Distance learning

Professor Wing Lam, dean of IT management programmes and director of pedagogy at online university U21Global explains training initiatives with Emirates NBD

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By  Imthishan Giado Published  December 28, 2008

ACN recently caught up with Professor Wing Lam, dean of IT management programmes and director of pedagogy at online university U21Global to discover how the school is working with Emirates NBD to train the latter's management.

What joint training initiatives do U21Global and Emirates NBD have in place?

It's a programme aimed largely at their middle managers. Emirates NBD is one of the most innovative banks in the Middle East in a very competitive industry.

Sometimes when you go to a traditional face to face programme, you end up being taught by local professors who may not necessarily have a global perspective of business. With U21Global, professors come from Singapore, India and the US so that the students have a much more global appreciation from those academics.

One of the things that it has done is to take another look at its talent development strategy. They've identified the Middle managers as one group of people who require broad based management development.

We recently finished the first class of a programme - a certificate in management. It comprises six modules - finance, financial risk, leadership, IT management and strategic management. The programme is roughly seven months in duration.

What's interesting about it is that it's a blended one. What I mean by that is that some of the teaching is done online, some are face to face sessions and some are webinars, so it's a mix of different delivery methodologies.

There were around 28 participants and they really enjoyed the programme. These people have very busy work schedules as you can imagine so they really like the flexibility in the learning that takes place in this kind of programme.

How do you plan the training around individual chedules?

Most of it is delivered online. What that means is that the students log in as and when they want, not at a particular point of time. What we have is online courseware which is developed by experts in the area.

The second aspect is the online discussion board where you can log in and discuss a particular issue and log out. Then someone can log in later and add their viewpoints to the discussion.

This is what the students actually did. Some of them were logging-in in the morning, some in the afternoon; some even did so after work in the evening. It's very flexible.

We also run what we call "Webinars". These are live one hour sessions run by a professor during which students can ask questions. This is again accessed via the computer.

The students don't physically need to go to a classroom - they can access this wherever they are. Even if they can't access it at that certain point in time, the session is recorded and they can view it later.

How many of these elements are customisable by the enteprise?

The programme for Emirates NBD is highly customised. This is not one of our standard, off-the-shelf programmes. This one actually came about through long discussions with the HR managers at Emirates NBD who also discussed it with the actual business stakeholders within the bank itself.

If you look at the case studies that we use in the programme, they are all about banking institutions. The whole programme is very customised to the specific learning needs that Emirates NBD laid out in their initial list of proposed requirements.

What shortfall in skills does this programme aim to address?

Emirates NBD is still very much a regional bank among its peers in the sense that its core operations are in the Middle East. But if you look at the finance industry, banking in general is  moving towards becoming more global in nature.

If you stay in the same bank in the same region, you won't necessarily develop a global perspective of the industry. One of the key learning outcomes of this particular programme is to give students a much more global appreciation of business.

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