Hello everyone! My name is Ladek and my guests for this episode are Andy Morgan and Steve Van Der Westhuizen. Andy is EVP, Head of edX Enterprise and Corporate Development with an expertise in corporate finance and strategic business development, with a particular focus on EdTech and Media. Steve is Senior Vice President, Strategy & Product Marketing for Enterprise at 2U.
In this ‘enterprise-level’ conversation, Andy, Steve and I discuss
00:00 › Start
5:13 › What Exactly Is edX Enterprise and its history and why is it important for executive education?
10:58 › What edX Has Learned about the different needs of different learners and how they are able to scale a bespoke solution like this?
18:02 › Challenge and Pushback—Andy and Steve talk about the challenges and pushback they’ve received from the market, around things like privacy issues; and the conversations they’ve had with business leaders about building out these enterprise-level learning programs
31:00 › Money Minds—Steve and Andy revisit the fact that 60% of existing edX learners & leaders use their own money to buy these same types of courses, which allows them to understand how to tailor programs to what each set of learners need.
36:32 › Growth—We end our conversation looking forward to what Andy & Steve are most excited about.
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Learn more at OpenLMS .net Hello everyone, my name’s Ladek, and my guests for this episode are Andy Morgan and Steve van der Westhuizen. Andy is the EVP head of edX Enterprise and corporate development with an expertise in corporate finance and strategic business development with a particular focus on EdTech and media.
Steve is the senior vice president in strategy and product marketing for Enterprise at 2U. In this enterprise -level conversation, Andy, Steve, and I discuss what exactly is edX Enterprise and its history and why it’s important for executive education today.
We then talk about what edX has learned about the different needs of different learners and how they’re able to scale a bespoke solution like this that they’re presenting right now.
Then Andy and Steve talk about the challenges and push that that they’ve received from the market around things like privacy issues or, you know, putting cohorts together and the conversations that they’ve had with business leaders about building out these enterprise -level learning programs across the globe.
Steve and Andy then revisit the fact that 60 % of their existing edX learners and leaders, they’re using their own money to buy these same types of courses,
which allows people like Steve and Andy to understand how to tailor their programs to what each set of learners and cohort needs. We then end our conversation looking forward to with what Andy and Steve are most excited about and the growth of the organization.
And remember, we record this podcast live so that we can interact with you, our listeners, in real time. So if you’d like to join the fun every week on LinkedIn, on Facebook, or on YouTube, just come over to elearnmagazine .com and subscribe.
Now, I give you Andy and Steve. Hello, everyone. Welcome to the Elearn podcast. My name is Ladik, as you have heard, but this show is not about me. I’m very excited to have my two guests today. It’s always a treat when I get to have more than one person on the show,
especially when they’re in other… We’re literally on three completely different points of the globe showing my age, because that still makes me really, really excited. I’m going to start with Steve van der Westhoizen.
Are you close? Ladik, it’s not bad. It’s not bad. Westhoizen. I gosh darn it. South African name. I can’t do it. Say your family name for me. Van der Westheizen.
Van der Westheizen. Ah, seriously? Van der Westheizen. And Andy Morgan, a slightly easier name for me to say.
Gentlemen, how about you guys both introduce yourselves to everyone out there? Let’s start with Steve, and then I’ll go to Andy. Yeah, so I’m the SPP of Strategy and Product Marketing at edX2u.
I’ve been with the business for around about seven and a half years. I started initially in the executive education part of the business, where my role was to set you to build out the portfolio of programs that we put together,
working with some great universities, and then shifted earlier this year into kind of the enterprise part of the business, working alongside Andy, focusing on the solutions that we’re going to sell,
how we’re going to package them, how we’re going to talk about them. And then before that, I spent seven years at at Skillsoft in London And way before that I have a background in organizational psychology and just had this massive passion for careers and intersection of people in business And that’s kind of been the journey so far fantastic.
Thanks, Andy. What about you? Thanks like and thanks for having us on so Andy Morgan I I lead our enterprise business here at edX enterprise businesses how we sell our products to Any organization a company a government federal national local around the world how we build programs the upscale and rescale their constituents or employees I’ve been in ed tech or quit post -secondary education related fields for close to 15
years now I’ve been at 2u for six years prior to this year I spend most of that time leading our corporate development and strategy efforts both That includes some M &A we did along the way,
which we’ll talk about in a second as well as You know how we built the business we built Prior to that, you know work from another strategic company Pearson the variety of roles and before that way back when I was a consultant looking at this space on behalf of a number of investors.
So I’ve been in and around this field For 15 or so years and excited to be here today to talk to you about what we’ve learned Nice. Now, you know, I said we were in three different points of the world.
Where do we find you sitting? Well, so I am in Maryland just on the outside of DC, Washington DC But I am not native to these shores as you may tell so I am a bridge by birth But uh,
uh, I’d be based in the US now for 10 years and home here in DC and Steve Cape Town, South Africa beautiful place Excellent, I love that,
you know, Maryland Cape Town, South Africa and Mexico City, Mexico Obviously, what we’re gonna talk about today is how do you know? kill it in this executive learning, executive education,
skill building sector? Before we dive into that specific question, I wanna know the edX story, right? So edX was there,
it was a huge resource, a platform that many people learned about, many people utilized, and then it was purchased by 2U in one of the biggest deals of the edX universe.
Just in terms of, wow, I think a lot of eyes opened up that this was a really nice content grab. So tell us more about what edX, especially from the executive education standpoint,
and those kinds of things, give me that history and where does it stand today? – Yeah, so edX is a global learning platform, global online learning platform.
It’s really, we exist globally, and at its core, what we do across edX is we work with some of the best content producers, providers on the planet,
including 36 of the top 50 universities on the planet, Harvard, MIT, Yale, Oxford, but also corporate partners, IBM, Google Cloud, et cetera, et cetera. And we work with them on a continuum of products from free open courses that anyone can go audit,
they’re on their own time, all the way up to master’s degrees, post -doc degrees. We have a Yale program, a grad program, to be trained to be a physician’s assistant,
the only online one in the United States. And everything in– – I can come and get, I’m sorry to interrupt, but I was not aware, like I can get a full– – Yeah, it’s a wonderful program,
it’s a wonderful program with Yale, which the great beauty of these programs is we are training people in -demand topics, like if you’ve been to the hospital lately,
like you see the PA, right? And there is a great shortage of them, but how do you, traditional grad education, you have to uproot your family, move across the country to attend world -class grad school.
So the value prop there is let people stay in their communities, they learn in their communities, but they get a Yale education, and then they kind of stay in those communities and deploy those skills.
Right. So we have a, you know, in the to -you part of the business, you know, we have a very big online degree business and kind of healthcare, disciplines, nursing, et cetera, et cetera. But the story of how all of the business came together is,
you know, edX today is a single platform which we deliver all of those programs direct to consumer and increasingly kind of through an enterprise model,
which I’ll talk more about in a second. So it came together through to -you, which was founded 15 years ago now, and three acquisitions, three really pivotal acquisitions.
The first was Steve’s business or the business Steve worked for down in Cape Town, South Africa. Get Smarter. Get Smarter produces exec ed courses with the best universities and business schools on the planet,
six to eight weeks and really kind of topical, in -demand areas, and we can talk more about that in a second, but these wonderful cohort -based learning experiences. Then a couple of years later,
we bought a business called Trilogy, which is a boot camp business. So you can think of that as taking someone with no prior experience into an entry -level row in tech, data, coding, cyber,
et cetera. And then a couple of years ago, we bought edX. edX was part of the MOOC movement, the massive open online course movement, you know, about 10,
11, 12 years ago, and which was this magical moment, you know, New York Times, 2012, the year of the MOOC, this like lightning in the bottom moment where a couple of institutions looked to kind of democratize access to education on their campuses.
And edX was formed through MIT and Harvard. And a couple of years ago, we brought it into to -you after, you know,
a lot of conversations with Anant Agarwal, the founder of edX, who’s an MIT professor. And since then, we’ve almost reanimated the whole of 2U into edX.
So edX is now our platform. It allows us to go direct to consumer globally. 2U and edX has basically been, for most of its existence, a B2C company.
We have been selling directly to consumer. That’s relevant for what we’re going to talk about in a second. But more recently, we’ve using edX as our platform to build solutions that drive really great upskilling or rescaling programs for organizations,
companies. So for somebody who’s listening right now, especially myself, help me understand why you are making the distinction between the edX platform and then how 2U delivers.
Are they not one and the same? Do they follow a very, very different pathway? Does it just look and taste and smell totally different? So I’m giving you the history of how the company came together.
We operate now exclusively as edX. So edX is the window into the whole company. So you buy edX now. If you’re a consumer, you buy edX if you’re an enterprise customer.
We then deliver through everything that made 2U wonderful and great, including our services, the support, the tech stack that delivers really great, impactful learning experiences at scale.
So edX is 2U and trilogy and get smarter. That is the legacy kind of how the business came together. Today, we operate and go to market as edX. OK,
fantastic. Steve, anything to add to that history or that amalgamation? Hi there. I’m sorry to break into the show right now. But if you’re enjoying this show, if you are challenged,
if you’re inspired, if you’re learning something, if you think that you’re going to be able to get something out of this to put into your practice, do me a quick favor. Pause right now and just hit Subscribe on your podcast player right now. It doesn’t matter which one,
just hit Subscribe. Because that way, it’ll make sure that you never miss an episode in the future. Thanks. Now, back to the show. No, not too much. Other than what I’d say is the acquisitions themselves,
when you line them up, they kind of start to allow us to meet a learner at whichever kind of point in their career that they’re at, right? And so whether you’re kind of starting out and you’re kind of working out what my bachelor’s degree should be,
you know, we’ve got some entry -level stuff on the edX platform through to a selection of MBAs, through to executive education when you’re kind of mid -career and moving into kind of more senior levels of the business.
And so I think what that does is it empowers us to meet a whole different range of needs, which we’ll kind of jump into in a bit later. – Okay, I mean, I think that’s actually really, you know,
a fine segue there is like, so what have you learned as edX about the different needs of different learners across their career path? I feel like that’s, you know,
forgive me if I’m wrong, I was looking through the presentation you gave at ATD, you know, prior to our conversation here. And like that was one of the key slides. Like these learners obviously need different things and they make different choices.
Talk to me about that. – Yeah, sure. So, you know, what I would say is we have been working with our partners to take fantastic programs to learners,
meeting the learner where they are for 15 years now. In doing so, like we have our finger really on the pulse of like making sure we deliver the right product with the right experience and the right modality that drives the right outcome at the right age and stage of a learner,
right? So, you know, we call this kind of continuum of products from free through professional certificates and exec ed programs and boot camps right the way up to as we just talked about Yale’s PA program.
And each of those, like each point along that curve is kind of correlated with, you know, a learner or a learner needs of the need, like trying to seek an objective.
That objective is almost always progression in their professional careers. How do we meet the learner where they are? And so in doing so, we have 4 ,000 plus digital offerings across that spectrum.
Now, what’s interesting is as we’ve taken that insight to organizations looking to build, you know, upskilling, reskilling or exec head programs,
leadership programs within their organizations, we’ve taken that insight and can now package it into a solution for those companies or governments. And what’s interesting here,
Ladak is like, there’s a kind of false choice right now in talking about, you know, how do companies think about building skilling programs or developing skills?
And what does that mean for the employees looking to upskill and reskill their own lives and get career progression? The real marriage here, the two side of the challenge is both, right? How do you drive impact for the business?
How do you use an upskilling or reskilling program to develop a kind of programmer learning that builds business capabilities, drive impact and talk a little bit more about what that means?
Well, also showing career progression for your employees, right? That means certification, cohort based learning experiences. You know, for centuries, you’ve been able to go to a library and learn the latest and greatest of scientific progress.
The reality is you, me and most people learn from people, right? Learning is a social process you learn kind of from your teachers and from your peers. And so we’ve really built that into the pedagogical delivery model that drives most of our success.
So what we have seen is as we’ve packaged these amazing products and delivered it into solutions to organizations of many types, like the key is how do you build a solution that builds to something bigger that drives to the organizational agenda?
Learning as a perk is one thing, but learning that drives real impact, like a supply chain organization looking to kind of work through post COVID supply chains and digital transformation at the same time or a consulting company looking to upscale all of their consultants and the latest in sustainability and ESG investing so they can best advise their clients.
How do you build a program of learning that ladders to an organizational goal while also along the way giving each of the individuals a fantastic learning experience and a credential from one of the best universities or institutions on the planet that they can take with them in their own career progression?
When you marry career progression with business impact, that’s where wonderful things happen in this space. – Yeah, sorry, I didn’t mean to almost cut you off there,
but this sounds like it has to be a bespoke solution for whatever company you’re working with, whatever enterprise you’re about to work with, right? ‘Cause a local government versus a federal government or an enterprise that has 100 people versus 10 ,000 people,
the sector that they’re addressing or that they’re competing in, all are very, very different. So, Steve, how do you take this to market?
How do you say anything other than, hey, we’re gonna kind of build this bespoke thing for you or is that, I guess that’s part of this special sauce here?
– I suppose part of talking about special source, I suppose part of the special source in our kind of executive education cohort learning experiences is the level of contextualization that we’ve built into the pedagogical approach or the learning design,
right? And so, no matter what context you’re coming from, I think the opportunity to get or learn from others in the same industry or a different industry,
there is always some data points or some insights that you can pull into your thinking. And so, on these cohort experiences, you’re part of this global student cohort. You’ve also got access to– – Can I just,
so can I, can I, I wanna just make sure I’m understanding, so like if let’s just say I’m in Intel whatever some brand name out there and I’m taking up a managerial upskilling thing Am I also like potentially in classes with IBM or you know some other or is it like or or is it totally internal?
That’s what I’m trying to Yeah, so we give kind of two parts one the organization can put their employees on the kind of standard cohort That’s being run and then absolutely you’re joining a global cohort with students from a bunch of organizations Or to Andy’s point we give them the opportunity to almost ring things You know,
what is your kind of closed cohort that you want to create? We then work with the teaching teams and they kind of run live sessions They bring more of that that deep contextualization just for that particular organization But I think you’ll be surprised at how much students value that kind of globe global networking experience The the richness that they have being able to learn from others and then in terms of the
assignments It’s very kind of application focus, right? So it’s not just pulling from content and watching another 3000 videos the idea is Almost kind of referencing and building in what you’ve learned from the peers and putting that into your assignments.
Yeah, 100 % I would think that that’s a huge draw for many people, right? I mean myself included like When I did my MBA that that was part of the draw was that I was going to be interacting with people from around the world and Of their experiences,
I’m going to be able to say hey, that’s not how we did it here or like had that aha moment It’s like wow that I you know, I didn’t realize that was even a possibility. So that seems you know They the opportunity there seems to be the real the real win How do you then go to your enterprise clients and say all right?
Look, we know you’re not going to put your corporate secrets on the table here And you know, you’re gonna your privacy issues and those kinds of things like talk to me about that that. – That’s what we would call the tailored models.
So there we’re saying to the customer, you have, it’s usually part of a specific transformation. So an organization is going through digital transformation. What they’re gonna do is they’re gonna select a bunch of senior leaders or managers who are going to lead that digital transformation.
And then we’re gonna facilitate this closed cohort. We’ll have our learning design team meet with their L and D stakeholder. We’ve got faculty or the teaching teams from the course in. And then we’re having a conversation to say to you,
just tailor, not customize. We kind of try and stay, avoid the custom space. But we’re trying to kind of tailor that cohort to meet that specific needs of that business themselves.
So we’re trying to give both opportunities, right? – And we think, you know, just to add to that, Steve, like, ’cause you’re kind of right to tease on this.
So at the extreme end of the spectrum, you have kind of completely non -configured, non -custom on -demand learning. Like maybe easy to deliver, but not driving as much value,
right? At the other end of the spectrum, you have complete custom kind of human beings creating this from scratch. We think we’ve like found the magic in the middle where we’re taking kind of content and programs that are wildly successful from consumers self -funding themselves,
right? You know, we have 60 % of the Fortune 500, like employees from 60 % of them, are taking our exec ed courses, self -funding, and like paying with their own dollars and their own time to take these programs.
So we have these wonderful programs. We’re able to deliver them as a leadership program or if there’s a functional skill set that they’re looking to cultivate in supply chain or AI and then tailor them in these kind of closed cohorts which contextualize this learning experience within the context of,
you know, the organization. So we have, you know, a large mining corporation took one of our, I think it’s one of our Oxford programs where, you know, these live sessions towards the end,
the chair and the CEO would turn up to contextualize what’s happened, what they’ve learned on this eight week journey together and how that applies to the business challenges. Then where that drives impact is you don’t just have one person going back to the company,
you have your entire leadership group going back with the same concepts and the same principles that they can apply in their day -to -day jobs. So what are the, I mean, as with so many of these conversations I have on the podium,
it sounds like a slam dunk, right? It sounds like it’s a no brainer. You can tailor something that is not only valuable for my business, but ties to our KPIs and then it’s like the leadership.
So that’s going to trickle down through their teams, et cetera, et cetera. What are the challenges? What are the pushbacks? What are the things that you’re seeing when you’re going out to market and is it not the right content?
Our executives don’t have the right time, even though you’re saying they’re buying these courses with their own money. What are the challenges? Yeah, I think the biggest challenge companies have in this space today is they have a kind of disparate approach to learning and development across the organizations,
right? So they may work with six different vendors, they may, for it to be effective, it has to work in Workday or it has to work in Cornerstone or it has to work in any other LMS experience.
And in doing so, they’re time constrained as well as budget constrained and they’re just not able to curate the kind of program across the organization that they would like. So that’s one of the things we try to solve on behalf of our clients is,
so yes, we integrate with all the major corporate LMSs and LXPs. We also have our own admin experience that helps take that burden off the business leader or the LND leader looking to build these experiences.
And we have a team, you know, led by Steve’s team that help, you know, curate a program across an organization. So the first thing we do is we listen, like, what are you trying to achieve?
Leadership program, are you looking to cultivate technical skills? Are you looking to, you know, upscale your organization generally in artificial intelligence, whether that’s training your tech team or your engineers and genitive AI concepts,
or your leadership team and how do we think about applying AI in your business? Like, what is the goal? What are the skills you’re looking to create? And then from there, you know, we have a lot of experience in doing this multiple times to curate that experience across the relevant populations,
deliver it in one place, one place to manage it, one place to assign and track learning, one place to manage budgets, and, and deliver and then, like, assess impact and come back to one place.
Steve, I don’t know if you would agree or add to that. Yeah, I agree definitely on the time element, as you can imagine, any time is kind of almost too much time in terms of learning.
Why is that? I pose it to you. I pose it to you to, you know, learning professionals between you, 40 years of experience, you know, and again, this is a question or a conversation I have on this podcast regularly where it’s just like,
we know learning is so important. And yet, you know, it’s all like, it should have been done yesterday. Yeah, or you have. Yeah,
anyway, do you know what’s funny about is I text Steve this morning, I’m going through Oxford leadership program right now, and I missed my assignment, I had to ask for a debt, a deadline extension today.
So like, time is like a ruthless commodity. And in fact, one of the things we do in our Taylor programs is we adapt the intensity, right? Like you push out, like rather than a six week program,
you make it a 12 week program, maybe you drop the assignment without reducing the integrity of the overall program. But like, your like time is a is is a giant resource.
Yeah, it’s dull resource, man. And, and I wonder if, if Alan, the thought a bit more like product leader product marketers, they’d be a little bit more successful. So how can you continue to drive the value proposition and keep linking it to the why with your audience?
I think we do a better job of getting folks engaged in learning. But if I go back to our previous points on the challenges, time is one, I would say intensity is another.
So the programs themselves are from Oxford University, MIT, Harvard, Cambridge, like one does not simply from university’s perspective, they’re giving out certificates,
right? One does not we’re not finding this in this one. Yeah, we’re not finding this in. And so I think often, often our students are surprised at like, Shucks, I had to do an assignment and every week,
and I genuinely had to apply myself. And the reason for that is we’re so focused on the outcomes, and the universities are as well, that we almost insist on that that element of rigor,
right? Like, if you’re going to commit to this program, you’ve got to go through these assignments. So we work in this tailored model, we kind of try and acknowledge and facilitate. And so instead of a six week program,
kind of six hours a week, maybe we turn that into a 12 week program, and there’s an assignment every second or third week. And so we’re trying to accommodate as much as we can. But at the same time,
God, that level of outcome desire that we’re pushing for. So take me take me to bed to the level of the learner,
right? How do I find myself stumbling into one of these? Is this are you having conversations with the head of LND, the CLO,
the whatever to build out one of these programs, and then they’re selecting who’s showing up? Are you trickling into that conversation? And so the third part of that question would be like, how often do you maybe find people who are kind of put into one of these programs that are like,
ah, maybe not at a one, or wow, I didn’t even know this was possible. You know, all those different reactions. – So all models exist,
right? Certainly different L &D leaders or companies that have different ways of addressing this from making available a broad catalog and kind of employees opt in.
What we find drives, you know, it depends on the goal, right? If the goal is to make learning available as a benefit to employees for employee retention,
that is a different goal than designing a leadership program, or a different goal from trying to cultivate, you know, common capabilities or talents or framework in supply chain or understanding the implications of,
you know, sustainability in the supply chain, right? So depending on the goal of the leader, like the more bespoke the goal, right? The more I think it tends to be a more successful program,
if there’s a little bit more kind of, you know, top -down curation and therefore assignment like you can do X, Y, or Z, rather than throwing over the transom 3000 courses,
throwing over the transom 3000 courses, generally like isn’t a great model for driving high impact for both the employee and the employer. – So maybe,
thank you for the answer. I guess what I’m very interested in is how bespoke could I get or can I get with the model that you’re presenting?
‘Cause I could see typical business goals being achievable, such as better, you know, more sales, higher productivity in general, more efficiencies,
better safety, how granular can you get get with a particular business in terms of we’d like to transform or we’d like to enter into this market segment that we aren’t into right now,
or, hey, here’s a new technology that we don’t do yet. We’d like to bring that into our company. Is it kind of anything’s possible as long as it’s in your catalog,
or what does that look like? Maybe Steve, you want to take that one? Yeah. I wouldn’t say kind of anything’s possible. What we’re building is a six to eight -week program of incredible depth and quality,
and so that’s not a two -week production process, put it that way. I think for us, we’re trying to kind of balance that out.
Yeah, I’m trying to think. I think where we see the most demand in terms of the need that we get is in some of the things that are really disruptive. As I said earlier, some of the things that are very transformational,
and so I’ll give you some insights. Sustainability is kind of our biggest vertical, and so while we’re not going to go into the absolute details in the new show of how an organization,
their specific definition of sustainability and their particular goals around that, I think what we’re providing is the underpinning foundations of knowledge from these fantastic faculty members and experts in order to equip them to carry out what they need to achieve their transformation.
I think that the approach we take when we’re building our content is what are the most important, critical, disruptive elements that are affecting business today. And so that’s how we built our business,
in some respect, because we’re going to consume a business. We had to survive to make sure every program we launched had demand, that it was a skill that was needed and was going to be needed today and tomorrow.
And so sustainability, AI, blockchain, digital transformation, those are the programs we built and built great depth into them. And then we took that to the next level and we went,
okay, of all those disruptive topics, how do they affect the different functions in the business? And so sustainability, its biggest impact actually is in the finance area, because now they’re going to report from a legislation perspective,
what’s their impact, you know, the carbon net zero, the journey, there’s a whole bunch of legislation requirements around that. And so again, for us, I suppose we’re trying to build at that level that empowers them to use those capabilities to execute on what they need to.
How much does this, like the question I want to ask is, it does the tail wag the dog in terms of, you said, I believe it was you, Andy, that you were saying there was like some 60 % of your learners,
forgive me if I get the number wrong, that were, you know, they were using their own money to buy these courses. So did you start to say, hey, wait, like, leaders are coming out and these are the courses they’re choosing.
And then you go back to the enterprise and you’re like, Hey, guess what, you might want to invest in this because people are already spending their own, or it wasn’t the other way around. That’s a fantastic question because it’s a bit of both.
Like, it is no doubt somewhat of a superpower of ours that we have this huge consumer antenna. Like, and these are, as I said,
like, our learners in our consumer business taking, you know, the Oxford leadership program or, you know, artificial intelligence implications for business strategy from MIT Sloan,
they’re not doing that as a conceptual, like, learning exercise. This isn’t just light reading on Saturday. They’re doing that investing, you know, their own time and their own money,
they’re doing that to be more successful in their jobs and progress their careers, right. And so there is a direct feedback loop from our kind of consumer antenna. Obviously,
our university partners and our content partners have their own point of view, right. That is a process we have refined in our product process for 15 years, building fantastic products that have value in the market.
And now as we’ve gone more and more into the enterprise business, we’ve been able to tackle that with the challenges companies have in the space, which often is,
you know, I think we can, you can kind of, we think about the skill spectrum kind of at one end of the spectrum have these like evergreen, evergreen subjects around like leadership and management and soft skills,
right? We continue to invest in, but like, you know, no company is ever done taking individual contributors to managers or managers to leaders, right? So that is something we continue to work at.
At the other end of the spectrum, you have these kind of disruptive talk topics that go on this journey, which our consumer business is an amazing feedback loop into the enterprise business.
And I’ll give you an example. And Steve, maybe you can add some color here because you’ve lived this more than me. But like, you know, we look at AI now. AI, to state the obvious, is having a moment, right?
But like three years ago, you know, like, it was having a moment and it was called like big data, right? And we saw a huge peak. And then, you know, this followed the Gartner hype curve,
right? The trough of this illusion where like, oh, there was this real life application of AI and boom, chat, GPT launches, and everything AI goes crazy. I think you can make the same argument with parts of our sustainability portfolio with parts of,
you know, our blockchain, right? That like they are following this disruptive tech. It goes through this curve. And as it matures, right, to take sustainability as an example, it’s like these,
these concepts are then applied, like across these different functional areas, which is the third bucket, like functional, whether it’s finance, or whether it’s real estate, or whether it’s the supply chain organizations,
how do they apply these principles within their functions? So we kind of have this portfolio that we build over this time with this amazing consumer antenna. And like the amazing thing about selling stuff to consumers for this conversation is like,
they won’t buy stuff that doesn’t drive outcomes for them. It won’t be successful. And so like, you’re not relying on an annual renewal. And so you feed that back in. And then what’s been great over the last year is we’ve increased our enterprise business.
And Steve’s kind of led this is, well, how does that, what does that look like in the enterprise concept? How do we map that to kind of skills, tagging that companies are thinking about or the skills they’re looking to cultivate and create solutions for them?
Solutions that solve like similar problems at the employee level, right? You are upskilling an individual employee from A to B, but in aggregate,
add up to cultivating a series of skills that set up the organization for success. That’s like, it’s definitely starts from our consumer heritage. But we’ve like the last year, we’ve really begun to hone that as we’ve had these conversations.
Is that fair, Steve? Yeah, absolutely. Probably the most interesting story to build on that. We launched a fintech program years ago, back in 2016.
And as we started to watch how the students were engaging and what they were discussing, they were discussing blockchain. No one was really interested in fintech. They were talking about blockchain.
And so we built blockchain programs and they did incredibly well. And then when we started to dig into, okay, what are they discussing in the blockchain program? They were discussing cryptocurrency because we’re now back in 2018.
And so the interesting thing is that the enrollments followed the Bitcoin price, which is incredibly frustrating on the one hand. But it’s also, to Andy’s point, the sense of maturity in that blockchain as a technology hasn’t yet reached a mainstream adoption,
like AI did in January this year, right? And so it’s an incredible lens that we take to all of this stuff where consumers are actually showing you the way and they’re giving you these signals on when are these technologies going to really impact the businesses that they live in?
Wow. So gentlemen, as always happens here on this podcast, we’ve been here for 36 minutes and I feel like we’re just getting started. But let me ask you this, where,
what’s next? Like you’ve got this consumer lens that’s feeding your enterprise programs. You have either a bespoke or not program that you can offer to governments and companies.
Like what’s the next move? What’s the next level and what are you most excited about continuing to build out this enterprise business that you have? Steve,
I think you should take Ladak through Adam and me. Yeah. Yeah. I was going to. Definitely the plan. So I think for us Ladak, we see the opportunity around cohort learning leverages what we refer to as a people premium,
right, this opportunity to connect with others. And so we’ve been thinking a lot around academies in two kind of phases. One,
an academy that essentially serves an entire organization. So can you use the executive education for your senior leaders and then have a self -paced program that meets the rest of the organization?
Which I had an example earlier that everyone has a shared language and understanding. That’s first phase and we’re super excited about that. But I think the bigger price for us is can we build an executive education academy that starts to leverage additional modalities of human connection?
And so can we start to build coaching within this experience? Can we extend the cohort experience to a six -month program that has executive coaching built in?
And we’ve been talking with our university partners are incredibly excited about this, but can we build some level of assessments? And what I mean by that is if you’re going to have a leadership of programs, some kind of psychometric assessment and so at the start of the program,
you’re going to understand you know, what is my leadership style, where are the areas I’m strong in, what I need to focus on and develop. You’re going to go through that with a coach. You’re going to get onto your cohort program,
your six weeks with the rest of the leadership team in your kind of organization. And you’re going to go through this together, but we’re taking that human connection and experience to the next level.
And so we’re pretty excited about that. We’re starting to build that out, to have a conversation. We’re doing whiteboards. We’re looking forward to it. I wish I could read what’s on that whiteboard back there. Anyway,
I’m sure someone will zoom in. Maybe it already exists as a part of it. Is there an actual physical presence opportunity within these cohorts?
Like, you know, I could see it in a company. That seems to be realistic, but what about me and the more general global cohorts? Could you see like a six -month program where there’s like a capstone or a moment where the humans actually gather in one place?
The logistics behind that kind of maybe are incredible, but… Yeah, it’s interesting. We dabbled with it. And I think you’ll find there’ll be a percentage of learners who are incredibly excited about that.
The main thing is to be able to get on campus. So a couple of our university partners on the consumer side have passed student get -togethers on an annual basis, like a cheese and wine evening where they’re engaging with faculty on campus.
You can imagine the opportunity to go to Oxford or London School of Economics. Incredibly attractive. But you are right, like the idea of coming together at the end of this online cohort experience and getting in person and even having the faculty member you’ve been walking the journey with as well.
Again, it’s something we’re working on and thinking about, but at the same time part of the appeal, and this is interesting when we talk to organizations, part of the appeal with the online element is that it’s equitable in that we’re dealing with multinational organizations with leaders all across the globe.
They love the idea that everyone has the same level of quality of experience. And then there’s not an exclusiveness to it. Yeah,
just to add to that, Steve, one of the principles to you and their ex over 15 years has been the education has to be blended and connected. We’ve actually been able to work out how in an online modality you build community.
We run an MBA program at UNC Chapel Hill. You’re not just doing an online MBA program. One, they have emotions on campus. And two, it builds community. People associate with being a tar hail,
right? That’s part of the premise of 2U and how we build all of the programs that Steve’s talking about. I think when you apply this into what we’re talking about, like exacted programs,
obviously economics has to come in. We are looking to find ways where we can build the same quality and engagement and level of connection between everyone without physically taking everyone to MIT for three weeks and $50 ,000.
And are there ways you can do those emotions within the company on campus? Yes, but we’ve proven for 15 years now that you can build that community in an online connected way through the kind of modalities and the cohort based learning and support structures to be in place.
Interesting. I also love just the juxtaposition between the value in the content needs to have an egalitarian nature,
right? Everyone needs to have access to it. Maybe there’s some other experiences that then become special to the cohort, right? Or special to the company, then that becomes the added incentive.
Or leader, or you, you know, mid -career person, if you go through this and do this, the knowledge is important, but everybody has access to it, could have an access to knowledge. It’s maybe there’s some extra piece there that becomes the incentive structure.
Final question for you both. So what’s, what do you, and how do you work with your enterprises and how do you work with these programs to ultimately come back and say,
“Hey, look, it worked.” You know, like, hey, you know, this, you know, here’s, we’ve done five cohorts, and you know, here’s how they had impact in your business. Or are you responsible for that, or is that the CLO’s job?
– I think it has to be a shared responsibility, right? A key part, the first few questions when we meet a prospective new company and looking to think about working with us on the L and D program,
the question is like, what are you trying to achieve, right? So there are a couple of frames we always, a couple of frames we always go through to try and diagnose that. One, like, you know, is this a program for leadership?
Is this a program for kind of the management layer? Are we talking about a leadership program, or are we talking about upskilling and key functional areas that are really critical to whatever their business agenda is?
Like getting that clarity on which population and which type of learning is really critical. The second piece is then like tied into that is,
well, which part of our 4 ,000 programs is relevant here? And so, you know, the first piece of Steve’s Academy question is,
we have eight off the shelf academies, right? Leadership, management, soft skills, AI, supply chain, tech skills, and a few others,
that we’ve already curated like the best courses that we found from our experiences, enterprise and consumer -wise, that work in an on -demand setting and a cohort -based exec -ed type of experience,
that like tend to work off the shelf for 80 % of the kind of jobs to be done. Then the magic is okay, what’s the metric we’re holding ourselves to, how we might tailor or change that,
and then like, how do we come back six months later? But to give you a like very practical example, you know, like sometimes many of our clients are actually looking to,
you know, retain frontline employees for longer while training them for their next job, right? And the metric of success is very different to equipping kind of managers,
new managers in how to manage people rather than being Rockstar individual contributors. So like being really crisp up front, I think that there’s a shared responsibility between us and the CLO and the leadership team.
And then it’s on us to curate the right experience, measure that we have all the data on the back end of student progression outcomes, etc. Marry that with some business context.
And every six months or 12 months have a look back and say, did we succeed? Did we succeed together? And we calibrate cool. Steve, anything you want to add to that? Yeah,
quickly. In March this year, McKinsey launched a release to report where they said career growth opportunities is now more important as a retention tool than someone’s salary.
And so I think a new paradigm or something new for Alan D to think when measuring the outcomes and impact is how other learners actually move in their career forward as well.
So is it, did you speak just the business impact? I wonder if it’s now both, but can you measure both? Fantastic. Well, on that note, Steve Vander Westhuizen.
Yeah, you got it, you got it, you got it. It’s so embarrassing that I’m like that. And anyway, I, you know, you’re both from edX to you and I can’t take you,
I thank you, thank you enough for taking time out of your evening and your day up there in Maryland to speak to us about your enterprise solutions. How do people get ahold of you? If they’re interested in this,
what’s the best way to raise the hand and say, “We want to learn more”? They should get in touch. We have go on edX .com or edX .org to the enterprise tab and you’ll be able to get in contact with us that way or reach out to me or Steve personally on LinkedIn.
It’s probably the easiest way. Fantastic. Well, I wish you both a fantastic rest of your days. Thank you very much. Thank you. Great to be here. Thank you again for listening to the Heal Learn podcast here from OpenLMS.
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