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Ambitious growth in online learning

By Professor Julian Birkinshaw, Deputy Dean Learning Innovation and Executive Education

There has been a lot happening in the School’s Learning Innovation team over the last year. Under Tansy Rothwell’s leadership, the team has created a new pre-programme finance course, fronted by Professor Anna Pavlova, and it has put together a range of shorter digital modules that are being used in the elective portfolio.

Attention is now turning to selling online courses in the executive education marketplace. A new course, Innovating in the Digital World went live last week. It is a five-week intensive course in innovation, fronted by myself, and featuring videos, exercises and readings, as well as discussions and coaching managed in real time by a learning manager. A second course, Startup Success: Five Proven Business Models, by John Mullins will go live shortly, in partnership with Emeritus – a well-known learning provider. A third course, The Entrepreneurial Edge, features a range of entrepreneurship faculty. Led by Rupert Merson in partnership with Pearson Education, the course will launch in March.

There are plans for at least three new online courses next year, and we will be working with faculty to identify hot topics that will showcase our leading-edge thinking and also sell well. We are deliberately working with a range of distribution models, sometimes marketing directly and sometimes with partners, to help us choose the right route to market for our growing portfolio of programmes.

As well as open-enrolment programmes, we are also increasingly using digital materials in our customised executive programmes. With clients such as Ergo, Sberbank, ING, Randstad and HSBC we have created blended learning experiences with short videos, and readings are provided for programme participants before and after their face-to-face sessions with faculty and coaches. These innovative programme designs are helping us to reach a much bigger body of executives, and at greater speed, than we could ever achieve with a purely face-to-face design.

Executive education is changing, towards shorter interventions with more asynchronous learning materials – but that doesn’t mean losing the human touch. Indeed, the essence of learning at London Business School will always be interactive, engaging and high-touch. Our challenge is to ensure we blend the best of new technology with the learning approach that has stood us in good stead for the last 50 years.