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More Business Schools Invest In Virtual Learning

Business schools are investing more cash in virtual learning studios to reach new global audiences, as they compete with learning technology companies.

Stanford GSB became the latest leading business school to ramp up its online education offering last week, with a new program for executives that will be delivered entirely through a digital platform.

Business schools have been thinking of ways to monetize their free online programs known as Moocs, or massive open online courses, and see off the threat posed by learning technology companies such as Coursera and FutureLearn.

Stanford’s new LEAD Certificate program aims to recreate the school’s on-campus experience through instructional video, online exercises, group projects and live-streamed events. It will use technology developed by NovoEd, a distance learning company which also provides tech to business schools Wharton, Darden and Haas.

“The program brings these compelling elements of Stanford to the world of online executive learning for the first time,” said Peter DeMarzo, faculty director for educational technology at Stanford.

He added that the technology enables self-paced learning and a cloud-based “immersive space” for group work.

The initial program is focused on corporate innovation, and the school expects to offer other certificate tracks in different subject areas over the coming years, Peter said. The Stanford LEAD Certificate will cost $16,000.

Stanford has invested significantly in developing its online education offering. About 10 to 15 faculty members are earmarked to teach the Certificate courses, and the school has hired a group of educational technology experts and motion graphic designers to work on the courses, which will be filmed in a purpose-built studio, a Stanford executive told Bloomberg.

It is part of a wider move by business schools to expand their potentially lucrative executive education programs.

Other schools have similar courses, such as Harvard Business School’s $1,500 nine-week online program, and Wharton’s first-year MBA classes, which are available for free on Coursera.

But critics say these schools are in competition with Mooc providers. Learning tech groups including EdX and Coursera have monetized online business courses by charging upfront fees or selling certificates.

Stanford, however, said that its new course is not a Mooc. It will admit up to 100 students; it is not "open".

The eight-week program will begin in May 2015. Stanford said students will have access to “Silicon Valley leaders”.

The school is encouraging professionals from large and small global companies, public institutions as well as non-profits to apply.

Stanford’s portfolio of online courses, include a certificate in innovation and entrepreneurship, which is taught jointly with the School of Engineering.

Other business schools have sought to develop entrepreneurial programs which focus on engineering and technology, including Cornell and Michigan Ross.

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