International marketing is teamwork: to build international brands and appeal to multicultural audiences, professionals in marketing and communication need to be able to work with a variety of people with different skills and knowledge. In addition to knowhow in international business and international branding, high-level proficiency is required in intercultural communication, digital technologies, and language for specific purposes (LSP).
To succeed, marketing professionals must develop their skills in continuous learning in collaborative settings. Together with five other European higher education institutions, Haaga-Helia is launching a research and development project in coaching-based autonomous learning. The aim is to tackle skills gaps in international marketing and communication by fostering autonomous learning, self-directed search for information, and the formation of local and global networks and learning communities.
Autonomous learning is best developed in collaboration between companies and universities
According to Reference Framework of Competences for Democratic Culture by Council of Europe (2018), critical competences such as analytical ability, communication skills, disposition to teamwork, and autonomous learning are important because they enable individuals to “continuously learn, reflect, and act upon new challenges and possibilities in work” as well as in their private and public lives.
Autonomous learning is seen as a set of skills that “individuals require to pursue, organize, and evaluate their own learning, in accordance with their own needs, in a self-directed and self-regulated manner”, making use of “multiple and diverse sources, both far and near.” Autonomous learning helps citizens to foster their employability and to succeed “in all spheres of modern, rapidly changing societies.” (Vol 1, pp. 14, 19, 46).
Although autonomous learning skills can and should be developed at higher education institutions, it is equally important to promote learner autonomy outside the classroom, when solving problems and developing new ideas for specific business needs in the increasingly interconnected global markets. The aim of developing autonomous learning is not merely to encourage learners to become more effective and flexible learners, but also to facilitate their process of becoming critical thinkers and active agents of change in the world of work – and in society as a whole.
Because there is such a wide-ranging need for autonomous learning, it is best developed in collaboration: between universities and companies and between students, teachers, experts, and peers representing different cultures, professions, and disciplines.
Coaching students and experts towards learner autonomy in international marketing
According to Benson (2013, pp. 19-21), the transformation to services and knowledge-based work in the face of rapid technological advancements has led to educational and social changes that favor experiments in learner autonomy. The focus is on the learner’s self-directed ability to learn how to learn, continuously and in a variety of settings. Learner autonomy is especially important in challenges and tasks requiring competencies in global collaboration.
However, learners are seldom autonomous by nature. That is why we need coaching models and support materials to motivate, inspire, and move students and employees, step by step, towards autonomous learning. Learners need to be encouraged to take responsibility for setting their own learning objectives, selecting suitable learning strategies and methods for specific purposes, and monitoring and evaluating their efforts, improvements and practical results.
In the context of international marketing and communication, autonomous learning entails, among other things, the skillful exploration of a multitude of online services, databases, and platforms to attain professional and cultural information and setting up and making use of mutually supportive local and global learning communities and networks, both online and offline.
Autonomous learning also requires a change in the role of teachers and experts. Their role is no longer to be an authoritative provider of information, but to act as a coach and a facilitator, guiding the learning process and encouraging learners to experiment and find out for themselves. This means that the coaches must also subject themselves to continuous learning. And they, too, need support to be able to flexibly change and develop their coaching models to manage the learning environment in ways that promote autonomous learning (see, for example, Masouleh & Jooneghani 2012, p. 838).
Krea Spring School as a European good practice in autonomous learning
The RDI project CORALL Coaching-Based Online Resources for Autonomous Learning of LSP will launch on December 2019 and continue until July 2022. During the project, we will carry out research on students’ and companies’ autonomous learning needs in global contexts, produce models, tools, and online resources for autonomous learning, implement pilot cases together with students and companies, and provide support for coaches in guiding the processes of autonomous learning.
The project also shines a European spotlight on Haaga-Helia’s Krea Spring School Customer Experience Week, whose co-creation workshops bring together students, entrepreneurs, branding professionals and university experts from around the world to work on challenges of international branding. One of the objectives is to develop Krea Spring School into a comprehensive autonomous learning experience in international marketing and communication, blending online and offline solutions, to be showcased as a European good practice in consciously using mobility periods for developing autonomous learning.
The partner universities in the CORALL project are Budapest Business School (coordinator), Beuth University of Applied Sciences Berlin, University of Economics in Bratislava, Polytechnic of Guarda, and Czech Technical University in Prague. The companies involved in planning and implementing the project include Salomaa Group, Marketing Finland, Routa (part of Sanoma Group), and K Group.
Benson, P. 2013. Teaching and Researching Autonomy. Second edition. New York: Routledge.
Council of Europe. 2018. Reference Framework of Competences for Democratic Culture. Volume 1.
Masouleh, N. S. & Jooneghani, R. B. 2012. Autonomous learning: A teacher-less learning! Procedia—Social and Behavioural Sciences, 55, 835–842.