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Three Changes Pushing Institutions to Update Professional Education Programming

Three Changes Pushing Institutions to Update Professional Education Programming
Ensuring that companies have accessible and flexible options for employee development is critical for institutions looking to succeed in the corporate learning marketplace.
Continuing and professional educators have always been at the innovative forefront of higher education. Our challenge now is to create agile learning organizations so our programs and products not only provide students with the content and skills required for the new economy, but are also delivered in a format that keeps pace with what Fast Company has termed “Generation Flux.”[1]

Recently at eCornell, we launched RedShift, aimed at providing on-demand, subscription-based leadership and executive training to the corporate learning market. We have been in the corporate and professional learning space for more than a decade, growing enrollments and retaining a set of Fortune 1000 clients.

With this launch, we are acknowledging a set of new challenges and opportunities we think are relevant for many institutions looking to expand their portfolio of corporate learning opportunities.

1. The Pace of Organizational Change

In one word, it’s about agility. What began as a software development methodology several years ago that drove the rapid growth of several highly successful tech start-ups has been spreading like wildfire to more diverse functions, companies and industries. Marketing is becoming agile. Product development is becoming agile. Major, well-established companies are now restructuring their teams and entire business units to become more agile. All of this is leading to a higher cadence in the workplace, greater demands for new ideas and the increase of new hybrid roles that require new blends of technology, marketing, leadership and other skills.

As a result, traditional professional and executive education programs may no longer make sense to employers, especially if they are structured around classical functions such as finance or marketing, or too tied to structured and extended timelines. Upstart companies such as General Assembly, which trains programming, business and design practitioners, are finding quick success by blending new emerging topics with traditional ones and by leveraging experts to lead both on-ground and online classes.

How can postsecondary institutions respond with a more context-sensitive approach?

2. Shifts in Job Growth

Since the downturn in 2008, job growth has been slow to return. But the primary drivers of job growth have been small- to medium-sized growth companies. A recent article in Inc. attributed those companies with providing more job growth in the American economy than more than 30 states combined in the last five years.

This creates new opportunities for corporate and professional learning providers as budgets in traditional, slower-growth businesses and the public sector remain tight. Yet these companies have different needs driven by a higher percentage of millennials in the workforce, smaller budgets and more just-in-time training needs. Many of these companies are turning to new online providers such as Udemy and for short, actionable learning at low per-user pricing.

The opportunity for higher education is to create new, relevant credentialing systems and rigorous assessments that ensure actionable outcomes for these companies.

3. Time Constraints

Budgets for training or tuition reimbursement have not returned to pre-downturn levels, and may not anytime soon. But the real budget challenge for many employees and employers is the time budget. In the more agile workplace dominated by an increased pace of innovation and shorter-duration jobs, the development of new skills needs to adapt. Many corporate education programs abandoned anything resembling a semester-based approach long ago. But for many organizations, the requirement for dedicated days or weeks of learning is hard to manage.

At eCornell, we are increasingly finding that even our two-week programs are hard to schedule, manage and scale for some organizations. Our response is to offer the on-demand option with RedShift to provide opportunities for rapid, flexible training at the speed of business without sacrificing rigor and credentials.

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[1] Robert Safian, “This is Generation Flux: Meet the Pioneers of the New (and Chaotic) Frontier of Business,” Fast Company, February 2012. Accessed at

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