Posted August 11, 2020
We've written about the differences between academic and professional training, namely that professional trainers can produce better business-oriented results for companies than academic educators.
Today, we're going to do a deeper dive into why that is.
After all, major universities have moved into business training in a big way; it’s a lucrative audience for them to target with writing courses. We'd even agree that academic institutions have upped their game by creating courses and instructional packages tailored to businesspeople, rather than trying to shoehorn business participants into all-purpose courses.
Yet, they still fall short, and it's worth examining why.
They default to a lecture-style format that doesn’t fit the business world.
The prototypical college course is a throng of students dispersed through a large lecture hall listening to a professor talk at length about a subject while they take notes, which they will later study. Unfortunately, most academic instructors continue to bring this paradigm into their business-oriented instruction as well (assuming the course is even live and not pre-recorded). Academics can forget that business professionals are not university students. The material is not abstract to them; the instruction will (should) help them directly in their work, which means they need hands-on practice and real-time feedback that’s often unavailable in an academic format. In other words, when the academic instructor treats businesspeople like college students, he does them a disservice.
The concepts they teach are often simultaneously too basic and too far-reaching to be helpful.
Many business-oriented academic courses are very basic. Maybe your team needs a 101-level class, but for many businesses, these courses are going to be an outright waste of time. The other risk is that the course will try to fit everything and the kitchen sink into one or two days of instruction, instead of homing in on what your organization really needs to improve. The result is a course that leaves participants bored to tears for extended stretches but then breezes past what they really need to know because the course is trying to fit so much information in, it can’t cover those points adequately.
It's not quite the right kind of writing they’re teaching.
Please don’t misunderstand us: our criticism here isn't to say that academic instructors are bad at either writing or at instruction. Indeed, when it comes to writing, academics are masters … but they are masters of academic writing, which has conventions totally divorced from the business world and whose effectiveness is judged by entirely different metrics. In Time Magazine’s own argument, "Why professionals shouldn't be trained by academics," they write: "Professionals should be trained primarily by master practitioners. For example, wouldn’t you choose a surgeon that had done your surgery 100 times rather than someone who wrote a book on the theory of that surgery but had rarely performed it?"
About Hurley Write, Inc.
Hurley Write, Inc., a certified women-owned small business (WBENC and WOSB), Historically Underutilized (HUB), and Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE), has been designing and teaching customized onsite and online technical, business, and scientific writing courses for over 30 years. We also develop and teach specialty courses, such as how to write proposals and standard operating procedures (SOPs) and deviation and investigation reports, and how to prepare and give great presentations. Links: Wikipedia, Internal