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Executive Education Transitions into the Modern Online Marketplace

Erin Maher and Jason Pileggi

The demands of the digital era are requiring Executive Education Programs to have both a coherent strategy and identity for modern online learning. Previously, incremental approaches to address small market changes were sufficient but the stakes are changing. In adapting to the challenges of modern learning, schools increasingly need to forecast for a longer timeframe that involves more stakeholders, requires more investment, and leads to a need for a stronger understanding of its competitive advantage and how to best leverage that to meet the emerging expectations of the next generation of business executives.

“Every university needs to decide on its priorities for online education. Are these priorities reducing risk or generating revenues? Is the goal to drive access or to build a reputation? Is the desire to build internal capacities or quickly grow online programs?” Dr. Joshua Kim, Inside Higher Ed.

While many industries, especially Fortune 1000 have been adapting to the realities of digitization over the last decade, Universities have for the most part been slow to change. As modern consumers and the increased speed of business has changed the competitive landscape, schools have found themselves behind the eight ball. Not unlike high fashion’s transition to selling online at the expense of the Fifth Avenue mystique, prestigious academic institutions must learn to sell and more importantly, deliver their programs virtually, without the traditional benefit of their Ivy-covered pedigree, or beautiful campuses.

UNICON’s research in “Make or Buy to Scale”  does a great job of bringing this challenge and its potential benefits to light. A turnkey OPM solution can be perceived as a godsend for schools with limited internal resources to choose, develop, and sell their programs online, however this "free" solution comes at a cost. For example; losing the direct connection with the client, mismatched OPM priorities, the potential for degraded brand value due to being placed in a library amongst many other brands, limited ability to leverage content in other capacities, and of course - lower revenue due to revenue share agreements.

The Executive Education online market has evolved for better or worse to resemble the "Netflix of Learning". Suddenly every school seems to have a program on leadership or digital transformation, requiring executives and firms to wade through a tedious, complex library of information in the hopes of making the best decision to fit their needs. Sometimes more isn’t always better, and there is no greater advocate for your programs or your brand, than those who are a part of the organization themselves.

“The biggest mistake that a university can make is to think that working with an OPM will relieve the institution of the responsibility to manage online programs. A better way to think about OPMs is as a force multiplier. An OPM can extend a school's capabilities, but they are not a substitute for commitment or attention.” Dr. Joshua Kim, Inside Higher Ed.

For schools to truly add value for their clients, they should address transformational change, not just leverage online technology for its own sake. This mindset is where the "Make or Buy to Scale" concept provides the most value.  Schools can incorporate best of breed solutions that help them meet their client's needs across the organization. For instance, partnering with a collaborative learning platform  provider like Intrepid can allow a school to harness their research-based IP into a contextual learning experience that leverages real world applications at scale, and drives true behavioral and organizational transformation as a result. These programs can then be delivered in open enrollment or client specific environments, and easily replicated and repurposed for additional cohorts or corporate clients in a standard, custom, or semi-custom format.

Taking it a step further, it's not difficult to envision a future in which larger OPM players, not unlike Amazon or Netflix mining their wealth of data to develop and promote their own interests, can similarly develop their own learning programs based on analysis of millions of student hours to understand what is the most engaging content from the best professors on the most demanding topics, and leverage those insights to build their own content or “networks” to drive the most revenue moving forward.

Could this data-driven trend be the next big disruption of the Executive Education market?

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