The third horizon for business school education draws nearer today as WashU Olin begins to accept applications for our first fully online graduate degree and certificate programs—conceived and built for delivery in a digital world.
I’ve written before about my vision for the future of business school, with the third horizon representing how we adapt by creating new and innovative ways to reach students.
My past references to the three horizons, however, have been in the context of adapting to a post-pandemic world. Ironically, our new online specialized masters degree programs were not brought about by the pandemic that has wreaked havoc around the world.
Indeed, they were briefly paused by it, but ultimately to the benefit of the new programs: Entering the online education space is another initiative we are fulfilling as part of our strategic plan, and this has certainly been more richly informed by our experiences over the past year.
With these new online masters programs for working professionals, Olin adds to our impressive portfolio of degree opportunities for students.
Flexibility and excellence
This initiative expands our offerings to a growing segment of the population—those people across the country and beyond who want a first-rate, flexible education as they simultaneously continue in their careers and undertake graduate studies.
For our first foray into online education—but certainly not our last—we offer degrees and certificates in business analytics, finance and accounting. Designed for busy professionals, these programs will have the same high academic standards and learning outcomes as our on-campus program, taught by our experienced, accomplished faculty.
Our strong lineup of online offerings includes the Master of Science in Business Analytics (with three areas of interest: customer, fintech, accounting); the Master of Science in Finance; and the Master of Accounting.
The 24-month programs will have September and May intakes and are divided into three eight-month segments, with each segment delivering a unique credential—graduate certificate, advanced graduate certificate and degree. This allows these professional students to build their resumes during their studies, giving them the opportunity to grow in their careers while they pursue their degrees.
Building on a strong foundation
We are confident these new online programs will deliver a best-in-class learning experience for students, thanks to the investment we’ve made in Olin’s innovative Center for Digital Education.
The CDE is staffed with multimedia producers and editors who work alongside curriculum specialists with expertise in developing coursework for digital platforms. Together, the whole team collaborates with Olin’s world-class faculty to adapt and customize course materials for our digital platform.
And that platform is learn.WashU, our next-generation learning management system—built and customized by the CDE exclusively for WashU students, who will use the platform to stay connected to their coursework, their professors and their classmates.
As I mentioned earlier, these new online programs were always part of Olin’s plan. That’s why we originally invested in the Center for Digital Education, which officially opened in October 2019—about five months before the pandemic burst into our lives.
That fortuitous timing served our community well as our CDE colleagues helped us pivot into virtual learning in the midst of a crisis. I’ve called that the first horizon in our transition to the new world of business education. We took that experience and upped our game with hybrid courses and online-only courses in the 2020–21 academic year—the second horizon.
More than virtual classrooms
And although they were planned before the pandemic, these new online programs represent a small component of that third horizon as we build on what the CDE already knew by applying the experience we gained since March 2020.
Meanwhile, the student experience in these new programs does not end with the virtual classroom. Students in the online programs will also have access to academic services through Olin’s Graduate Programs office and career resources and services through the Weston Career Center.
Online students will receive the same level of service as on-campus students, including a dedicated online academic advisor, tutoring and cocurricular programming. As students pursue their degrees, career coaches and industry specialists will work with them to support their career goals.
To be clear, these new programs do not represent the arrival of the third horizon I so often speak of, but another step in that direction. The entire Olin team—faculty and staff together—have worked together admirably to conceive and launch these new programs, and I am excited by these additions to Olin’s highly ranked portfolio.