As organizations pivoted and adapted new strategies in 2020, many also turned their attention to helping their employees gain the skills and competencies needed to succeed in a new business environment. To be successful, this kind of training requires a new approach, and academy learning, with its strong focus on learner needs, is already delivering exceptional results that are reflected in its growing popularity.

What is Academy Learning, and How is it Different?

Academy learning is an intensive training program. It usually happens over a longer period than traditional training. The number of touchpoints that learners experience along the way will vary, depending on the nature of the training. Academy learning always includes a mix of guidance from a coach or an expert with practical application, which is often some type of capstone project.

Academy learning is multi-modal, and it can include any combination of instructor-led training, virtual-instructor-led facilitation, eLearning scenarios, immersive scenarios and experiential learning — whatever works best to allow learners to take the concepts covered in the training, apply them in simulations or on the job and get feedback on their progress.

Another advantage to this approach is that it facilitates relationship-building among learners. Academies are typically organized into cohorts. Because learners are going through the journey alongside a group of peers, they can easily discuss concepts, work out scenarios together and receive feedback. It’s a robust and multi-faceted approach to learning.

Fill the Skill Gaps With Academy Learning

The academy model is well-suited to industries that rely heavily on new technologies, as these often experience skill gaps, or situations where the skills required at work advance faster than the skills held by employees. Think about the automotive industry, for example. It wasn’t that long ago that cars were primarily mechanical. Now, electrical and computer system skills are a much more important part of the job. As a result, the makeup of the industry’s entire workforce has shifted dramatically to an engineering and technical perspective.

In addition to the automotive industry, a 2020 survey found skill gaps were common in the following industries: high tech and telecom; healthcare systems and pharmaceuticals; consumer packaged goods and retail; and financial services.

Ideal for Upskilling and Reskilling

Upskilling and reskilling programs tend to employ the academy model because it incorporates a lot of practical application and peer learning. The increasing pace of automation, combined with uncertainty caused by the pandemic, are leading to the disappearance of millions of old jobs, and the emergence of millions more new ones. By using immersive learning and incorporating touch points in academy learning, learners gain knowledge more efficiently and realize stronger results.

Steps to Build an Academy Learning Program

Here are a few steps to get your academy learning program started:

    • Identify a learning strategy. What instructional model (or models) will work best for your learners? Consider how you will mix instructor-led training, eLearning, and experiential or on-the-job learning, and think through the evaluation strategy, which will help you determine learner proficiency and identify opportunities to enhance the program.
    • Establish key learning objectives. What skills should your learners have upon completing the program? Think about new roles needed now and in the future.
    • Create a curriculum plan. What knowledge do your learners need to have in order to perform those skills? Think about benchmarks learners should be reaching along the way and how the learning will be assessed. This is also a good opportunity to build in opportunities for learners to engage with each other and reflect on what they’re learning.
    • Implement the program. Before your learning academy goes live, you’ll want to make sure you have the right technical infrastructure (virtual labs, tools or machinery if required, etc.) and learning environment (devices, training space, etc.) in place. The next step is to set the program schedule for both facilitators and learners. Then, once you’ve designed, built, developed and curated your learning content, it’s time to put it into action. At that point, turn your attention to checking in with learners and instructors at regular intervals and make adjustments as needed.
    • Examine the program results. Now that the training has been completed, have learners achieved the desired objectives? Consult with leadership to make sure that the training is still aligned with organizational goals, and review the results from your ongoing evaluations to confirm that the program still meets learners’ needs. Finally, implement an ongoing review process to ensure that necessary changes or adjustments are made promptly.

Academy learning will let you get the most out of your learning programs and help your employees build the skills that will take them — and your organization — confidently into the future.

To learn more, read about this award-winning success story at Akamai, where the company launched a learning academy to help employees build the skills necessary for a career in technology.