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About a year ago I wrote a post on how business schools may be first to feel the heat of low-cost substitutes for what they offer, including the statement:

“. . . most business schools offer a largely undifferentiated curriculum and are “overshooting the market” by producing graduates that are too expensive to be hired by all but the most selective of industries and companies.  In addition, they are providing too many services at too high a cost, leaving themselves open to lower cost competitors that may have a more focused value-proposition for students.”

Since that post, there have been new ways of thinking about management education, new initiatives from current industry players, and a host of new offerings and market entrants. 

New Entrants With New Offerings

A wide array of players are entering the executive education and corporate training market and here are some recent developments:

  • McKinsey, one of the top strategy consultancies in the world, recently launched McKinsey Academy. This new platform uses McKinsey consultants to teach and give feedback, social learning and group-based projects, and adaptive learning and game mechanics to help companies develop their internal talent. Courses include Business Strategy, Mastering Challenging Conversations, and McKinsey’s Approach to Problem Solving, among others. 
  • Udemy for Business offers companies a way to “train your employees better, faster, and more efficiently than ever before” by offering courses in programming, web design, digital marketing and business skills, among others. Client companies include many of the multinationals that business school executive education units covet. 
  • LinkedIn recently acquired, an online learning company known for content focusing on creative skills – and now moving into business topics – as part of LinkedIn's strategy to become a professional development network.
  • Skillshare is “a learning community for creators” and offers a series of online courses to students who pay $10/month for unlimited access to courses taught by practitioners. Skillshare, launched late last year, now has over 750,000 students and courses range from Email Marketing, Entrepreneurship, and Photography to Visual Storytelling and Getting Started in Hand Lettering.  Companies can purchase an enterprise license and many of Silicon Valley’s rising stars are clients. 
  • Coursera offers Wharton’s Business Foundation series of four courses (Marketing, Financial Accounting, Operations Management, and Corporate Finance).  Through Coursera’s Signature Track, students can earn a specialization certificate for $595 and completing all four courses plus a capstone project. 

University and Business Schools are Innovating, too

That’s not to say that universities and business schools are not innovating, too.  For example:

  • Georgia Tech announced an online Master of Science in Computer Science, offered in collaboration with Udacity and AT&T. The program is delivered entirely through Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) and costs under $7,000. Could a business degree be next?
  • IMD is getting closer to business through a new partnership with Cisco valued at $10 million US, to “develop thought leadership and address business challenges in digital transformation.” The idea behind the partnership is for IMD “to become the world leading destination for research, innovation and leadership to drive digital transformation to all aspects of enterprises, in every industry.” 
  • Harvard Business School launched HBX, a suite of three business fundamental courses – business analytics, economics for managers, and financial accounting.  They also offer individual courses (the first one launched was disruptive strategy, with Clay Christensen).  Coming soon is HBX Live!, which allows participants worldwide to interact with faculty and each other in real-time.

Low-Cost MBA Alternatives

From Kigali, Rwanda, one woman is piecing together the equivalent of an MBA by taking a series of Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs) from different providers. For less than $1000 US she’s taken courses from some of the top business schools in the world and her No-Pay MBA website offers information to help others do the same.

Students can now take a variety of courses from various providers in a “cafeteria style” like the example above.  While this buffet of courses doesn’t (yet) add up to a degree, at some point some organization is going to figure out how to assign/award credit for these disparate classes – and accredit the program of study.  Then students will be able to bundle together their own degrees and certificates, choosing the best courses from the best schools and building their own All-Star MBA  (or some other degree or certification) program.

In a recent Financial Times article, Rich Lyons, dean of the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley, reiterated his belief that 50% of business schools could be out of business within the next ten years, stating:

There are over 10,000 business schools in the world so when you start thinking about that group from 1,000 to 10,000, I think curated MOOC content and better ways of credentialing students is going to be a heck of a threat to a lot of those players.”


Those of us in management education are in for a wild ride. 

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