Executive Education 2022

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Developing today’s leaders for tomorrow

Executive education programmes need to keep up to ensure a generation of business leaders who are not only on top of developments, but ahead of the trend. Programmes at graduate-level business schools that cater to executives and managers have had to adapt — not only in programme delivery, but also in educational purpose and learning outcomes. An increased focus, due to the world changing at an exponential rate, is now on making leadership and change management work, as well as facilitating strategic transitions. 

In an article published in the Harvard Business Review in 2019, The Future of Leadership Development, Mihnea Moldoveanu and Das Narayandas postulate that “chief learning officers find that traditional programmes no longer adequately prepare executives for the challenges they face today and those they will face tomorrow”.

A successful executive education programme should be defined by its business impact for an organisation; this is the result desired by most top executives. This means that a successful programme is designed with the end goal in mind, and that end goal is business results. Regardless of business type or size, this is a universal goal that all companies and enterprises strive towards. Successful learning is therefore not just about absorbing skills and knowledge and implementing them; it is also about driving impact within the organisation. When we shift this narrative, executive education transitions from being a cost to being an investment. 

Education at all levels has had to adjust drastically since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 to incorporate remote learning solutions and virtual platforms. It is evident that things will never revert to the way things were — nor should they. Online learning has progressed far beyond just a short-term, pandemic-driven necessity. These innovations have led to digital-first, tech-forward teaching modalities and hybrid teaching and learning models that have and will continue to shape the course of executive education going forward. 

Executive education for the African context

An MBA (Masters of Business Administration) remains a popular, prestigious and sought-after qualification globally. However, many business students and top executives across the African continent are opting for alternatives — a trend that started long before the arrival of Covid-19 and its disruptions. 

Research by the Association of African Business Schools (AABS), as early as 2015, revealed that Africa, with its large, youth- and entrepreneur-driven economies, is seeking a learning experience that is vastly different from the traditional MBA degree. African students were ahead of the trend in demanding short, sharp and blended learning programmes catering specifically to their unique needs. 

Increased unemployment has given rise to a generation of business leaders looking to create opportunities rather than just tap into existing structures, and entrepreneurship has shifted from being an add-on or elective to becoming a core offering for most business schools. 

The study found that many African students simply do not believe that a traditional MBA is relevant to their desired outcomes or professional needs. Instead, there’s been a sharp increase in the demand for shorter, more modular business courses presented in a hybrid fashion, with a focus on practical implementation of knowledge and components of online learning coupled with in-person sittings. 

Values, not value

Businesses must increasingly take more than just profits into consideration. Corporates and their clients are placing an increased importance on environmental sustainability and social responsibility — a value-driven approach to business that executive education programmes have to consider. 

African business students are not drawn towards building careers in finance or consulting; they are instead motivated by entrepreneurship and innovation, with maximum community engagement. Sustainable and ethical business solutions are seen to be a major catalyst for transforming communities, improving living conditions and creating more opportunities for others.

According to a report by MasterCard, the under-35 entrepreneur is more likely to be driven by purpose than profit, with women making up almost half of millennial entrepreneurs. A number of highly sought after business leaders are also electing to stay in Africa and reinvest in their communities and their continent. Rather than seeking greener pastures abroad, they are watering their own fields. 

Business schools and executive education programmes have an essential role to play when enabling students to make ethical, meaningful and sustainable changes to the social and economic landscape in Africa, while maintaining operational success and business prosperity. — Jamaine Krige

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EdTech Solutions Designed to help you focus on what REALLY matters

As the world settles into the “new normal” one thing is clear — there is no going back to the way things were before the Covid-19 pandemic hit in 2020. Remote work is now the norm, and virtual learning and digital education strategies are here to stay. This is why African tech solution provider OneConnect and global ed-tech leader Blackboard are committed to offering solutions that help raise the bar for business schools and executive education institutions’ digital experience, allowing clients to focus on what truly matters — teaching and learning.  

Online learning has progressed beyond just a pandemic-driven necessity as more education providers and consumers reap the benefits of virtual interactions. These include self-paced learning, increased flexibility, better time management, improved virtual communication and collaboration, refined critical thinking skills and a broader, global perspective.  

A shift to virtual learning also holds benefits for the education provider. This according to chairman and MD of OneConnect Rogers Sithole, who says new doors open when institutions of learning decide to invest in their digital offerings: “Traditionally, education has been confined to the boundaries of a classroom, and the business of education was limited by the number of times four walls could be constructed to give us a classroom.”  

Institutions were limited in this way, and the pool of potential students was limited to those who had access to their geographical location. These institutions could grow, but were always limited to the amount of space available and the physical resources they could access.  

This, says Sithole, is no longer the case. “We help these institutions see that they can grow their businesses beyond brick and mortar, and do so quickly, breaking down walls to reach students beyond their physical geography to provide teaching and learning to remote students.”  

Both OneConnect and Blackboard share a belief, and this forms the basis of their highly successful partnership — everyone, regardless of geography, financial situation, stage of life or disability deserves access to education and a connected support system.  

More than just a virtual classroom 

But, Sithole adds, this entails much more than just providing an online meeting room or virtual classroom space: “We offer solutions for every stage of the education cycle, and an online teaching space is only one part of that. Most digital platforms were not created with teaching in mind.  Our solutions are built with the end goal in mind; our virtual classrooms were designed specifically for education.” After all, simply meeting online is not the same as teaching online.  

These conversations, he says, are important, because the world is never going back to the way things were done. “By embracing this, our clients have been able to expand their presence to geographies they could never have dreamed of accessing.”  

These comprehensive edtech solutions are an adaptable, reliable and trusted tool that will help educators and learners reach new heights on their journey of lifelong learning. This is especially true in light of the fact that online and digital learning seem to be here to stay, and as more of the African continent and the world adopt blended or hybrid learning models. Even in face-to-face learning sessions and physical classrooms, OneConnect and Blackboard solutions can be used as additional learning tools to help enhance the teacher-learner experience. 

“Our goal is to enable institutions to leverage Blackboard’s technologies to empower our students to achieve their learning outcomes through the use of modern technology, and to be capable of harnessing the potential of the fourth industrial revolution,” says Sithole. “This partnership is built on shared goals and a mutual drive to further education and empower educators, students and executive education institutions alike.” 

OneConnect can also assist institutions to create learning content that is accessible and engaging, and through Blackboard understand the trends within their school. This is done by making use of turnkey enrolment and learning management systems to track registrations, graduations and other key data — data that already exists, but often remains unused.  

Tailored for Africa’s unique context 

“Blackboard’s extensive experience in the country has allowed us to provide a solution suite that is responsive to the South African education context. The Blackboard community in South Africa is one of our most vibrant communities globally and has played a major role in influencing our product roadmap. Our success in South Africa is exemplified by the ease with which our partner institutions managed to pivot to online teaching and learning during Covid-19 pandemic” states Dr Melvin Govender, Country Manager, Blackboard in South Africa .

“We are looking forward to building more partnerships in the executive education space. We are confident that our best in-class solution suite will assist in driving our partners digital teaching and learning vision,” said  Govender.


What’s on offer? 

Blackboard offers a number of innovative and game-changing solutions for the modern executive education institution. The first is Blackboard Collaborate – Your Virtual Classroom Solution. Through interactive whiteboarding, chronological hand-raise notifications, extensive chat features, on-demand polls, moderated breakout groups and more, Blackboard Collaborate allows educators to encourage student collaboration in innovative ways. Collaborate’s real-time feedback features also mean instructors aren’t left guessing if their lesson is hitting the mark. This means educators can confidently engage their entire class or provide personal attention through group discussions, one-on-one office hours and every configuration in between.  

Blackboard Learn Ultra – Clearing the Path to Modern Learning. This is a new, user-focused experience in the form of a modern, intuitive and personalised digital Learning Management System (LMS). It is characterised by simplified workflows and an accessible, fully responsive design — making it easier than ever to teach and learn, from any device.  

Blackboard Ally for LMS: Education & Universal Design is a revolutionary product that integrates seamlessly into existing learning management systems and focuses on making digital course content more accessible. Institutions can then have a more inclusive learning environment and improve the student experience by helping them take clear control of course content with usability, accessibility and quality in mind.  

While many new providers offer solutions for digital classrooms, few have mastered the art of e-Assessment and Proctoring. Traditionally, students would write exams in a controlled environment. This was always a physical exam venue where they were closely monitored by an invigilator, separated from academic resources and aids like textbooks, study notes or mobile devices with internet access. Students would sit in silence to dissuade answer sharing.  

With today’s technology, however, students can write online assessments from the comfort of their homes, all while the learning institution maintains the integrity of the assessment or examination process. 

Govender says:“OneConnect and Blackboard solutions utilise state-of-the-art facial recognition to authenticate the identity of the person in front of the screen, as well as their attentiveness during the exam, while also locking the browsers and ports to block any external input. Artificial Intelligence is used to analyse the typing patterns as another form of authentication.” 

Education: Accessible, future-focused and democratised  

Sithole says this is what the future of learning looks like. “We’ve got this award-winning solution that takes the whole assessment space into consideration, and in this way we can ensure that institutions are able to not only teach, but also conduct high-quality assessments that guarantee integrity in their processes, especially when it comes to high-stake exams and tests.”   

This falls within the OneConnect-Blackboard vision. In this way, Africa can assume its rightful place as an education and industry leader, ensuring the business leaders of tomorrow are supported, enabled and educated today.   

Both Sithole and Govender urge institutions that want to play a part in enabling educators and students to get the most from their education journey and ensure the offerings at their educational institution are elevated to the next level. 

Sithole says the best way to get the process started is through engagement: “We don’t have to talk about specific technologies; rather, let’s start a conversation about education in this day and age, and the direction that teaching and learning is heading in the future. Let’s talk about how it works, and how it could and should work, and let’s see what we can do to make it work for you. 

“We can help you create content that fits with your existing platforms, or explore new platform solutions that are tailor-made to your context. We can assist in training your educators to make sure that they are not excluded from this transition, and to ensure that their skills and expertise are retained, even as the educational landscape changes. 

“It’s important for you as an institution to have a roadmap — a strategy that shows how to move from where you are to where you need to be, while ensuring that no student is left behind. Reach out to us and let’s discuss your processes and how to align your current situation to your end goals.”  

For more information, contact OneConnect on [email protected] 

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‘Pracademia’ and learning for real-world impact

Complacency is the biggest threat to professionals and their careers. This according to Leoni Grobler, Director of Executive Education at Wits Business School. For this reason, she says lifelong learning is necessary for those wanting to succeed in life, if they wish to remain relevant.  

Executive education caters to working people at various levels of an organisation, focusing on the key skills and competencies needed to manage yourself, others and a successful business. “Things are constantly changing, so whether you’ve just stepped into your first job, you’re a seasoned manager or a celebrated executive, you need to constantly re-skill and upskill yourself,” she explains. “We walk that learning journey with our delegates at any stage of their career, whether they’re just starting off or already established in their field.” 

Leoni Grobler, Director of Executive Education at Wits Business School

Being a leader requires a different skill set from the technical competencies required to perform operational tasks. “Once you start managing people you need to develop and recall different skills: you need to inspire and motivate people, but still hold people accountable, because at the end of the day you’re working towards a goal.” Grobler says calling these management skills “soft” is misleading, because these foundation skills are among the most important traits for success. 

Skills for success

Business leaders must be adaptable to internal and external disruptions and implement change management within their own organisation; therefore flexibility, agility and resilience are important skills and mindsets to foster. “The world is forcing us to be far more fluid in the way we think and the things we do, and nobody can afford to be resistant to change,” says Grobler.

Creative thinking is important across all levels of business and not just in the marketing or innovation departments, because this skill goes hand in hand with problem-solving and a growth mindset. While creativity is important, it needs to be coupled with critical and analytical thinking — and sound decision making. 

Executive education can help foster a growth mindset: “This means you learn to see the opportunity in every challenge, and it also helps foster entrepreneurial skills, because people learn to see gaps in the market and solutions to fill those gaps. So as business schools we have the responsibility to cultivate that mindset and help people find the positives instead of focusing on the negatives.”

Mentorship and coaching training are also in high demand for executives, because leaders are expected to guide, empower, motivate and inspire the people they work with. This entails cultural sensitivity, an appreciation for diversity and inclusivity, and a collaborative approach. 

Authentic leaders are steadfast and purpose driven, guided by a personal and organisational North Star that guides them and helps them navigate decisions and interactions. “As a business school, if we can not only plant but also water those seeds, then half the battle is won,” she says. “If we can just get that to ‘click’, then the magic starts to happen.” 

Social responsibility, ethical business practices and sustainability are also important to incorporate into operations: “Investors are looking at investing their hard-earned savings in organisations that do good, so it’s a balance between wanting a good return on investment but also playing a part or making a contribution to society and the environment.” 

Making learning a lifestyle

Learning is not something that is done, it is something that is lived. A learning mindset is one that will permeate into every aspect of life and ensure continuous growth and betterment. “There is no right time to start, because learning should be seen as an ongoing process that continues as long as we’re alive,” she says, adding that this does not mean it has to be a formal and structured process. “It’s about reading, watching Ted Talks, listening to podcasts, watching videos about a variety of topics … we have so many resources and platforms available and more access to information than ever before, so learning is easier than ever and there is no excuse to stagnate.” 

This does not mean that lifelong learning is without challenges, says Grobler. This is even more true when it comes to structured, formal executive education programmes. “It’s never easy to find a balance between professional and personal requirements and responsibilities; therefore one of the most important things we offer our delegates is flexibility.” This extends to when courses are attended, the duration of the course sessions and time in class. 

There are also tutors, business coaches and learning coordinators available to offer continuous aid and ensure that delegates stay motivated and receive the necessary academic and emotional support they need to excel. 

Graduate and postgraduate degrees are theoretical and academic in nature, while executive education programmes are more experiential. “Executive education is all about applied learning, so it is really practising, understanding, testing and piloting what is being learnt in the classroom, and then doing so in the workplace,” Grobler says. 

Learning from the best

This practical approach is why Wits Business School programmes are presented by what Grobler calls “pracademics” and not academics: “A lot of organisations and leaders are concerned that business schools may not be in touch with the realities of the world of work. Our team members have a good theoretical and technical base, but more than that they  also have the practical experience and have walked the journey themselves. So if they talk about change management, they can give real-world examples of the problems they faced and the solutions that worked. We ensure that when we have a programme running, the delegates gain knowledge from someone who is speaking from workplace experience. We get people from business to teach business.” 

Grobler says the pandemic and its impact has transformed the course of business and of life, and there is no turning back to the way things were. “We’ve seen how fast things can change, and business leaders cannot afford to not stay ahead of the trends — Covid-19 showed us this very clearly.” The current debate is whether, given recent developments and rapid changes, a five-year plan is still feasible for organisations. “It’s very exciting, and there is a lot of work that needs to be done in this regard, but the ability to learn and grow from these experiences and changes is incredible.” 

She believes the biggest threat to professionals and their careers is complacency: “It’s no longer the case that even big businesses are safe and secure, and in order to be truly successful companies and their executives must stay relevant in order to be sustainable. Complacency will see doors close, and this is why we cultivate a learning and growth mindset in our delegates, to not only sustain operations, but look for new opportunities that will impact the world around them.” — Jamaine Krige

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Don’t just be a manager; be a leader

It is not enough to be a manager; truly successful executives are also leaders. This is according to executive and business coach Vivien Katzav, who has spent years assisting business owners, executives, individuals and teams to connect with their higher purpose and develop themselves as social and industry leaders. 

Management, she says, is operational and deals with execution, ensuring that processes and procedures are in place and adhered to while tasks are completed correctly in a timeous manner. Leadership, however, is about creating and articulating a vision while inspiring others to buy into a concept and work towards achieving a goal. “Managers allocate and control resources, while leaders inspire and influence change,” she explains. “Managers have subordinates; leaders have followers.” 

Regardless of the business or industry, there are some universal skills that all leaders need. “Think of three areas that a leader needs to manage;  what they need to do and what they need to be in order to create mastery,” she says.  

The first, self-management, might be the most difficult to master: “This is all about self-care, balance, stress management and mindfulness. It’s about pacing yourself and knowing what drives you. It’s about recognising your natural talents while being courageous in facing your Achilles’ heel.”  

The second relates to managing others. “These are the skills needed to appoint and grow your team, which requires humility, empathy and compassion,” she explains. Leaders must be aware of their unconscious bias and move towards conscious inclusion. “You need to be a teacher, a role model, a manager, a leader, a coach and a mentor. You  must know how to get the best out of your staff and how to engage them.” She says a sound understanding of team dynamics is vital, as well as the knowledge of the individual team members. 

Thirdly, a leader must have the skills and acumen to manage the business. “This includes decision making, effective communication, problem solving and relationship management, as well as change management, vision and resilience,” she explains. “Knowledge is one thing, but making judgement calls on people and projects distinguishes leaders from the rest.” 

Executive education, she says, can assist executives with each of these three focus areas and facilitate their transformation from manager to true business leader. 

This journey starts with self-knowledge and self-discovery: “You need to take ownership of your own development. Do not get bedazzled by training options and jobs that do not serve you. Remember that a job is the instrument of fulfillment of what you want, and in the absence of that knowledge you will be seduced into serving others’ agendas.” 

Katzav says it is important to be deliberate and mindful when plotting one’s personal development: “Individuals should reflect on who they are and what they want.”  

Pursuing an executive education can be challenging, especially when it comes to self-care, finances, juggling home responsibilities and work challenges. “Expectation management is therefore important.” 

Here, she says, is where coaching can help: “Coaching is goal focused and future oriented. The role of the coach is to facilitate your attainment of a goal by ensuring that you have clarity on what you want, that you define your goals clearly and that you can articulate the steps needed to attain those goals.” 

Coaches can also contribute towards accountability and be catalysts for growth. “The coach provides the platform for you to think through your options, get into action, reflect on what unfolds and to move forward.” — Jamaine Krige

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