Thunderbird will offer an e-commerce program in 40 languages

Arizona State University’s Thunderbird School of Global Management plans to launch a new online Global Management and Entrepreneurship Certificate program that will offer five free online business courses in 40 languages ​​globally and aims to reach 100 million learners by 2030, 70% of them women.

The program was announced Thursday by the university and will be funded by a $25 million alumni donation matched with in-kind donations from the business school and the university, which will bring the business school at least halfway to the $100 million goal for the launch of the program. over the next two years, said Sanjeev Khagram, dean of the business school.

Khagram said the program is a natural extension of Thunderbird, which bills itself as the world’s most comprehensive and digital management and leadership academy. With the new curriculum, school administrators hope to catapult people in the developing world into business careers and entrepreneurship by showing them what is possible. Khagram said officials were particularly focused on reaching around 26 million refugees worldwide.

Those who register will receive a badge for each course taken and, if they complete all five courses in the program, they will receive an executive certificate. Khagram said he was working with the university to ensure the certificate could be converted into college credit. He noted that Thunderbird teachers will help design and teach the classes, but the program will include additional teachers from various parts of the world “for cameos” to ensure the classes are culturally appropriate.

Khagram said he expects there will be many skeptics about the plan, given the scope of the program’s ambitions, but he believes Thunderbird’s long track record in online education and in reaching international students the team to meet the challenge.

“We’ve been working on these things for a long time,” Khagram said. “We are not a start-up here. We have already thought a lot about how to use AI, how to use mobile technology, how to provide internet access to students around the world, including in Africa.

Khagram is originally from Uganda and fled the country when it was ruled by strongman Idi Amin in the 1970s, and he spent time in an Italian refugee camp before immigrating to the United States. He said Thunderbird is committed to reaching and supporting underserved populations and will partner with organizations. worldwide to ensure success.

“We know there are skeptics,” Khagram said. “We know it’s bold and ambitious. But we believe in moonshots.

Some online education experts are indeed skeptical. Phil Hill, education market analyst and co-founder of MindWires, an education technology consultancy, said even the massive open online courses juggernaut Coursera needed a decade to reach 100 million. learners and only did so with much more robust venture capital backing. than the amount Thunderbird works with.

Hill called the goal of reaching 100 million people “hype” and said Thunderbird officials “must have cold water thrown on them.”

“There’s no realistic plan to say they can come close to what they’re planning,” Hill said.

Hill said Thunderbird’s decision to offer a certificate program made a lot of sense and tapped into the growing momentum for such online offerings. But he wondered if there were 100 million people in the world who would even want to take advantage of this opportunity. Noting Thunderbird’s goal of reaching learners in Africa, he pointed out that any courses offered there will need to be optimized for mobile delivery so that students without a reliable internet connection can find one to download work and complete from home when offline.

Thunderbird officials tied the announcement of the new certificate program to the World Economic Forum’s online State of the World sessions. In making the announcement, Thunderbird pointed to United Nations estimates that the coronavirus pandemic has wiped out 20 years of educational gains.

Courses in the program will be translated with what Thunderbird officials call a “unique Google engine purpose-built for the Global Initiative.” They said native speakers will be retained to ensure the digitally translated language renderings are of high quality. Thunderbird also plans to leverage a global network of 50,000 alumni in more than 100 countries and its network of 16 centers of excellence around the world to scale up the effort.

The five certificate program courses will be developed and taught by Thunderbird faculty. These are global leadership in the fourth industrial revolution, customer experience and digital marketing in a globalized world, global entrepreneurship and sustainable business, data analytics and digital transformation in a globalized world and global financial accounting.

The first course will be launched on April 8.

Russell Poulin, e-learning expert and executive director of the WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies, a membership organization focused on practice, policy and advocacy for digital learning in higher education, said the successes of ASU in implementing innovative educational programs cannot be overlooked. But he warned that “big plans like this” deserve careful watching.

“When it comes to offering courses in different languages, other institutions have learned that the problem goes far beyond simply translating the text,” Poulin said. “There are many flavors of Spanish. There are local idioms that are not universally used. Business concepts should be placed in context. Currency units differ…business practices differ, as do cultural contexts. It’s a big job.

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