silver), and fixed income investing (Platinum).

Now, of course, not every learning experience needs to result in a credential. There is joy to be had in learning just for the sake of exploring the new. But given that much of the demand for learning is indeed driven by such prosaic concerns as needing to earn a living, it’s worthwhile to consider what kind of training does indeed produce the kind of credential which facilitates the learner’s professional progress.

It seems to me unlikely that a commercial banking simulation which is sufficiently close to Real World commercial banking to be of interest to people hiring commercial bankers could be constructed without significant investment of time from subject matter experts–actual veteran commercial bankers.  It’s difficult enough to obtain the time of such highly skilled individuals in order to resource training programs sponsored by their employers. The likelihood that such folks would be volunteering their time to create a banking environment in a virtual world like Second Life, let alone serving in a mentorship role for new players who come in off the street, is remote.  Banks, like many fairly conservative organizations, buy some of their training off the shelf, but keep certain strategic aspects of it proprietary, so it’s hard to imagine banks paying their expert bankers to staff a publicly accessible simulation.

It’s possible that academics such as Dr. Bloomfield might find sponsorship to bring such a thing to life under the aegis of their employers, though.  A Cornell accounting prof who previously worked for KPMG, he’s qualified to offer some pretty good advice about how an accounting firm sim might work.

Unfortunately, there’s still the rub that in a virtual world, much of the learning is from the people there. No matter how elaborately various scenarios are fleshed out,  unless the people one interacts with know the real world of the industry and can model typical responses of industry co-workers, what new folks will learn when they work through a scenario will be how to play the sim, rather than how to do the job.

To be credential-worthy, to have value to someone considering my job candidacy, my learning experiences must be at the hands of people known for their competence in the domain, and be sufficiently close to the tasks faced in the job I’m applying for to be readily transferable to that job.

How credential-worthy are your training initiatives? Do managers hiring new staff seek out people who have been through your training?  Do people line up to take advantage of your training offerings?

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2 Comments for Learning Experiences as Credentials

Robert Bloomfield | June 7, 2007 at 1:47 pm

Valerie,

Thanks for the comments. Readers interested in this post might also be interested in the paper I have written that describes my vision for a virtual world that supports education in business related fields.

By the way, the certification idea will be partiuclarly helpful for people who are switching careers–as in the case of the resume snippet above, with a programmer trying to get into business.

Rob

Author comment by Valerie Bock | June 7, 2007 at 2:47 pm

Agreed. Enjoyed your paper!

The trick is to populate the environment with both experiences and people to learn from which lend credibility to the certification process in the world beyond the virtual.

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