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How the Jack Welch MBA Can Dominate....

By now, you've probably heard that Jack Welch has plans to enter the MBA business, offering a digital/online version of the MBA that leverages his own brand as a leadership development guru and the general availability of the fat broadband pipe.  To get you warmed up, here's more on the Jack Welch MBA plan from BusinessWeek:

"The Jack Welch Management Institute will officially launch this week, with the first classes Jack_welchstarting in the fall. The MBA will be offered almost entirely online. Compared to the $100,000-plus price tag for most brick-and-mortar MBA programs, the $600 per credit hour tuition means students can get an MBA for just over $20,000. "We think it will make the MBA more accessible to those who are hungry to play," Welch says. "And they can keep their job while doing it."

To make the Jack Welch Management Institute a reality, a group led by educational entrepreneur Michael Clifford purchased financially troubled Myers University in Cleveland in 2008, Welch says. Welch got involved with Clifford and his group of investors and made the agreement to launch the Welch Management Institute."

I've written before on the challenges the online degree can pose from a reputational/diploma mill standpoint.  How can this MBA be different, overcome those reputational challenges and thrive in a cluttered field?  More from the BW article:

"That being said, there are challenges that an online MBA program like Welch's will have a difficult time overcoming, even if the technology and faculty are there. "The integrity and quality of engagement between faculty and students is the most precious thing we have," Snyder says. "Assuming it's there, it dominates. These things are hard to replicate online."

But Welch does have one thing that differentiates his MBA from others: himself. "We'll have all of the things the other schools have, only we'll have what Jack Welch believes are things that work in business, in a real-time way," he says. "Every week I will have an online streaming video of business today. For example, if I was teaching this week, I would be putting up the health-care plan. I'd be putting up the financial restructuring plan, talking about it, laying out the literature, what others are saying, and I'd be talking about it. I'll be doing that every week."

From a branding standpoint, having the Jack Welch name on the degree program allows the brand to rise above the other online brands and achieve reputational parity initially, but only if the program delivers value to the students that's seen and quantified by employers over time.  With that in mind, here's my thoughts on how the Jack Welch MBA can rise above the other online fodder and achieve parity with the bricks and mortar MBAs from top shelf schools:

1.  Don't admit everyone.  You guessed it.  Want to be on par with the Michigan MBA (leaving Harvard out for right now..)?  Don't admit people into the program just because they can pay you.  Have the same entry requirements as the top shelf schools and become the provider for those who can go anywhere, but want to work.  Your scope is national, so you should be able to make the numbers work.

2.  Rip case studies from the headlines.  Make sure all your instructors are developing case studies from the headlines each month of study.  It's not hard if you think about it.  You can subscribe to BW and Fortune these days and have a great head start to a meaningful case study with some of their in-depth profiles.  Churn the instructors who won't make the time to do that.

3.  Help the students build portfolios over time.  You want to bring value to the game?  Have technology/process in place where a student builds a portfolio over time of the case study/analytical work they've done in the program, and if you're feeling really frisky, help them include work samples where the Welch MBA has helped them with what they did in their job while they're getting the MBA.  Nothing will help them sell the value to prospective employers more.  It helps them, it helps you...

That's all you have to do to dominate the online MBA space and be seen as an equal to the bricks and mortar.  NOTE: Steps #1 through #3 are sequential.  If you make it to and execute #3, you'll have a powerhouse...

Comments

DreiEcken

The education world has its head in the sand (and that's the politically correct interpretation). While there is still some cache in name brand universities the truth is that the current world order of scarcity is not particularly enamored with labels as much as they are with bottom-line deliverables. If your school, Jack Welch or no, can create curriculum that brings a professional up-to-speed quickly and uses real-time and real-value based projects that come on line and pay-off within months (if not weeks), they're going to succeed. And while academia can sneer all they want, the door is wide open for lean and mean training organizations to bypass them. Degrees will become less important and the degree to which you can execute business priorities will be the only measure of your academic success. We are awash in 'talent' with degrees from prestigious schools, but corporations and government are looking for tactical and rapid response skills and turnaround artists. Sheepskins make nice wallpaper (and fit nicely in the downsizing to-go box) but the most important piece(s) of paper are the project plans, the financial outcomes, and tactical operational documents and skills an employee uses to showcase immediate and tactile worth to their employers. If your degree program can't prove that you can produce concurrent and tangible bottom-line results while you're attending and imbues in you a penchant for action and quick results in the future, employers aren't going to care if its a Jack Welch or Jack-in-the-Box degree, you won't have Jack (period). But if Mr. Welch, or anyone for that matter, can position on truly delivering hard results, they are going to eat a whole lot of ivy-leaguers lunches.

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