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The pros and cons of online learning

Students’ appetite for online learning is not matched by its use in open-enrolment executive education programmes, according to an FT poll of more than 450 executives who participated in open programmes around the world in 2010.

Forty-two per cent reported that none of the teaching and related assessment was conducted online. Of those whose programmes had an online element, three-quarters said it accounted for less than 20 per cent of the total content.

Almost half of respondents (47 per cent) said they would have liked more online content in their programmes. This proportion increased to three-quarters among students who had no web-based content in their programmes. Just 5 per cent of respondents would have preferred less online content.

Asked to prioritise the main advantages of learning online, respondents cited flexibility as the main benefit. The mobility of content and potential cost savings were also mentioned.

When asked about any downsides to greater use of web technology, respondents were most concerned about the lack of interaction with teachers and other participants, and the resultant loss of networking opportunities. The quality of teaching materials was also of concern, followed by the levels of self-motivation required to study online.

The future of luxury

LVMH, the luxury goods specialist, certainly knows how to celebrate. To mark the 10th anniversary of LVMH House, its London-based corporate university, it is launching a year-long series of events in 10 countries involving business and art schools, writers, architects and artists.

The aim of the sessions, which start in July, will be to create the company’s own in-house research into the future of luxury goods, from champagne and perfume to watches and handbags. But they will also be used to encourage MBA students and their counterparts on creative courses to consider a career with LVMH.

Business schools involved in the project include London Business School, Insead and SDA Bocconi in Europe, Columbia in New York and Ceibs in Shanghai. When the event takes place in these cities, five MBA students from the programme will work with LVMH executives to discuss the definition of luxury, the extent to which the luxury experience is moving online, and the discriminating variables in selecting luxury goods – or, in layman’s terms, why choose Prada over Gucci, or Veuve Clicquot over Krug?

To top it all, each of the one-day events, which will feature well-known local speakers, will be held in a museum or art gallery. “For us, the relationship between creativity and management is key,” says Rita Almeida, senior project manager at LVMH.

According to Almeida, one goal of the project is to concentrate on the differences in creativity and luxury between the 10 host cities in the participating countries.

“We believe the future of luxury in São Paulo is different from the future of luxury in London, Paris or Shanghai,” she says.

Rating the Middle East

The Middle East has become a magnet for business schools and training organisations, but local companies seem underwhelmed by it all.

In the first survey of its kind out of the six-nation Gulf Co-operation Council region, only 33.9 per cent of respondents said the quality of the executive education market was good or very good, and a sizeable minority (21.8 per cent) described it as poor or very poor.

Particular criticisms were that executive education providers tailored programmes neither to the needs of the clients nor to the ability of participants.

Just as significant was that of the 26,000 training managers sent the survey, commissioned by Manchester Business School and the Dubai International Academic City higher-education free zone, only 537 responses were received.

Mind your manners

New York and China are only hours apart in terms of air travel, but culturally it is another matter. Getting business etiquette wrong could mean the end of a lucrative deal.

For example, when exchanging business cards in China, present your card with both hands, the right way up and with the words facing the recipient. Cards should also be received with both hands and read before they are carefully put away.

Of course, today’s globetrotting executives may not have the time to plough through an etiquette book. With this in mind, two executive MBA students at Cambridge Judge Business School, at the University of Cambridge in the UK, have designed an iPhone app to use as a business etiquette guide to China.

So confident are Lars Kalbreier and Andreas Adamides, the founders of BizEtiq, that their dos and don’ts of good manners will fill a niche that they are planning to release similar apps for other countries within weeks. These will be available in iPad and iPhone versions, and in German, French and English.

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