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Future of Executive Education Online: What's Coming Next?

Executive education is changing to meet the demands of a changing global economy. In some cases, these changes include adding online programs to existing on-campus executive education offerings, creating hybrid programs and reaching for higher student engagement.

There are several trends in executive education that are transforming and improving educational opportunities for high-level professionals. Examine the growth of these programs and how technology is being included in them.

The Future of Online Executive Education

Executive education programs provide working senior and mid-level managers the opportunity to earn an Executive Master of Business Administration (EMBA) or non-degree executive certificates in a variety of leadership and management development topics. These programs have historically been offered on a part-time basis, with classes on nights and weekends, allowing students to maintain full-time work. However, with a changing economy and growing information technologies, some EMBA programs are adding online certificates, creating hybrid/online degree programs and working to create a more interactive and engaging online experience.

Growth of Online Executive Certificates

More than ever, executive certificate are being offered 100% online in a self-paced format, and they can range from a required number of semester credits or CEUs (continuing education units) to complete. Some schools may offer both graduate certificates for those holding a degree and non-credit professional certificates for those who do not. Topics of study can include:

  • Advanced information technology
  • Project management
  • International marketing
  • Fund raising
  • Global finance
  • Web globalization
  • Management
  • Financial management

Increasingly, prestigious and well-known schools are adding executive business-related certificates to their online programs. Some of these schools include:

  • Boston University
  • University of California at Berkeley
  • Stanford University

Rise in Hybrid Executive MBA Programs

Executive MBA programs traditionally are offered on nights and weekends, requiring students to attend on-campus classes. However, with the increase in information technologies and the long-term cost-benefit for schools, hybrid and fully online programs are becoming increasingly available.

Hybrid programs may offer most of their courses online, requiring students to visit campus once or twice a semester; others may feature a 50/50 split, or have a specific physical meeting schedule. Hybrid and online programs offer less time spent with professors or fellow classmates for the sake of convenience and flexibility, which may be of particular importance for working executives.

Topics of study in hybrid executive MBA programs can include:

  • Leadership communication
  • Applied economics
  • Data analytics for executives
  • Accounting for executives
  • Competitive strategy
  • Supply chain management

Expansion of Interactive Technologies and Programs

To address the issue of low graduation rates from online programs, schools have made efforts to increase student engagement and promote classroom communities in the virtual campus environment. Online communication tools can include:

  • Message boards
  • Video chatting
  • Email
  • Instant messaging

Students who live in close proximity to each other are encouraged to meet face to face; some schools require short residencies at the beginning of programs so that students will be familiar with each other and more invested in the program. Many schools are also requiring that students attend orientation classes before enrolling in online programs, to ensure that they understand the self-discipline required, the discussion board and project participation required and the difference between on-campus and online learning formats.

By offering more online and hybrid programs, as well as improving student engagement within these programs, colleges and universities are supporting progress in the field of executive education.


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