Life Long Learning (LLL) Maturity Model

Life Long Learning (LLL) remains one of the key pillars for many educational institutions, yet often gets stuck in execution.

Turner provides its clients with timely, fresh, and relevant insights into their markets and the strategy execution challenges they face. In this article, Alex Crezee, Education Practice Leader, Jop Gerkes, Education Consultant, and Nicolai Manie, Senior Education Consultant, delve into the impact of LLL and its implications for strategy execution.

Education is currently facing numerous societal challenges that demand attention: impending decline in student numbers, increasing flexibility and personalization within programs, and the emergence of Life Long Learning (LLL) alongside initial education.

Almost all educational institutions have now incorporated LLL as a key pillar in their strategy. However, many institutions struggle with clearly defining what they mean by it, what they aim to achieve, and how best to organize it. A structured approach, similar to tackling other major issues, is needed to translate LLL ambitions from paper to practice.

To assist educational institutions in this endeavor, Turner has developed the LLL Accelerator. This tool enables the assessment of the maturity level of the internal LLL organization, providing clarity on the necessary steps forward.

Bringing Structure

However, applying to the National Growth Fund is not straightforward for most educational institutions. Each application comes with numerous prerequisites and frameworks to meet. A significant hurdle is understanding how LLL is currently organized within the institution. Nicolai Manie, a senior manager at Turner specializing in higher education, highlights this challenge: “LLL activities in many educational institutions are somewhat unfocused. There’s no clear starting point, and most institutions haven’t defined a concrete finish line. So, board members or directors of educational institutions are not sure when they should be satisfied with the outcome. Our goal is to assist these institutions in specifying their goals and bringing structure to how they organize LLL. This is crucial because it provides a clear direction for steering, rather than relying solely on intuition.”

This not only improves the chances of a successful application but also proves beneficial for the staff. Manie adds, “When employees know what to expect, they are better equipped to design education for LLL participants. Ultimately, they are the ones who have to implement it. They are already under pressure due to various transitions resulting from, for example, the rise of AI and other forms of digitalization. LLL cannot be just another add-on for them. Clear direction from the top regarding LLL would make their work manageable and, therefore, feasible.”

Unraveling Different Maturity Levels

These two challenges, the complexity of the application process and the lack of concrete LLL objectives, prompted Turner to develop a tool for assessing the maturity level of the LLL organization, explains Alex Crezee, a partner at Turner. “Some industries, such as nursing or law, are fully committed to LLL. Nurses and lawyers are required to keep their professional knowledge up-to-date. However, in many other industries, LLL is less accepted, and its development is still in its infancy. By dissecting the various maturity levels, we can better understand the current situation and identify the developmental tasks required to fulfill ambitions. Last summer, drawing on our experience with LLL in educational institutions and the Turner Business Model, we developed a tool to help educational institutions address these questions.”

The development of the LLL Accelerator involved collaboration with Jop Gerkes, a manager at Turner. With over eight years of experience at Turner, Gerkes has dealt with similar challenges before. “Discussions about LLL often focus on the vision of the concept, and if you’re lucky, the design and execution are addressed. However, these aspects are crucial. Educational institutions serious about LLL often need to restructure to some extent. They encounter different curriculum, different students, and completely different expectations. Often, there isn’t even consensus on what falls under LLL.”

Crezee emphasizes the diversity of LLL. “Sometimes it involves entire industries, sometimes specific companies. Sometimes it’s business-to-business, sometimes business-to-consumer. Sometimes institutions need to develop entire courses, sometimes just modules. And what do participants receive upon completion? A practical certificate, a credential, a digital badge? Educational institutions must have a clear idea of what they want to offer.”

What Can Turner’s LLL Accelerator Do?

Gerkes explains that the LLL Accelerator is user-friendly. “It’s divided into logical building blocks covering the mission, vision, and strategy. Another block focuses on the LLL organization: how is LLL currently organized? Who is responsible? What’s the staffing like? Another block addresses needs articulation and the design of LLL education. What are the needs? How does the institution meet them? What does it offer? We also delve into marketing, recruitment, and sales: how do you promote LLL activities? And we examine administration and information systems. Some of these will be used for regular education, while others will be specific to LLL activities. Of course, we also look at educational logistics: planning, scheduling, participant communication, etc. Based on a set of statements, the most applicable situation for an institution is determined. The framework is based on our experiences with numerous institutions over the years.”

Figure 1: The Turner LLO Accelerator is divided into a number of building blocks and involves mission, vision and strategy

“The LLL Accelerator isn’t a standalone tool but provides an initial overview of the LLL organization’s development and effectiveness, identifying areas for improvement,” says Gerkes. “It’s a tool for initiating internal discussions – with us – about the status and ambitions of the LLL organization, ensuring that all key topics are addressed. Ultimately, every institution is unique.”

Breaking It Down to Make It Work

Zuyd University of Applied Sciences, located in South Limburg, is currently using the LLL Accelerator, according to Nicolai Manie. “Zuyd University of Applied Sciences has formulated a new strategy with a prominent focus on LLL. However, there was still some ambiguity in their ambitions. Using the LLL Accelerator, we structured the ambitions by examining four specific educational domains. Based on the outcomes, we organized working sessions for each domain involving relevant stakeholders and those responsible for implementing the strategic plan. The guiding questions: where are we now? What do we consider important? What did we promise in the strategic plan? The Accelerator helped structure the discussion and assess the gap between the current situation and the ambitions. The outcome will vary for each institution. For instance, one institution may need more teachers to deliver all the education, while another may need better CRM systems to organize regional contacts. This enables us to pinpoint the customer’s needs precisely, allowing us to consciously choose which aspects of the Accelerator to address or improve. At Zuyd University of Applied Sciences, we’re in the midst of this process, so I can’t provide a final assessment.”

The initial steps taken by Zuyd University of Applied Sciences are a prime example of Turner’s approach, says Alex Crezee. “Not trying to solve everything at once, but addressing smaller, specific topics first. To make it work, you need to break it down and make it concrete, as is always the case in strategy execution. You start with a minimal viable product, and if that functions, you can scale up and address other bottlenecks or initiate new initiatives.”

The Importance of Enthusiasm

Currently, Crezee is involved in LLL projects at two different vocational schools. “You can’t just walk in and ask, ‘How’s your LLL progress?’ That’s too broad a question. We prefer to break it down into smaller pieces. For example, I engage in discussions with the director, a team leader, and a few individuals from the relevant department. Then, we examine how the vision is formulated, how the organization is structured, and what the current execution looks like. This exercise can easily involve 20 or 25 people, and filling out such a questionnaire takes only about 15 minutes. The result is a starting point for facilitating discussions at various levels. We’ve found this approach to be very effective. People often articulate their LLL story smoothly when prompted, but educational institutions often struggle to make their ambitions tangible.”

There’s a pioneering role for LLL leaders, such as nurses, lawyers, and automotive or electrical technicians. These professions are accustomed to continuous development. “Every educational institution has its gems,” says Crezee. “There are always enthusiasts doing great things with industry partners. The big question is how to scale that up. Most programs are lagging behind. The enthusiasts can lend a hand because, as I always say, there’s no button for enthusiasm. But involving these people is truly an organizational challenge. With our expertise in strategy execution, I’m confident we can assist. This tool, the LLL Accelerator, enables us to tackle this challenge and get to work.”

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