EMBA Programs Positioned Well to Meet Changing Needs

In this period of uncertainty, Su-Lan Tenn sees new opportunity for EMBA Programs.

Tenn points to an IBM Institute for Business Value (IBV) study conducted in 2019 of more than 5,000 executives in 48 countries. According to the study, “as many as 120 million workers in the world’s 12 largest economies may need to be retrained or reskilled as a result of AI and intelligent automation.”

The study recommended elements that already exist in most EMBA Programs, such as educational journeys, experiential learning, and peer-to-peer learning through agile teams with different skill sets. It also endorsed blending the traditional classroom with online learning.

“The real opportunity for EMBA Programs lies in responding to this market for retraining or reskilling with particular focus on what the IBV study indicated as top skills, such as ‘behavioral skills’ like the ‘willingness to be flexible, agile, and adaptable to change,’ ” says Tenn, assistant dean, EMBA Programs, Schulich School of Business, York University.

EMBA Programs respond to key trends

Like professionals, EMBA Programs also are continuing to adapt.

“I think the effects of the pandemic and recent societal movements are changing the EMBA marketplace,” says Tenn. “For instance, to the extent that employees are seeking a flexible schedule at work, they are also looking to EMBA Programs to provide a flexible program schedule.”

Students in organizations with an emphasis on successful diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives also will look for programs with the same level of commitment, she says. In addition, they want to see greater clarity on a program’s value proposition.

And, no doubt, programs will continue to explore the innovative use of technology, including maintaining some degree of hybrid teaching because students will come to expect this flexibility. “Professor Mohanbir Sawhney from the Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University, coins the term ‘hybridization.’ ”

Hybrid learning will blend both asynchronous and synchronous instruction to create learning experiences that are better than all in-person learning, he says. He points out that “like commerce and work, higher education learning will become location agnostic.”

Differentiation remains an important consideration

One significant challenge for EMBA Programs comes from what Tenn terms a convergence that causes blurring lines between EMBA Programs and other graduate business programs.

“It is becoming more and more critical for EMBA Programs to not only clearly articulate what differentiates their offering compared to similar programs in their marketplace but also to ensure that these differentiators continue to respond to the needs of their market.”

Keeping in touch with the market is essential, she says.

“It is important to ensure that the ‘DNA’ of one’s program is in alignment with what the market values. It’s key to stay abreast of trends that can impact the higher education space in general and executive education in particular.”

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