Rapid Skill-Building Cohorts: The ‘Mini’ Movement

One of the cohort programs I helped develop and grow was something called a ‘Mini-MBA’.   In its essence, it was a 16-week program that provide MBA-type content to our supervisory and junior management employees  Sixteen different instructors covered 16 different topics.  There were no tests and very little homework.  The employees were able to study higher-level business content, quickly – and with their colleagues.  In some cases, the Mini-MBA served as a precursor to a full MBA or other business degree.  In many cases, the program offered just enough business acumen to make the employees more valuable to the organization.

Here is the business case.

Executive summary:

This organization wanted to provide a quick and concise program that provided current business skills and perspectives to those in its organization that did not really know if they wanted to pursue formal business courses at a college or university.  A program was developed and delivered that employees completed in 13-16, weekly, 3-hour classroom sessions.  The university partner provided a certificate of completion to successful participants.

Describe the problem:  There was a large employee population that needed a more thorough understanding of both general and industry-specific business skills.  Many had extensive technical or operational skills, but limited exposure the business or management content.  The company wanted to limit its exposure to long-term tuition costs, plus they wanted some customization of the content for their industry.

The non-credit courses were outside of the organization’s tuition reimbursement policies, and had to be paid for from budgeted learning accounts in each department or business unit.

Corporate and business strategy:  Find an academic partner that would be able and willing to provide custom business content in a non-credit setting.   Negotiate a flat-rate price with minimum and maximum employee participation numbers.

Details on the implemented solution: A local university was identified that had previously offered something called a ‘mini-MBA’.  The program ran once a week for 16 consecutive weeks.  The company worked with the university to customize some of the content for its industry and negotiated a flat rate for the set of courses that made up the ‘mini-MBA’ program.

Initial marketing for the program was done based on a manager’s recommendation of an employee’s potential.  After a few cycles of the program, the recommendation part was eliminated – and employees were able to make direct application to the program.

Since this was a non-credit program, it was marketed to employees as a program that had no tests and no homework.  For the most part, all of the content and learning was presented during the 3-hour weekly class sessions.

Major Problems:  Because it was not-for-credit, the program was difficult to market to internal employees.  Registration was typically slow – yet almost all classes were offered regularly.  The lack of tuition reimbursement funds for the program made many managers hesitant to support their employee’s interest in the program.

Outcome: Enrollment remained solid, but inconsistent.  Initially, successfully offered twice per year, employee demand diminished and the offerings became annual.  After about 8 years, the ‘mini’ concept was expanded to more industry-specific programs for employees.


About Gary Stocker
Since 2004, I have developed more than a dozen academic partnership programs with 7 different universities. I have developed the web site: www.collegecohorts.com to share the tips, systems, and processes that were used. Theses partnerships include certificate, degree-building, degree programs for a major midwestern health care system. Examples of the academic partnerships include, MBA, MHA, RN to BSN, MSN, Allied Health, and Nurse Case Manager.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: