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Thought Leaders in Online Education: Kurt Kirstein, Dean of School of Management, City University of Seattle (Part 6)

Posted on Tuesday, Jun 17th 2014

Sramana Mitra: Is there any other major trend in online education that you are observing that is worth discussing?

Kurt Kirstein: We’ve talked about online education from an academic perspective. The one thing that I’m also seeing is that online education is now being utilized more and more for corporate training. We’ve done online corporate training quite often. What we’re seeing more and more is the online model being offered by training companies and universities. There’s a reason why this could really be a much bigger force than it is.

Training companies focus on short-term training. That is the ability to get in and provide skills to employees of companies who need them in order to be able to further the mission of the company. A lot of those training companies do face-to-face training or you have to go to that training company.

We’re seeing online training being utilized more and more to provide not only general skills but also leadership training or management training or specific technical skill training that is maybe unique to their organization. I think there’s a great opportunity to utilize online training in a way that provides customized knowledge to employees of organizations who need it on the spot.

The online option allows multinational companies to provide this to their employees regardless of the location where they work. I think that’s really starting to take off a lot more. It’s starting to become a way of being able to fulfil knowledge gaps and even succession planning. As the baby boomers are starting to retire, they’re taking a lot of knowledge with them and creating a leadership gap. This is a way to help bridge that gap in a way that is less impactful for the company.

Sramana Mitra: Switching gears a little bit, if you were to start a company today in online education, is there any problem out there that warrants a new company?

Kurt Kirstein: Yes, I do. I think there’s an opportunity for companies out there to do what I just said. Let me give you two examples where we’ve been approached by companies and asked to devise two training programs, both of which used the online with required seminar. We have a weekly required seminar. The instructor provides the lecture and then many activities are done online. The two are combined together. One of which is for the training and development group at a major airline manufacturer. The other one is being done on leadership. We are providing leadership training to 400 associates at a technology company here.

What we did with this is we sat down with the leaders in the organizations who were asking for this training and we said, “What do you want your people to be able to do at the end of this training? What skills should they be able to demonstrate upon completion of this training?” That was a conversation that didn’t take too long. We were able to take and incorporate that back into some standard courses that we have and devise a 10-week or 11-week course that will provide them an opportunity to gain competency upon completion of the course. I think there’s a great opportunity out there for providing such training. They can’t cut them free to send them to school for six weeks. They can’t even cut them free for a whole afternoon. They can give them an hour or so at their desk to listen to a lecture and participate in online activities.

Sramana Mitra: Very interesting. That’s a very good discussion. Thank you very much for your time.

This segment is part 6 in the series : Thought Leaders in Online Education: Kurt Kirstein, Dean of School of Management, City University of Seattle
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