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Thought Leaders in Online Education: Peter Hirst, Executive Director of Executive Education, MIT Sloan School of Management (Part 5)

Posted on Friday, Aug 1st 2014

Sramana Mitra: That’s a big value proposition that is still part of society. When we were in university and college, there were certain social relationships that formed that ended up being valuable social relationships. A lot of people’s closest friendships get formed earlier in life and a lot of it is college friendships. These are not easy to quantify.

The school that actually does a phenomenal job of really cultivating that is not MIT. MIT, being my alma mater and having been a consumer of MIT’s alumni services, does a bad job of cultivating that network. Harvard Business School is like a machine in how they cultivate that network. That network is of immense value. I think, for the elite schools, that network will continue to be valuable and people will continue to go to universities for that value and be willing to pay the premium prices.

For the mid-tier, that is not necessarily the case. The question that is coming up is really on the mid-tier institutions. It’s like neither here nor there. Neither is the value of the network that strong, neither is the price attractive for the consumers.

Peter Hirst: You’re right. It’s still truly hard to say how that’s going to shake out for those particular kinds of institutions. One model that is talked a lot about now is there still can be an important role for those kinds of institutions, but rather than maintaining the rather expensive infrastructure of their own faculties that are creating content themselves, they will increasingly be consuming content and causes that are all being created by others. Those may or may not end up being other academic institutions. Some of the for-profit companies like Pearson are coming into this space and may be equally credible sources of content for that. In some ways, more so. Partly, I wonder why this aspect, from a content point of view, isn’t more of a publishing model than an education model anyway.

Sramana Mitra: Absolutely. That’s exactly what we’re doing. I’m a serial entrepreneur. In Silicon Valley, I’ve done three startups. This is my fourth company. The body of worth that we’ve brought together to teach this course is incomparable to what an average institution business school professor would have access to. This is quality of content that is not just accessible. We’ve had 600 plus very successful entrepreneurs come together and share their knowledge and journeys. Educators don’t have access to these kinds of people to be able to pull together a course like that.

Peter Hirst: I think something which we don’t know the answer to then is that, given you have that great content, how big is the added economic value from still bringing people together to learn with and from each other with some facilitation and support from another person.

This segment is part 5 in the series : Thought Leaders in Online Education: Peter Hirst, Executive Director of Executive Education, MIT Sloan School of Management
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