TO KEEP UP with the rapid pace of change, today’s executives need
no small degree of agility. At the same time, institutions that offer
executive education must provide a range of flexible programming to
accommodate the hectic schedules of business clients.
At NEOMA Business School in France, we recently restructured
our Global Executive MBA (GEMBA) so we could provide the widest
range of program options to participants. The revamped program offers
flexibility by incorporating variable times to completion, customizable
content, and a range of in-person and online options.
A variable timeline. GEMBA’s three “entrance gates” provide
students the choice of three different learning paces. In the Intensive
15-month program, candidates begin in October and spend four days a
month in class. In the Accelerated 11-month program, participants begin
in February and spend four to eight days a month in class. Finally,
in the Full and Flex option, which begins in July, participants are fulltime
students for a two-month period in the summer before assuming
a lighter class load over the next four months. To make the program
even more flexible, we can work with participants on a case-by-case
basis to suit candidates with even the most challenging schedules.
>View a larger version of the chart
Despite the different starting times, students from the three versions
of the GEMBA program are provided multiple opportunities to
mingle. The program includes four international experience trips: to
London in January, to New York City in May, to Bangalore in July, and
to Accra in October. Students from all three cohorts—even those in the
summer program who haven’t started their full-time classes yet—go
on all four trips together. Additionally, the programs are timed so that
the three cohorts will graduate at the same time, which enables participants
to network before the program ends in December.
Customizable content. Not only
does the GEMBA offer multiple learning
pathways, it is customizable through
à la carte mini-specialization tracks
available on-campus or online, through a
series of personal development workshops,
and through both individual and
collective business plan coaching activities.
These sessions allow participants
to keep their skills current or meet the
demands of roles they’d like to move into
after they graduate.
Online and on-campus options.
For added flexibility, all three tracks
allow students to complete a significant
portion of the curriculum online. Generally
speaking, the modules that cover
quantitative skills are the ones that
are available online, while qualitative
managerial skills are taught in-person.
While online learning is a fantastic
resource for enabling flexibility, faceto-
face education is critical for teaching
students some of the soft skills, such
as communication, that are in demand
today. We limit classes to about 40 students
to facilitate quality mentoring
and personal development.
To make program components easier
to manage and customize, we began
thinking of the program as a game of
LEGO. Every LEGO “brick”—or two-day
program module—can be combined with
any other brick. This makes expanding
and updating content a painless task.
We also can maximize the reusability
of bricks, as content is designed with
multiple learning contexts in mind.
The LEGO approach benefits students,
who can choose to complete only
one set of bricks at a time to earn a certificate
in that subject or test the waters before
committing to the entire program. In
addition, the model allows the school to
simplify scheduling, manage costs, and
work with companies that might want to
customize up to 30 percent of the course
for small groups of their executives.
We introduced our GEMBA in 2018,
and we have been pleased by the positive
response. However, it’s a complex task to
run these different versions of the same
Global EMBA program. To guarantee
flexibility, stability, and consistency,
we ensure that the same faculty are
available across the courses, so that all
GEMBA students will view them as
familiar figures of expertise whom they
can turn to for support.
With our redesigned Global EMBA
program, our goal was to design the
world’s most flexible executive course.
We believe that executive education
should allow managers to realign their
skill sets with market demand without
compromising their ongoing careers.
But business schools can provide executives
with that opportunity only by designing
programs that are fundamentally
flexible and open to regular reconstruction.
When they do that, everyone wins.
A detailed infographic shows how the three cohorts are constructed and overlap.
Jerome Couturier is associate dean of
professional graduate programs and executive
education at NEOMA Business
School, which has campuses in Reims,
Rouen, and Paris, France.