Breaking ground in online education

Through its innovative portfolio of online programmes, INSEAD is setting a new standard for executive education in the digital space.

In today’s rapidly changing world, management leaders must continually build and broaden their professional competencies to stay competitive. But how do you meet that demand—especially if you’re a busy executive who’s always on the go?

INSEAD has a new solution to that problem: It now offers a portfolio of executive-level online programmes, and they’re unlike anything else on the market today.

Designed to meet the needs of mid- and senior-level executives, these online programmes employ a unique educational model that keeps participants motivated, maximises the value of their learning experience and addresses many of the pain points associated with online learning. Most notably, participants are supported by executive learning coaches throughout the duration of the programme, and they complete a rigorous Action Learning Project that focuses on solving specific, real-world business challenges.

“We have a real emphasis in our solutions on helping people not just learn concepts and tools, but immediately bring them back to their professional environment,” says Deputy Dean and Dean of Innovation Peter Zemsky, who teaches the Strategy in the Age of Digital Disruption programme and oversees the Executive Education team behind these online programmes.

The model is clearly working: INSEAD’s online programmes currently have a completion rate and satisfaction rating of more than 90 percent. In the online learning marketplace, those figures are almost unheard of. The completion rates of MOOCs, for example, consistently hover around 10 percent.

With these offerings, INSEAD is establishing a new standard for online learning and redefining what’s possible for management educators in the digital space. “Different schools are battling with different methodologies of teaching,” notes Swapnil Chugh MBA’11D, director of open online programmes. “But I think that INSEAD has the right mix of human interaction, learning and application.”

Alumni at its core
One of the strengths of INSEAD’s model is that it directly engages alumni—not just as participants in the programmes, but as learning coaches. In fact, all of the learning coaches working for the open online programmes are INSEAD alumni.

Among those coaches is Ben Ponne TIEMBA’09Jan, founder and CEO of NEO Leaders, a company that has provided global online coaching services for 10 years. At INSEAD, Ben serves as a learning coach for a wide range of online programmes—including Driving Value through Business Acumen and Innovation in the Age of Digital Disruption—and works with participants to identify their specific learning goals while ensuring that the programme effectively meets their professional objectives. To that end, he helps guide participants by “asking the hard questions and sharing perspectives that the participants may not have thought of,” he says. “This makes their analysis richer and more comprehensive.”

This offers a clear value to programme participants, but Ben notes that his coaching practice also benefits from the experience.

“The role adds an extra dimension to our coaching practice,” he explains. “As learning coaches, we have the opportunity to engage with leaders from across multiple industries and geographies, gain a comprehensive view of strategic movements in the market, and reflect on the latest research and insights concerning strategy and leadership.”

Hands-on learning with real impact
Learning coaches also help programme participants define and tackle real-life business challenges as part of their Action Learning Project. In many cases, these projects can have a significant and immediate impact on participants’ organisations.

That was certainly the case for Bidur Dhaul MBA’05J, business head of patient care and monitoring systems in APAC for Phillips Healthcare. Last year, Bidur enrolled a group of 12 employees from Phillips Healthcare in the Strategy in the Age of Digital Disruption programme. Representing different functions and markets in Korea, Australia, Indonesia and Singapore, the employees divided into four small teams to work on an Action Learning Project. Later, they presented the outcome of those projects—businesses cases for new projects at Phillips Healthcare—to the company’s Asia-Pacific CEO. Among those four projects, two were immediately awarded funding.

“These projects are becoming real—in five to six months’ time,” says Bidur. “We’ve also been able to ‘leap frog’ in terms of getting digital into our DNA” across the company’s different markets, he says.

Following the success of this experience, Phillips Healthcare decided to partner with INSEAD to develop a pilot online programme for 50 members of its management team at HealthTech, the organisation’s B2B healthcare company. Again, through the programme, the participants developed business cases, which they then pitched to top committees at Phillips. Two received immediate funding and three others received subsequent funding.

Similarly, Stéphanie Bompas MBA’00D, CEO of CMV Informatics, gained immediate value from her participation in the Strategy in the Age of Digital Disruption programme. Her 25-year-old company, an independent provider of software in pricing strategy and store management, is in a “period of transformation and evolution because we are facing two disruptions—one in software and one in retail,” she explains.

Stéphanie turned to INSEAD’s online programme “because it offered a replicable methodology and a clear step-by-step process for formulating strategy,” she explains. “I thought that it would help me to frame my thinking about my business transformation and also challenge my ideas.”

The programme delivered on those expectations and more. As part of her Action Learning Project, Stéphanie worked on a strategic project that she presented to investors at an innovation bank—just days after completing the programme at INSEAD. A few weeks after that meeting, investors awarded CMV Informatics the funding that Stéphanie was seeking.

The ripple effect of a world-class education
If you look at the origins of online programmes, says Swapnil, they are rooted in a very noble mission: To reach as many people in the world as possible.

Through its portfolio of online programmes, INSEAD is advancing that goal and furthering its own mission of using business as a force for good in two key ways: One, the affordability of the programmes means that INSEAD is able to serve a new segment of leaders who have limited budgets for professional development, such as non-profit or governmental leaders. This also includes self-funded participants—a population that Swapnil says is rapidly growing and represents more than half of the participants in any given programme. Two, the online delivery of these programmes breaks down geographic barriers, allowing leaders from countries as distant as Africa or South America to access a world-class education at INSEAD.

In doing so, INSEAD is equipping a larger population of leaders from across a broader range of industries and geographies to conduct business more efficiently and effectively. This has a ripple effect on the societies and economics that surround these leaders, notes Peter. “Clearly, having people skilled at management and leadership is important for society. That’s how you build opportunities and build wealth.”

That impact is poised to increase in the years ahead, as INSEAD is actively looking for new opportunities in the digital space that will help it continue to expand and innovate its offerings. Looking ahead, online learning “will be an increasingly important activity for any educator,” Peter says. “We want to lead that evolution—to understand what makes for effective learning and how to make the most of existing and new technology.”


Editor’s note: INSEAD alumni who belong to the National Alumni Association (NAA) or INSEAD Alumni Association (IAA) receive exclusive discounts on open online programmes at INSEAD, find out more here. For more information on the
Executive Education Online Programmes, visit our website.

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