New Stanford Business Program Blends Online Ed, Exclusivity


Stanford's Graduate School of Business has announced a new program for company executives that will take place entirely online.

The LEAD Certificate Program will admit 100 students with classes beginning in May 2015. The program promises students the "intimate and academically rigorous on-campus Stanford experience" from the comfort of home. The eight-course program will allow students to interact through message boards, online chats, Google Hangouts and phone calls in an effort to make students "really feel connected to each other, to Stanford, and to the faculty."

"I don't know of anything else like this," says Audrey Witters, managing director of online executive education at Stanford GSB. "We've put together something for a very targeted audience, people who are trying to be corporate innovators, with courses where they all work together. That's a lot different from taking a MOOC [massive open online course]."

LEAD is geared toward professionals who want to create new initiatives and implement change within their company. The model focuses on helping students learn, engage, accelerate and disrupt (LEAD).

The program will incorporate real-time class discussions, continuous feedback from professors and peers, instructional videos, online exercises, group projects, live-stream events and access to Silicon Valley leaders.

Classes will be offered on an online platform supplied by Novoed, a virtual education company created by former Standford professor Amin Saberi and Stanford Ph.D. student Farnaz Ronaghi. The university plans to have 10-15 faculty members teaching the three courses, and has also hired a team of educational technology experts and motion graphic designers to help work on the course and course videos.

According to Saberi, people attend business school for more than just the lectures. "What we are planning to do is to create a very similar environment online where they can acquire softer skills and build a network of peers."

Despite the online nature of the program, it is not a free, open MOOC. In order to participate in the program, participants must go through the application process and only 100 participants will be chosen.

The program comes at a hefty cost of $16,000, much higher than its competitors, including the $1,500 nine-week online program offered through Harvard Business School, and the free first-year MBA classes offered through the Wharton School on Coursera.

However, the cost may not seem that high to the business executives who will be applying. The cost of the similar in-house, six-week program at Stanford runs $62,500.

Saberi says companies are interested in elite training programs that don't require employees to leave their desks. "We expect that programs like this are going to grow."

The university hopes to include other certificate tracks over the next few years.

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