According to the National Association of Software and Services Companies (NASSCOM), more than half of the Indian professionals will need to upgrade their qualifications to keep up with the industry’s growing skill demand driven by automation. Over the next four years, the country will need four times its existing digital workforce to cater to the industry demands.1 With technical skills in Big Data Analytics, Artificial Intelligence, and Internet of Things, functional skills in negotiation, problem solving and assessment are and will be in high demand.
As digital disruption runs across almost all sectors, professionals with domain-specific strengths in new and emerging technologies will be required. So, a finance professional will need to learn fintech while an executive in healthcare will need working knowledge of data sciences in the sector.2 Rapid evolution in technologies will transform the careers of working professionals. The deep and rapid tech-enabled changes in product development and service delivery will imply professionals might have to change not only their job but also their occupation, while most will have to modernise their skills and working practices. According to Zairus Master (CEO, Shine Learning—a global education services provider) professionals will have to re-skill themselves every three to four years to remain relevant in a dynamic, evolving, and competitive working environment.3 According to NASSCOM, almost 65% of the jobs in the IT industry will witness transition over the next five years.4
Almost 60% of India’s 680,000 digitally skilled professionals are employed in the tech industry.5 By 2022, an estimated 104.62 million new entrants will enter the labour market.6 This implies continued need in bridge education for graduates looking for their first jobs (education to job bridge) and executives looking for better jobs (job to job bridge).7
The semantics of Executive Education
Executive Education caters to the job-to-job bridge education as providers (universities and edtech companies) can offer nano-degrees and alternate micro-credentials in various formats (certifications, degrees, diplomas or badges), as a model for continuous skilling, upskilling and reskilling and these can ultimately become new revenue streams for universities.8 Executive education comprises of open and customised programmes delivered online or on-campus or in a hybrid blended format sponsored by an employer or the learner.9
Distinct from managerial degree programmes, executive education consists of professional development courses and certification programmes intended for current executives or aspirants with significant experience, a resourceful pathway for reskilling and upskilling to stay current with best practices and maintain a competitive edge in a constantly evolving industry. While regular management courses give comprehensive and a broad idea about the subject matter, the executive education programmes target only the specific points of a subject or field of study in a limited time frame of learning and teaching. The executive education programmes aim to equip professionals with a certain skill and area of expertise.
The Executive Education market in India was estimated at USD 15 million by FY20–21 (in revenue terms)10. Executive education in India has been dominated by a high number of programmes and enrollments in eminent B-Schools such as the IIM’s and MDI11. Many of the programmes offered by these institutions are in collaboration with the industry, international HEIs, and edtech platforms.
In the past, companies sponsored select employees (high performing, senior-level, fast-track leadership path) to travel and learn on the campus of prestigious Indian and international universities. In recent years, companies are instead investing in digital learning methods and content in collaboration with learning and edtech companies to provide catalogues of online courses, programmes, and certifications. While some courses will be mandatory, some might be offered as part of perquisites—an annual budgetary allocation to train online in courses and certifications of choice.
Executive education and training is an important source of revenue (20%–40%) to eminent B-Schools in India. They are faced with the challenge in the generation and continuity of this source of revenue, especially as companies contain training budgets to sustain the prevailing slowdown triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic. 12, 13
Several top-tier schools, thus, realise the institution of the future will need to have the right combination of quality campus and digital infrastructure. So, they have extended their offering to include online courses and open-enrollment classes—bringing leaders and professionals from different companies together for classes and custom programmes. This helps the professionals to gain new perspectives on strategic problems such as changing dynamics, more demanding customers or new competitors.14As these institutions work with their corporate clients on virtual delivery formats, many companies expect discounts given the move to an online medium. The top b-schools are not however yet willing to deliver for less.15
After a long period of stagnant adoption, the Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) and Small Private Online Course (SPOC) models have seen enormous growth as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, with the number of active users of MOOCs almost tripling16. These courses are generally less expensive than in-person equivalents, MOOCs sometimes even being free, and offer optimum scheduling flexibility as they are often self-paced.
Access to the National (India) Online Education Platform SWAYAM17 and other Digital Initiatives tripled in the last week of March this year after the government announced a country-wide lockdown under COVID-19 containment measure. There are 2.5 million students/learners already enrolled in the 571 courses of the January 2020 semester of SWAYAM. About 50,000 people accessed SWAYAM since 23 March 2020. 18
Perhaps the most significant benefit of offering executive education through the MOOC and SPOC format is the customisable nature of courses and their topics. Various models for niche management areas are abundantly available, allowing one to pursue highly specific avenues without wasting time on less relevant content. While this is an attractive option for individual executives seeking to learn or upgrade skills, it is also gaining popularity with companies seeking to build bespoke training programmes for their employees. 19
The main consumers of MOOCs tend to be those seeking a career transfer or younger professionals who are looking for a leg up on their competition when it comes to general business knowledge. 20
SPOCs offer a middle ground between an in-person experience and a solitary MOOC experience. Compared to MOOCs, they have a far higher completion rate which can reach up to 80%.21While coming at the cost of a far lower teacher/student ratio, SPOCS still are cheaper than in-person executive education programmes while delivering the same small group workshop format. With further development, SPOCs from top tier institutions could compete with in-person offerings, especially as COVID 19 continues to threaten any attempt at resuming such programmes.
Online courses now are not necessarily isolated as platforms, such as upGrad, are incorporating events where students can come together in a physical setting22, while others resort to gamification for success.23 Gamification engages busy executives by introducing competitive elements into the material, allowing them to tap into their inherent desire to win and be perceived as leaders among peers. This strategy is playing an increasing role in online training; a recent survey shows over one in five corporate learning professionals reported using gamification in their organisation’s training programmes. Programmes such as MIT’s Platform Wars24 and Linkstreet in India showcase the current market capability of gamifying executive education, and new concepts and applications of the idea are constantly being introduced.
While the majority of online learning today occurs through corporations, institutional players still have a key role in encouraging knowledge transfer. The Indian Institutes of Management (IIM) represent the pinnacle of Indian executive education and severely limit the number of students who can go into the Indian job market with qualified managerial degrees. These institutions also dominate India’s traditional executive education market through their targeted 3-day to 3-week retreats centred around rapid learning.25 While there has not yet been a significant push from the IIMs to move their executive education programmes online, some schools have been building out their MOOC infrastructure, like IIM Bangalore, which has been working with EdX since 2014.
IIMs set a standard that the rest of the industry cannot match, studies show there is an uneven market in managerial education, both in quality and in coverage.26 Even so, only one IIM managed to break the top 50 in the Financial Times’ Executive Education rankings for 2020.27 Changes need to be implemented within the IIMs and the B-schools imitating them if India is to produce a robust managerial class able to leverage the country’s potential.
Coursera, a major player in the MOOC market, added 10 million new users globally from mid-March to mid-May—a seven-fold increase (yoy 28) in sign-ups29. Coursera has over 55 million users registered globally, out of which six million (11%) are in India. 30
An example of a SPOC in India is Jigsaw Academy, which currently supplies over 3000 Indian companies with their interactive executive education offering.
A decade-old Eruditus Group, comprising Eruditus Executive Education and its online division Emeritus, offers management programmes, short courses, and online curriculum in partnership with recognised foreign universities—Columbia University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard Business School. Eruditus reported enrolling 30,000 students from more than 80 countries for the fiscal year 2019. Almost half of Eruditus’ customers are from the US and India, accounting for 30% and 15%, respectively. Eruditus Group raised a $40-million Series C round last year.31
Understanding the customer—learners and sponsors
Future-oriented executive education providers will have to bear in mind the learner and sponsor needs and outcome whilst designing the learning experience and models.
The millennial cohort at the workplace (47% of India’s population) is a digital-first, always-on generation accustomed to personalised anytime, anywhere, exclusive experience. These learners not only want to pave a unique career path for themselves, but they also expect the learning experience to be customised to their learning behaviour. They appreciate that upskilling through experiential learning alone cannot prepare them for the transition to a new job or career.32
Companies (employers) are focused on driving large-scale reskilling of the existing workforce to save a massive talent pool from redundancies and build a more productive workforce that leads to top-line growth.33
The learning experiences will need to leverage technology and data extensively to enable multi-modal learning, with a multi-channel (online, blended, classroom, peer learning, social learning), multi-device (laptop, mobile and in future integrating devices for AR/VR, digital twins and more) and multi-format (video, simulations, reading, creating) approach. Learning programmes would need to ensure the right channel is selected for driving the right outcome (self-learning concepts through online, collaborative projects and problem-solving through social learning, discussion-based case studies in classrooms).34
All over the world, institutions find themselves compelled to adopt online models in coping with the COVID-19 pandemic, creating a renewed demand for MOOCs. MOOCs digital reach has more than doubled during the COVID pandemic, as students unable to access conventional education facilities seek alternatives on the internet.35 Many universities are offering additional courses through online platforms such as Coursera and Udacity and, in some cases, those platforms are cutting the associated cost.36 Some universities are selecting and repurposing outside content for their MOOC offerings rather than translating their courses into an online format.37 This may call into question whether well-known names are worth the price tag if they rely on content produced by lesser-known organisations.
If online models prove to be an adequate substitute for classroom or on-campus models during and following the pandemic, the shift toward online learning may have permanent effects on the educational landscape in general and the executive education landscape in particular.
As the COVID-19 lockdowns are yet to ease completely across the world, it is unclear when the campuses would reopen and classrooms would have students and faculty together learning and teaching.38B-schools across India have been forced to push their start date back with a variety of measures taken to ensure that this can occur, especially amid an uncertain recovery trajectory. It is hard to pin down a set policy across the board for the whole managerial education market in India, as different institutions have made different selections based on their evaluation of pandemic measures. Generally, however, the majority of the market has opted for a predicted August start date with a mixed in-person/online curriculum.
Within the curriculum itself, IIMs are working to adjust their classes to better suit a post-COVID world. IIM Indore is seeking to build an extensive amount of class materials relating to crisis management, while others are waiting to see who the winners of the pandemic will be to learn lessons from them.39
To contain spending, companies in India are likely to put on hold their leadership development programmes at the campuses of leading Indian and international B-Schools shortly. According to sector experts, this could deliver a 25–35% blow to the executive education market in the following 12–24 months. Furthermore, corporate-sponsored or customised management development programmes could see a 70–80% decline.40
Executive Education has been and continues to be a valuable enterprise. There is a continued need for reskilling as the employment landscape and technology evolve. This reskilling reduces skill gaps and leads to improved ROI, employee satisfaction and retention, all of which cultivate company growth.
The COVID pandemic has pushed Indian institutions towards a variety of MOOCs and SPOCs as well as developing new ones themselves. Ultimately, this will result in a more specialised approach and improvements to the quality of offerings, particularly at B-schools, will be necessary to create relevant, robust programmes which do not need to be offered in an in-person classroom. New online formats bring increased flexibility and customisation at a lower cost and allow for a far greater degree of accessibility to the best of what executive education has to offer.
A crucial component of learning entails interacting with peers or “classmates” which in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, is missed as learning and teaching increasingly go virtual. As the prevalence and likelihood of virtual delivery entrench deeper, learners may complain of the lack of social learning. As the future growth of executive education market in India is likely to be led by the emergence of virtual programmes, coupled with preferences towards customised MDPs (Management Development Programmes), it will be interesting to observe how the missing piece—Social Learning—is addressed. In the past, economic slowdown or recession has led to a rise in the demand for executive education. So, in the COVID-19 subsequent future, it remains to be seen the direction and nature of the trends in executive education.41
Contributors: Vishal Dutta, Brittany Lippincott, Daniel Liguori
2 Current market situation is very favourable to EdTech and online learning: Dr. Santanu Paul, 2 July 2020, Dataquest
7 Current market situation is very favourable to EdTech and online learning: Dr. Santanu Paul, 2 July 2020, Dataquest
8 Universities need strategies that drive successful enterprises in digital era, 22 June 2020, Financial Express
12 HRD charts course for education sector as school resumption plan uncertain, 3 May 2020, Hindustan Times
14 Choose right course, 22 April 2020, The Pioneer
17 SWAYAM is the national online education platform hosting 1900 courses covering both school (class IX to XII) And Higher Education (under graduate, post graduate programs) in all subjects including engineering, humanities and social sciences, law and management courses. A unique feature of SWAYAM is that, it is integrated with the conventional education. Credit transfers are possible for SWAYAM courses (max 20%).
28 year over year or year on year—an annualised comparison
32 Universities need strategies that drive successful enterprises in digital era, 22 June 2020, Financial Express
33 Why lifelong learning is an urgent necessity for employees, not a choice, 18 March 2020, Hindustan Times
34 Universities need strategies that drive successful enterprises in digital era, 22 June 2020, Financial Express
41 Global Slowdown Sees A Rise In Skill Enhancement & Up-gradation Programmes Among Corporate Executives, 1 March 2020, Business world