Columbia Business School professor Hitendra Wadhwa is to launch the school’s first online executive programme later this month, intended for both individual and corporate users. All the top US business schools, most notably the Wharton school at the University of Pennsylvania and the Darden school at the University of Virginia, are investigating ways of teaching programmes online in order to reach a wider audience.

The Columbia programme is priced at between $1,000 and $2,000, depending on the number of modules studied, which is considerably less than the $1,000 a day charged for traditional executive courses - not to mention, the travel and accommodation costs. “We do think this medium and price point will increase the open enrolment market,” says Prof Wadhwa.

However the programme will have to compete with free-to-view programmes from schools such as Wharton and Darden, often known as Moocs - massively open online courses.

Columbia’s Personal Leadership Online programme, which it is running in conjunction with Prof Wadhwa’s Institute for Personal Leadership, will launch in three weeks and in two versions - the essentials version and the longer executive version. The course will run for 10 to 12 weeks and will have a minimum of 24 modules, each with 30 minutes or more of video and additional course material to enable the participants to integrate the teaching into their own circumstances.

Prof Wadhwa, who has also been appointed as Columbia Business School’s director of e-learning, says that video has given him the freedom to develop course material for a wider audience: once the core courses are completed individuals can select additional material they think would be useful to them.

The video courses, which have been developed with a former BBC television executive, will also be used in Columbia’s Executive MBA and MBA classes. This includes using some of the courses as a prequel to the classes themselves. “One of the real challenges for me has been to get everything done in the class,” explains Prof Wadhwa.

He also envisages adapting the format to teach personal leadership to students on other programmes at Columbia University - law or engineering students, for example. And he plans to sell the modules to other education institutions to integrate in their own teaching, especially outside the US.

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