Mega Trend Individualization: Building Your Own Continuous Education Program

May 02, 2022

Modular approach: these are the opportunities and challenges for learners

Individuality offers freedom of choice. This is the core principle of one of the most important social developments of our time: pursuing your dreams as the unique individual you are. The choices and creative scope in doing so have grown bigger than ever before. This mega trend has also found its way into the field of professional continuous education.

Barbara Stöttinger, Dean of the WU Executive Academy, analyzes the ways in which individualization changes management training and the resulting future challenges and opportunities for students.

Many white paper ships, one of them - in red - breaks out of the row to the right
Freedom of choice, self-realization and self-determination - the megatrend of individualization that does not stop at education. Photo © shutterstock - Pasuwan

Whether people are able to lead a meaningful and happy life depends to a great extent on whether they are able to live in freedom and make important decisions themselves: how and where they want to live, which profession they want to take up, or which religion they want to follow. Individualization is a process that increases individual freedom and opportunities, which also comes with more challenges, though. This development has been significantly accelerated by the COVID crisis and the progress of digitalization.

Individualization as the Order of the Day

Today, it has become easier for people to lead their life according to their personal desires and ideas. The flip side: to a much greater extent than in the past, people are expected to reflect on the way in which they want to live their life. Freedom of choice makes it necessary to make decisions.

“Individualization in the area of continuous education has three dimensions: People want to choose individual learning paths. They want to decide for themselves which contents they want to address when and how. At the same time, many people feel overwhelmed when it’s left up to them to decide which skills and competences they are going to need in the future in the face of the increasingly complex and dynamic challenges that are characteristic of today’s world of work,” explains Barbara Stöttinger, Dean of the WU Executive Academy.

Curated Contents and Individual Career Support

Students need a reliable and experienced partner who offers them support at eye level and helps them devise their learning journey according to their individual needs and requirements. “‘Curated contents’, that’s the buzzword in this connection,” Barbara Stöttinger shares.

Barbara Stöttinger Portrait credits vgn

Barbara Stöttinger

  • Dean of the WU Executive Academy

We always start with an analysis of the students’ situation (in life) and where they want their professional journey to take them. We then compile tailor-made learning packages in close cooperation with our participants. These packages are based on relevant contents and ideal learning schedules but also take into account participants’ budget, family situation, or preferred learning setting.

Continuous Education Building Blocks for Managers

“We want to offer our students a modular system of continuous education building blocks which they can adapt at wish according to their needs and interests. At the same time, our learning and career experts will support them with comprehensive advice and guidance before, during, and after their studies (the latter are our services for alumni),” Barbara Stöttinger explains.

Here’s an overview of the most important elements of this modular system:

1. MBA Upgrade: Starting Out Small Before Going Big

“Some of our participants have been flirting with an MBA program for some time but still choose a short program first, because it better fulfills their current needs for new skills and knowledge, teaching them pinpoint expert know-how in the fields of digitalization or new leadership, for example,” Barbara Stöttinger relates. Some of them then want to complete an MBA at a later point in time. Now there’s a way which allows them to continue their learning journey: Students may choose, for example, from a three-day hybrid program on “Organizational Design & Agile Leadership”, a compact course entitled “Blockchain Transforming Business,” or a twelve-day program on data science. Credits from these compact continuing education courses are recognized for later MBA studies. The costs will remain the same, no matter if students start with a continuing education course or directly with their MBA studies.

A seminar room of the WU Executive Academy with students
Many of our short programs can later be credited toward an MBA degree.

2. Labs and Hot Topics for More Individual Decisions

Labs and Hot Topics are specialization modules that are part of our various MBA curricula. These one- to two-day modules deal with topics that are defined together with the students at the start of their MBA program. This allows faculty to even better adapt the contents to current events (COVID-19, crises, etc.) and the needs and interests of students. In recent years, the MBA curriculum was, for example, complemented by topics such as neuromarketing, strategic foresight, trend spotting, or global crisis communication.

3. myMBA – Customized Study Programs

Every MBA program includes courses that focus on general management, forming the so-called Business Core of the program that imparts basic knowledge in the fields of business administration, management, and leadership to the students. Future students will be able to compile a customized curriculum for their specialization. Barbara Stöttinger explains: “Instead of specializing in finance, they may, for example, combine two finance modules with selected entrepreneurship & innovation and marketing & sales modules, whatever suits their individual needs best.” The WU Executive Academy’s learning and career experts know which contents are covered in which modules. They can support students’ selection, helping them combine the modules most suitable for them.

Building blocks made of wood are stacked on top of each other
In the MBA, modules of different professional directions can be combined, and thus tailored to personal needs. Photo © shutterstock - Yuganov Konstantin

Choosing one’s own curriculum is not obligatory, though. “Our tried and tested pre-curated curricula will, of course, remain available,” Barbara Stöttinger affirms.

4. Passing on Knowledge and Learning Settings: Hybrid Vs. On-Campus

When selecting a program, future MBA students no longer only look at its focus and quality but also its format and, as a consequence, available modes of studying. “This is why we offer our students a choice between on-campus and hybrid tracks. As personal circumstances are as diverse as our participants themselves, it’s all about flexibility: many students prefer a combination of online and on-campus lessons, appreciating a flexible and varied offer,” Barbara Stöttinger shares.

In general, modules are held on campus in Vienna every six weeks. In the hybrid track, classes are reduced from four days on campus (Thu-Sun) to two days of online teaching (Fri-Sat) in every other module. To make up for the two on-campus days, students participate in additional online sessions offered as part of the pre- and post-modules. This way, students on the hybrid track can spend half of the Business Core (program kick-off plus three modules) on site at the campus while also enjoying the benefits of the more flexible virtual classroom in the three other module blocks.

For more information on how to design your Learning Journey, visit our program pages.

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