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WORLD BUSINESS

Demand used to shape courses

By Ian Grayson for CNN

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The business-driven MBA became a global phenomenon in the 1960s.

FACT BOX

FT's Executive MBA Rankings
1. Wharton, U.S.
2. Kellogg, U.S.
3. Chicago GSB, U.S.
4. Stern, NY, U.S.
5. Fuqua, Duke, U.S.
6. Hong Kong UST, China
7. Columbia, U.S.
8. Instituto de Empresa, Spain
9. London Business School, UK
10. Tanaka, Imperial College, UK
Source: Financial Times 2005

FACT BOX

EMBA SNAPSHOT

Executives taking the top EMBA courses in the U.S., Europe and Asia have average salaries of around $130,000 to $200,000.

A typical EMBA student is likely to be aged in the early 30s, with 6-10 years of working experience.

A top EMBA course can cost $100,000. Customized courses start at a few thousand dollars.

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Schools

(CNN) -- With interest in executive education courses rising around the world, business schools are busy packing as much content as possible into very short time frames.

While MBA students have years to study and absorb business theory and practice, short-course participants are looking for intensive education on a particular topic. They want to be able to leave the classroom and put their learning into practice as soon as they're back in the office.

Recognizing this, business schools invest considerable time and money in designing courses that deliver practical outcomes. Intense competition for participants leads to content being changed regularly.

Courses can run anywhere from two to three days up to six weeks. Executives can choose to link multiple short courses together to cover a broader range or focus on areas of particular relevance to their organization.

Business schools tend to group courses depending on their purpose and target audience. Groupings range from basic technical business skills to more strategic sessions.

At the Australian Graduate School of Management, executive education courses are offered in three categories -- operational excellence, career building and engagement and reshaping.

Operational excellence covers areas such as financial basics, human resource management and marketing. Career-building courses cover introduction to management, while engagement and reshaping courses examine decision making and strategic leadership.

AGSM award program director Sharyn Roberts says courses are designed to deliver as much practical knowledge as possible, while putting it within an overall business framework.

"We are also seeing strong demand for courses covering softer areas, such as managing change and the importance of emotional intelligence in a company. These kinds of skills are very important," she says.

Intensive short courses are usually conducted on a live-in basis, providing an immersive experience. Course directors believe this approach allows participants to get much more from their time.

Being away from day-to-day pressures allows participants to focus on the course topics being and also encourages the mixing of ideas.

At the Canadian-based Richard Ivey School of Business, short courses are developed directly in response to market demand. Delivered by the same academic staff who teach the school's MBA program, the courses promise to share information that will enhance executive performance.

Recent courses have included strategic marketing, professional business writing and financial strategies for non-financial managers.

The school's executive director of executive development, Erich Almasy, says Ivey is acutely aware that companies need to make sure they get real value from money invested in executive education courses.

"There is also pressure to make courses shorter because people believe they have less and less time," he said.

In response to this time pressure, Almasy says Ivey can take a two-week course and divide it into shorter two-day chunks. Participants may get together in the classroom for the first part, undertake some online, and then finish with another classroom session.

"We can also use assignment-based learning which let's people integrate their studies more easily with their working lives," he says.

At the New York-based Columbia Business school, current short courses range from a two-day session on value investing to a 26-day senior executive program. A typical five-day course could cover skills in leading strategic change and growth within an organization and include lectures and practical group sessions.

Columbia Business School executive education associate dean, Ethan Hanabury, says the market for such courses is incredibly competitive and schools must constantly evaluate feedback from participants to ensure their offerings are relevant and useful.

"We also try to take an integrated approach to our course structures," he says. "Executives don't think in little boxes, so we try to look broadly at how we can cover a variety of areas and links within a single course."

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