This is an opinion piece on the opportunities in business education for MOOC providers like Coursera and edX . All data is publicly available.
This first section is about 3 topic areas that present maximum potential for MOOC providers. I will lay out learning objectives, topic areas, skills that will be acquired, value prop for learners, my rationale, and product-market fit for each of the three ideas.
Business of Healthcare
Learning objective: Provide learners a holistic understanding of the healthcare system and highlight business opportunities to get learners excited about transforming healthcare
Topic areas: Healthcare’s New Economics, Technologies That Lower Costs, Quality of healthcare, Disruptive startups & investors
Skills: ability to analyze innovations in terms of their (technological, public policy, and structural) impact, develop a sense of consumers, change management
Value proposition: a millennial who wants to transform the business of healthcare
Rationale: Between 2016 and 2024, healthcare jobs will grow at a rate of 17 percent, which will shake out into 56,300 new jobs for medical and health services managers. This high demand for more medical and health services managers is driven by the large baby boomer population needing more health care in hospitals and nursing homes as they age. It’s also driven by the uptick in group practices and the need for managers and administrators to helm these facilities. Venture dollars into the sector grew at a CAGR of 32% (2011-2015). Finally, millennials want to work in health care services, ~33% of the top 30 companies of choice for belong to the health sector (‘15 NSHSS survey).
I would offer this content in conjunction with an institute like the Mayo Clinic or Scripps Health to provide a holistic approach to healthcare management. Industry can help think about a plethora of strategies (and ease of implementation) and how to actually effect change in health care.
It is essential to develop such certificate programs to capitalize on the white space in the business side of health care and take the leadership in developing curated content for the industry which will be a great complement to the theoretical knowledge gained in a classroom.
product-market fit: There are some new courses in healthcare that have just launched on the various platforms so it is early to tell if they are adequate or subpar. My hypothesis is that they are subpar purely because they lack an industry partner. I believe that we are just scratching the surface and there is a lot of room for other learning products with more on-the-ground refactoring. Finally, the curricula does reflect limitations in the ability of faculty to address the novel elements of the required knowledge and skills to thrive in health care services.
Learning objective: Find ways to improve an organization’s efficiency and increase profits
Topic areas: Interviewing clients, Influencing, Critical thinking, Case studies, Traveling
Skills: analysis, problem solving, presentation, change management, communication
Value proposition: professionals who want to transform their companies and students who want to be expert generalists in any industry
Rationale: Management analyst employment is expected to grow by more than 14 percent between 2016 and 2024, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics projections. The BLS estimates that 103,400 consultant jobs will open up during that period. Further, as data collection becomes commoditized at large companies/startups, demand for professionals who can analyze data and provide actionable recommendations will skyrocket. These individuals will typically be roped in to spearhead an internal consulting shop at large/small firms. This product should be offered as a project based learning course because the best way to learn the ropes of management consulting is to actually do management consulting. Most all companies need people to assist with decision making, growing revenues, and increasing profits. Partnerships with startups will yield a lot of industry projects for learners to volunteer their time and cement the newly acquired consulting skills.
product-market fit: This product will fill a hole in the market. The goal is not to churn out more management consultants (not necessarily) but to equip learners with the core skills of a consultant so they can apply these to any context, like nonprofits, big corporations, startups, and even to improve their personal lives.
Learning objective: learners will develop the ability to help their team (and company) ship the right product to their users
Topic areas: Business expertise, Growth hacking, Sprints, Communication, Customer focus
Skills: Problem solving, Design, A/B testing, Influencing, Marketing, Prototyping, User research and feedback
Value proposition: Learners with a technical background who want to constantly improve a product that has an impact on users; MBAs who want to break into the function
Rationale: B-school graduates have been gravitating to technology companies for several years, often in marketing and finance roles. Product management has special appeal because students feel the job has a tangible impact on a company, it marries business strategy with “the thrill of building a real thing”. The perception of this role as a mini CEO job often differs greatly from reality though, this is an opportunity for us to take the lead on dispelling myths and curating a pipeline of relevant talent. For example PMs have note taking and scheduling responsibilities, so it’s more like being a glorified admin at times.
This learning product will be a specialization that focuses on the subtleties of product management. The material will clearly spell out the do’s/don’ts for a PM as well as highlight key responsibilities such as setting the cadence, brainstorming effectively, and managing product operations.
product-market fit: This product should be created to both improve upon the existing content on Product Management as well as fill critical gaps to help learners appreciate the true nature of this important function in the technology industry. I strongly recommend partnering with PMs who have worked on great products to provide a reality check to the material that is developed with academic content partners.
Low hanging fruits – bundling opportunities
What follows is a quick deep dive on what is required to survive and thrive in Operations Management for a business learner. This deep dive is based of off research conducted on the Coursera catalog.
Operations management is an essential business skill for today’s knowledge worker. Employees of SMBs and Fortune 500 companies alike need to master operations management to help their companies streamline global supply chains, reduce waste, minimize costs, procure sustainable materials, and analyze make or buy decisions. Further, decision making is highly decentralized in today’s interdisciplinary global workplace and operations management will help develop a culture of critical thinking and process driven mindset in employees.
Three courses will form the backbone of this bundle:
1) Operations Management (UIUC offering)
2) Operations Analytics (UPenn offering)
3) Scaling operations: Linking strategy and execution (Northwestern offering)
In addition to these core courses, three supplementary courses will provide employees with an exhaustive toolkit to thrive in business operational roles:
1) Influencing People (UMich offering)
2) Fundamentals of Project Planning and Management (Univ of Virginia offering)
3) Business English: Meetings (Univ of Washington offering)
The core courses form the ‘ammunition’ for operations management. Specifically, the UIUC course is an introduction to the topic. UPenn’s analytics course will help inculcate a data driven culture and internalize the process of transforming data into better operational decisions. Finally, Scaling operations (Northwestern offering) will focus on linking the big picture strategy of a business to execution realities, enabling managers to maximize company value efficiently.
The supplementary courses will form the ‘barrel’ for operations management. Typically, organizations look to develop core skills in employees but forget the soft skills that can empower them to get work done efficiently. Influencing People will help employees learn influence tactics that enable them to be more persuasive and influential in working with superiors, peers, and even subordinates. Operations Management involves a lot of interdisciplinary collaboration and communication, the course on Project Management fundamentals will make it relatively easier to manage operations projects. Lastly, a complex business function like Operations where multiple stakeholders are involved (suppliers, retailers, consumers, logistics, warehousing etc) necessitates coordination via meetings, learning to organize/conduct high quality meetings will be invaluable.
This set of six courses will set up an employee for success by being a ‘barrel’ who is fully loaded with ‘ammunition’. Organizations usually have an oversupply of ‘ammunition’ skilled employees but no ‘barrel’ skills causing a lot of inefficiencies. But, this learning pathway will correct for that and empower business operations managers to succeed in the workplace of the 21st century.
Many millennial learners - the best and brightest of this generation - aren’t going to business school and are being shoved into management roles because they are great at their jobs, because their company is growing rapidly, or both. But the talents that make you a great individual contributor are not the same ones that will make you a great manager. I’d recommend that MOOC providers build out a general management series that will tackle:
— Setting goals for you and your team
— Performance management
— Managing engineers and artists
— Organization design
— Executive communication
The course content should be supplemented with mentors who can guide students throughout the duration of the course and offer real world insights from their professional experience.
Hopefully, some of these suggestions if implemented will helps MOOC providers inch closer to a clear monetization pathway (relevant courses will bring employers/talent) and higher completion rates. In closing, here is my attempt at the virtuous cycle in MOOCland (inspired by David Sachs :)).