Human-Centered Approach to Decision-Making Strategy

C-level executives are recognizing creativity’s role in strategy. A recent global IBM survey of over 1,500 CEOs identified creativity as the most vital skillset needed to navigate an increasingly complex world. The ability to generate efficient and effective solutions to problems of significant complexity is a desired skill not only for engineers, but also for anyone whose job requires substantial decision-making.

As a response to the growing need for creative thinking in the business world, Cornell has announced the launch of the new Design Thinking certificate program. Available 100% online through eCornell, this certificate program will help learners adopt a robust, human-centered approach to designing and improving products, experiences, and systems at any scale.

“It’s often a challenge to blend design thinking with traditional systems engineering,” says Sirietta Simoncini, Lecturer at the Cornell School of Engineering and author of the Design Thinking certificate program. “Within this program, learners will leverage systems engineering tools that are integrated with the traditions of design thinking to make decisions that are intuitive, creative, and data-driven.”

Regional planners, engineers, user experience designers, program and product managers, consultants, systems analysts, marketers, and entrepreneurs involved in product conception will all find this certificate program valuable. The program offers a seamless and linear path from course to course, where learners have the ability to bring their group project and peer relationships with them as they move through the program.

Once learners have completed the Design Thinking certificate program, they can immediately begin applying their creativity in the workplace. Their new skills will enable them to define challenges, gather key user insights and emotions to help develop personas and user narratives based on empathy, and generate ideas and prototyping for potential solutions and improvements. In addition, learners will be able to iterate on and refine prototypes using design thinking methodology to ultimately generate a rigorous, viable solution to challenges.

Courses include:

  • Identifying and Framing a Challenge
  • Gathering User Emotions
  • Crafting User Narratives
  • Generating User-Centered Solutions
  • Design Prototyping
  • Testing and Iteration

Upon successful completion of all six courses, learners earn a Design Thinking Certificate from the Cornell School of Engineering.

Teaching Online Sharpens Instruction in the Classroom

Allan Filipowicz, clinical professor of management and organizations at the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management, recently faced a seemingly impossible task: Teach three days of material in just one day.

Cultural and language barriers made time even tighter. He usually taught the material, on the psychology of leadership, to MBA students in their late 20s who were native English speakers. This particular class was for Middle Eastern senior executives in their 50s for whom English was a second language.

Luckily, Filipowicz had an ace up his sleeve. He had previously worked with eCornell to re-engineer his campus course on the subject into an online certificate program. The design process has transformed the way he and other professors think about and organize how they teach their on-campus courses.

As Cornell’s online learning unit, eCornell delivers online professional certificate programs and executive master’s degree programs. eCornell has offered online learning courses and certificate programs for 17 years to more than 130,000 students around the world at more than 2,000 companies.

“The fact that I did this work with eCornell gave me the ability to take any topic and make it incredibly modular,” Filipowicz said. “I essentially took what was three days’ worth of material and compressed it into one-third of the time without losing either the large ideas or the interrelation between them. You can collapse the structure. It’s like you can fold the course any way you want once you examine it on that level.”

When creating an online course or certificate program, eCornell’s instructional designers work with faculty members to define specific learning outcomes. “Our design process is very much built on what students need to be able to do to be successful in this area, not necessarily what they need to know,” said Chad Oliveiri, eCornell’s vice president of curriculum development.

That could be, for example, how to introduce one’s self to a large group or draft a business plan. Students learn in an interactive, small cohort format to gain skills they can immediately apply in their jobs, Oliveiri added.

The instructional designer and the professor take apart the classroom curriculum and redesign it with an eye toward the student audience, the online format and, above all, the learning objectives for each module. “What are you doing, in that second, that is helping the student achieve the goal in this module?” Filipowicz said. They also decide which tools – video sessions, discussion groups, projects, an assignment done at the workplace – will help the learner achieve those outcomes.

In the process, professors often realize they’ve shifted how they approach on-campus classes they may have been teaching for years.

“It really impacts you,” said Deborah Streeter, the Bruce F. Failing Sr. Professor of Personal Enterprise in the Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management. Streeter’s Women, Leadership and Entrepreneurship class on campus parallels her eCornell Certificate Program in Women in Leadership. “Suddenly you’re thinking, I should go back and look through my learning outcomes for campus and make sure I have thought deeply enough about them,” she said.

And the process forces the faculty member to cast off extraneous details, Streeter said: “It has sharpened the curation of the material.”

For example, she recently created a course on executive presence – that is, the ability to project confidence and leadership. The design process called for a checklist in this area to give students. As Streeter dug into the research, she found a “nauseating” report by a respected source giving contradictory and subjective advice, such as “dress conservatively, but not too conservatively; be attractive, but not sexy; don’t remind people of their daughter, but don’t remind people of their mother; wear jewelry, but not too much.”

She could have just given students the report. Instead, the design process prompted her to define the message she wanted convey. In the end, she told them, do not take any piece of advice unless the results make you feel powerful.

“The design process took me there, because you’re thinking so much about the learner, and when they’re done with that module of the course, what do they have to put into play in their life the next day?” Streeter said.

The design process is a luxury, said Filipowicz, a form of mentoring. “At no time in your professional career does anyone say, ‘Let’s go through your course second by second and think about what each element is doing and ask are there ways to do it better.’”

Streeter agrees.

“Having a second set of eyes on your curriculum is so much fun,” she said. “Somebody’s paying attention to what you’re teaching.”

Applying the Dual-System Approach to Executive Education

For decades, European and Asian countries have embraced the dual-education system for professional development. The concept is built upon a “learn-on-the-job” model, where training is highly targeted, timely, and designed to align individual competencies with broader company goals.

While education costs continue to soar, the dual-education system delivers specific educational tools at a very specific point in time, while keeping the “cost-value proposition” in perfect balance.

This approach can also be applied to executive education because it is an adaptive, agile and proven model for delivering high-quality education. In the dual-education model, executives receive ongoing, timely and targeted training that helps them make the greatest contribution to the organization, while fostering engagement, inspiring a motivational culture and helping to retain the highest-performing executives.

Join Uwe Wagner, a senior eCornell faculty instructor and CEO of Innovative Think Tank International, for a look at how the dual-system approach should be applied to executive education.


Introducing the Sales Growth Certificate

In our ever-evolving marketplace, it’s easy for sales teams to be overlooked. But the fact of the matter is, your organization’s sales team is crucial to the organization’s overall health and success. Sales team members must have up-to-date skills and an extensive knowledge of what works—and what doesn’t.

To that end, I’m thrilled to announce the launch of Sales Growth, our newest certificate at eCornell! Based on the book Sales Growth: Five Proven Strategies from the World’s Sales Leaders, authored by experts at McKinsey & Company, the five courses within the certificate translate insights from 150 worldwide sales leaders into clear and practical guidelines for action.

If you haven’t seen it yet, you can get a taste of what to expect with eCornell’s summary of the Sales Growth book.

The certificate in Sales Growth will expand on the concepts introduced in the summary, giving you and your team tools and strategies to create a plan to drive real growth in your company. Here’s some of what you’ll learn:

  • The value of micro-market analysis to find hidden and unique opportunities for growth.
  • Strategies to streamline your go-to-market process to increase face time with the highest- priority clients.
  • How to focus your value proposition to the individual needs of the client for higher conversion rates.
  • Tools and techniques to move away from pricing tunnel vision during negotiations.
  • How to choose the right metrics and targets to track for growth.

Each course is two weeks long, so you can earn your certificate within two and a half months. This certificate program is available only to organizations.

To learn more about the certificate, click here! Looking for printable information? Click here.

eCornell and Earning Through Learning Extend Partnership to Bring eCornell to Canada

eCornell is pleased to announce an extension of its partnership with Toronto-based Earning Through Learning until 2017. Since 2006, Earning Through Learning has been offering the best of eCornell’s programs to individual and organizational clients throughout Canada including Best Buy Canada, Vale, TJX Canada and Canadian Imperial Bank of Canada (CIBC). “We value ETL’s in-depth understanding of the Canadian training and development ecosystem and the unique learning needs of professionals in Canada,” said eCornell CEO Chris Proulx.
Individuals and organizations looking to build skills in human resources management, hospitality management, business acumen and leadership development, and project leadership are encouraged to work with ETL. More information about ETL and its range of professional services including eCornell is available

Owning the Brand Promise: Higher Education, Mega Corporations, and Mom & Pops

What do small fine arts colleges in the outer ring of the London suburbs have in common with global brands like Marriott and Toyota? Just like the big players, schools like Rose Bruford College of Theatre and Performance have to define and communicate their brand promise in a crowded marketplace.

Just like large and small businesses competing against each other with the latest and greatest products, higher education institutions in a MOOC (Massive Open Online Courses) world are trying to find their niche and voice in online learning. I recently attended the eLearning 2.0 conference in London, and this was a major theme. The attendees from schools both large and small were wrestling with the issue of how to differentiate themselves both in their local markets and globally. The keynote speaker, Steven Warburton from the University of Surrey, talked about the need for institutions to begin to look outward from their core, and start to explore market realities and strategic partnerships if they are going to survive.

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Look beyond your core products and offerings and explore what your customer base (or students) are really asking for. Or, how can you move beyond your comfort zone to solve the problems that potential customers have that they may not even know about?

So what would that mean for a school like Rose Bruford? Do a Google search on “online opera degree.” A number one Google ranking is something marketers work day after day to achieve, tweaking one strategy after the other. And Rose Bruford has that enviable position without even trying! It would not take much for Bruford to refine their marketing message to talk about being the “only” or “oldest” or “most experienced” or “innovative” online opera degree program in the world. A thoughtful buy of Google keywords would help put their ad in front of opera buffs and students worldwide. The possibilities are endless!

Or look at Edge Hill University in northwest England. While their main landing page focuses on the student experience at the physical campus, the school has an online learning star hiding in the English department. There are two huge value propositions here for Edge Hill: they know what they are doing when it comes to online education, and they teach Vampire Fictions (!). Both of these are great lead-ins to positioning themselves in the online education marketplace as both experts and content providers, something any business would love to claim.

The challenge, then, for small businesses, major corporations, and higher education institutions alike, is to find their Vampire Fiction experts and make sure that when fans Google their specialty topic, they achieve Bruford-level results success. Every penny you spend on SEO and SEM marketing should work toward building that brand identity. And supporting it with quality landing page content.

Three Archetypes of the Future Post-Secondary Instructor

Since the dawn of electronic media and its role in higher education, we have been hearing about the end of the “sage on the stage” and the emergence of the “guide on the side.”

In the past decade, we have seen many faculty members embrace the transformation of their role: delivering live video chats, facilitating online discussions in the wee hours of the morning and reviewing online student portfolios.  Yet, at the same time, many faculty have also embraced media to capture their “sage on the stage” lectures for the students in their online courses without much additional pedagogical innovation.

As we look into the next decade, we can imagine a set of online instructor archetypes that will provide a more nuanced spectrum of roles and skills originally envisioned for them.  Let’s meet the “celebrity free agent,” the “ever-connected coach” and the “course hacker.”

The Celebrity Free Agent

When Sebastian Thrun left Stanford University to start Udacity, a massive open online course (MOOC) provider, many began to wonder aloud whether this would be the end of the traditional faculty-university relationship.  If star-powered faculty at major universities could strike out on their own, or perhaps form partnerships and affiliations with each other, could they begin to erode market share from the traditional institutions?  Time will tell.  Certainly, we can expect more faculty members who have top-ranked credentials and excellent presence on-screen to leverage their expertise into powerful new educational brands. These projects will feature more knowledge dissemination than active instruction, but could easily provide both students and institutions with new options. Evidenced by the 100,000+ students registered for Thrun’s MOOC offered through Udacity, or the recent online course project between Clay Christensen and the University of Phoenix, one can see how the traditional measures of faculty-institutional loyalties will be challenged in the next decade.

The Ever-Connected Coach

For many instructors without the star-power of a Thrun or Christensen, the online environment will provide other opportunities for role differentiation. This archetype is the closest to the notion of the “guide on the side.” Using a wide range of social media and networking tools, the Ever-Connected Coach can shift from disseminator of knowledge to learning coach. They might provide an ongoing stream of articles, tips and insights via Twitter. They could form user communities made up of current and past students and employers on LinkedIn to help students master skills that increase their employability, as well as build networks to help them succeed post-course and post-graduation. Conceivably, these instructors might realize they too could break formal ties with the institution, allowing them a more flexible and mobile lifestyle. The next-generation model is similar to that of StraighterLine, a low-cost online education provider, but focused on providing institutions with an in-demand pool of online instructors (excluding the ready-made course content), organized by discipline and highly trained in a set of online, social and mobile tools that maximize learner engagement and retention. An institution looking to scale a program might pair a celebrity faculty member or MOOC with a team of instructors or coaches from an online provider to add a higher level of engagement.

The Course Hacker

The last and perhaps most speculative role of the future online instructor will be the person who digs deep into the data that will be available from next generation learning systems to target specific learning interventions to specific students — at scale. The idea of the Course Hacker is based on the emerging role of the Growth Hacker at high-growth web businesses. Mining data from web traffic, social media, email campaigns, etc., the Growth Hacker is constantly iterating a web product or marketing campaign to seek rapid growth in users or revenue. Adapted to online education, the Course Hacker would be a faculty member with strong technical and statistical skills who would study data about which course assets were being used and by whom, which students worked more quickly or slowly, which questions caused the most problems on a quiz, who were the most socially active students in the course, who were the lurkers but getting high marks, etc.  Armed with those deep insights, they would be continually adapting course content, providing support and remedial help to targeted students, creating incentives to motivate people past critical blocks in the course, etc.

In the coming decade, faculty will have a range of tools to make content more accessible and engaging, better platforms and systems to connect with learners (and connect learners to each other and the broader world) and more data than they ever imagined about how students learn. While some may choose to further specialize with respect to how they teach online — going deep — many will incorporate some aspects of each of these archetypes and become even more effective online instructors, ever-seeking to improve learning outcomes.

Guest Post on The Evolllution


Entergy Corporation Renews Partnership with eCornell

Integrated energy company offers online learning as a professional development option

Entergy Corporation, an integrated energy company, has renewed its partnership with eCornell to help employees meet their professional development goals.

By offering the entire eCornell portfolio of courses and certificate programs, Entergy can give managers throughout the United States access to Ivy League learning and development.  Subject areas include leadership and management development, human resources and financial acumen.

eCornell’s unique approach to elearning combines the most effective elements of a world-class, Ivy League classroom with the flexibility of an online learning environment. eCornell courses—self-paced and 100 percent online—are “instructor-facilitated” to help guide a cohort of 20 to 30 participants through challenging, real-world exercises with practical on-the-job application. Classes enable learners to be immersed in learning that also fosters collaboration, interaction, and networking.

“We are pleased have continued our relationship with Entergy,” said Tom Abogabal, vice president, global sales for eCornell. “We are glad to be a part of Entergy’s mission to empower their talent across the organization and be a part of their professional development portfolio.”

About eCornell

eCornell, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Cornell University, provides many of the world’s leading organizations with online professional and executive development in the areas of leadership and management, human resources, financial management, healthcare, marketing, and hospitality management. eCornell’s proven course development model and asynchronous instructor-led course delivery provide for engaging, rigorous, and interactive learning. The company has delivered online courses to more than 50,000 students in over 180 countries. For more information visit (enterprise buyers) or (small groups and individual students).

About Entergy Corporation

Entergy Corporation, which celebrates its 100th birthday in 2013, is an integrated energy company engaged primarily in electric power production and retail distribution operations. Entergy owns and operates power plants with approximately 30,000 megawatts of electric-generating capacity, including more than 10,000 megawatts of nuclear power, making it one of the nation’s leading nuclear generators. Entergy delivers electricity to 2.8 million utility customers in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas. Entergy has annual revenues of more than $10 billion and approximately 15,000 employees.

The Evolving Online Course: Can a Course Get Smarter As It Ages?

Much has been written about Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) and their potential to change how people access course content, and discussions abound on how faculty might change their style of teaching and how learning might become more personalized. These questions are an extension of the ongoing dialogue related to the potential opportunities afforded by online education.

One of the untapped areas of potential for schools, faculty and students is how to best take advantage of the digital assets created during the development and delivery of online courses. If you begin to think “outside the box” of the traditional course, or even the traditional online course, you quickly identify a variety of potential issues with how we use, re-use and re-combine these digital assets, which could lie at the heart of a future transformation of the course.

What is a course and who owns it?

Faculty members have traditionally been good curators of content, aligning readings and guest speakers with their own lecture topics to create a unified course. The faculty member regularly updates lecture content, adapts new reading lists and chooses new textbooks as new material becomes available.

In the digital environment, the faculty member now has a much broader menu of options for course content, increasingly supported by the learning management system being used by his or her institution, which makes it easier to integrate, link and embed third-party content into the course. Some of these options take the more traditional form (such as e-textbooks and journal articles) while others include online assets such as blogs, wikis and RSS feeds. Over the past several years, faculty members have had access to content from various open educational resource repositories, as well as YouTube or iTunesU videos. Added to this list now are MOOCs, which could serve as rich course material sources or pre-requisites, depending on the platform being used. Lastly, the new format for online courses has led to an explosion of student-generated content. Student discussion posts, blogs, tweets, etc. from prior courses could also become a rich set of new content.

For administrators, the questions will arise:

  • “Where does the definition of what counts as course material stop and start?”
  • “What ownership does the faculty member have over the course, its content and its design?”
  • “How does this new world of aggregation change how we think about stipends and other compensation for course development?”

New opportunities for aggregation and social sharing

Indeed, some of these issues related to IP ownership, rights and access have been part of the discussion for many years. And, certainly, the creation of a fully digital course is nothing new in some circles. But where it gets really interesting is when you factor in the ability to aggregate the student-generated and socially-shared content of an online course.

One of the unique characteristics of an online course, compared with a classroom course, is the digital footprint created by the students and the faculty member. At eCornell, where we typically offer short courses (two to four weeks long), each session is still populated with hundreds of unique discussion posts and dozens of student-created projects, papers and other assignments by the end of the course. Recent attention and focus has been turned to the field of learning analytics and tools like Knewton that can help faculty identify students in need, and offer more targeted and personalized content based on the aggregation of data on the student’s progress in the course. While interesting in its own right, I think there is another, more interesting use of student data.

When we move beyond the binary distinctions of faculty member and student, and instead look at everyone as having the role of a contributor to the learning experience, you can ask new questions. What if you could systematically capture, tag, anonymize, analyze and aggregate the various types of student contributions to an online course, such as discussion posts, blog posts, tweets, projects and assignments? The result could be a new set of course assets, based entirely on the insights, wisdom and questions of students. In professional programs, you could create “Best Practices” or new types of Case Studies that draw on the real-world experiences of those in the class. As enrollments in a particular course grow (through a MOOC, for example), or as you aggregate contributions from multiple sessions of a course, you have the opportunity for a true “wisdom of crowds” type of learning experience.

In essence, what if a course could actually get “smarter” in each successive running, not solely based on the updates of the faculty member, but based on the knowledge, insights and experience of prior students? Imagine a course with new assets that could reflect recent trends drawn from the diversity of its students. This could could enable the construction of new knowledge in a way that is possible but may not be happening in a systemic way.

Of course, there are questions

Do the students have to explicitly consent to the use of their contributed materials in this way? What types of tools do we need to aggregate and analyze this unstructured “big data”? How should faculty members adapt their own teaching and content to best leverage this student-generated content? Are they comfortable with this latest evolutionary step, which turns them from “sage on the stage” to “guide on the side”? Do institutions see this type of learning as a competitive advantage or disruptive threat?

With so much hype about the disruptive potential of video-captured lectures (arguably a significantly old technology) and the transformative effects of blending digital content with human-powered learning (a not-so-recent development), I suggest we turn our attention to figuring out how to do things in the online environment that take advantage of its unique ability to capture learning that truly reflects the collective knowledge of the learning community.

Guest Post on The Evolllution


5 Ways Technology Will Impact Higher Ed in 2013

2012 was a transformative year in education.   Between the introduction of the MOOC (the ‘Massive Open Online Course’), and the explosive growth in the number of online offerings, all eyes were on higher ed. In the past twelve months, students were increasingly able to learn from leading faculty at elite institutions beyond the four walls of their classrooms, and soon, professors will be collaborating across universities to collectively create and distribute for-credit curriculum for an online semester.  New high growth players entered the online education marketplace, and universities began to align around interactive platforms.  As online certificate programs became more robust and hyper-targeted towards professional development, more and more students looked to gain these credentials as a differentiator in the work force.

After such a dynamic year, the discussion naturally turns to what the higher education environment of 2013 will look like and to what extent it will be impacted by technology.

Based on what we’re seeing at eCornell and in the wider online education eco-system, here are a few predictions for what can be expected in the coming twelve months.

1. Growth in Online Education will be particularly strong In the Top Tier

2013 will be a year of big growth for online education.  However, the growth will not be purely measured in terms of enrollment in online programs.  In fact, over the last two years, enrollment in the for-profit education sector was down and industry giants such as the University of Phoenix announced the closure of some of its facilities.  So where will the growth be?  In 2013 we expect to see a concentration of growth in top tier universities.  Over the last two years, the number of top-tier Universities with at least some online activity has more than doubled, in large part due to MOOCs.  That said, the availability of other credit and non-credit programming from highly selective schools has also increased significantly.   This is something that is on track to continue in 2013, as these late-adopting schools move online.

2. Expect to See More Innovation Around “Flipping the Classroom”

Gone are the days when students need to pile into large auditorium just to hear a lecture.  By leveraging online platforms, lectures can now be pre-recorded and core content accessed by students any time, anywhere, and as many times as they need.  This means that classroom time can instead be used to augment the lecture content, whether through discussion, group exercises or quizzes.  Also, since online platforms provide faculty with learner analytics, faculty now have even greater data on who is learning, what they are learning and how. So, the design of the classroom course is now ripe for innovation.  This will create opportunities as universities continue to hone in on the most effective formats for learning in the digital age while they re-think how to better use classroom time and space.

3. Next Year’s Buzz Words are ‘Hybrid Program’

Everyone was talking about the MOOC this past year as the notion of an online course offering with infinite capacity captured the attention and imagination of the education industry. Nevertheless, facts show that MOOC’s still make up a very small portion of courses at most schools and that won’t change in 2013.   Plus, there are still a number of fundamental questions surrounding this model—what will be the cost to sustain MOOCs over time, will these courses count for credit and if and how will they be packaged together into a certificate or degree program? That said,the hybrid model (where part of a program is taught online and part is taught in person) is one that we can expect to see more fully embraced in this coming year.  Faculty will still have the ability to interact with and assess directly their students while still leveraging some of the efficiencies of putting lecture and other course content online.  For adult and working professional students, this model provides even greater flexibility as students can access course material as their schedule permits.   Finally, this allows institutions to experiment with increasing their online programming without fully turning away from their tried and true model.

4. The Race Will Be On For A New Instructional Model.

As lecture content is moved online, instructors will be able to re-think the classroom experience.  A new model for peer-to-peer and peer-to-faculty interaction will need to be created, as this is one of the most fundamental components of classroom learning. There is a huge opportunity for instructors to create a more in-depth learning experience, whether by incorporating real-time discussions with industry experts or building small group experiences online, all of which may allow for more personalization of courses to students’ needs.  The beauty of teaching analytics is that teachers will have real time information on how students learn and can augment future plans accordingly.  While this is a budding area of exploration and one where schools will need to invest in discovery, once they ‘crack the code’, it opens the door to a much more effective as well as potentially more scalable model.

5. Higher Ed Costs May Start to Decrease…But Not Quite Yet.

One of the greatest costs in higher education is faculty.  The notion that faculty can increasingly reach a greater of number of students in their ‘classrooms’ means the per unit cost of teaching a student could start to decrease, but only if you can achieve similar or better learning outcomes, and simply moving lecture content online will not solve the cost problem.  Yet as institutions experiment with the pedagogical formula of what content is delivered online, how peer-to-faculty interact in both the online and “flipped-classroom” environments, and faculty explore new models of assessment, some institutions could potentially find educational models that begin to bend the cost curve. The first step is to continue to nurture faculty across the country to embrace online teaching, and from there we just may see a shift in the business of education.  The introduction of MOOCs in 2012 was an important first step forward in that direction.