April 17, 2019

Purdue partners with Fortune 500 companies for flexible online offerings

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — It's hardly up for debate that professionals today need to keep learning throughout their careers, but it's not always obvious how to do that.

Quit your job and go back to college for a year or two? Get real.

Watch some videos on YouTube? That's not going to impress the executives, and how do you really know if you have learned anything?

Now Purdue University is partnering with two Fortune 500 corporations — Cisco Systems and Eli Lilly and Co. — to offer flexible online programs to employees to boost their performance.

Gerry McCartney, Purdue's executive vice president for Purdue Online, said each company has a specific need and is taking a different approach to the employee course offerings.

“One thing we have learned is that companies want flexibility in their online education. We are able to offer an immediately available product that works for one company’s learner cohorts rather than requiring the usual academic scheduling. We listened carefully to another company’s business problem to create a series of custom courses for their employees,” he said.

There is a real need in today's business landscape for such partnerships, says Tim Coleman, vice president and information officer for medicines development at Lilly, who is an executive sponsor of a program that provides continuing education for Lilly Information Technology employees.

“Technology is moving so fast and elements of it have become mission-critical in most businesses. So if you are a senior manager or experienced technology professional, you may recognize that a modern understanding of capabilities like cybersecurity, machine learning, IoT and automation are essential for you, but that certainly wasn't a core part of your coursework five, 10 or 20 years ago,” Coleman said. “Corporations are really beginning to understand that their best employees need continuous learning in order to continue to perform at a high level.”

Mung Chiang, Purdue's John A. Edwardson Dean of the College of Engineering, says that corporate learning is an important new frontier for Purdue.

“The College of Engineering is excited to work with Purdue Online and partner with our industry friends, such as Lilly and Cisco, in two ways: co-developing online badges in important topics as well as enabling corporate-wide learning opportunities,” he said. “Today’s announcement marks another key step in Purdue bringing high-quality content and pedagogy to working professionals.”

Jeff Cristee, vice president for worldwide sales training at Cisco, believes that partnering in innovative learning with an institution like Purdue brings credibility to his mission. “By working with Purdue to build curriculum tailored to the business challenges we are facing, we have been able to draw on Purdue's expertise in teaching and learning as well as the expertise of Purdue faculty,” he said. “The insight we have gained has been helpful in shaping our direction, but more importantly, the depth and sophistication of their thought process and research has given us the credibility we need to reach our senior sellers with new concepts and instruction that will help them meet their customer needs in future.”

Anita Dale from Purdue’s College of Health and Human Sciences and Center for Professional Selling designed the custom courses for the Cisco sales team using her experience in professional selling, one of the fastest-growing segments in business. The Purdue Center for Professional Selling offers practical experiences to develop and showcase students who seek a professional sales career or desire to supplement their education by developing selling skills.                

Partnerships with businesses desiring to upgrade employee skills through existing or tailored programming, featuring measurable outcomes and backed by Purdue’s disciplinary and educational delivery expertise, is one emphasis of Purdue Online. The initiative is designed to systematically develop and grow a coordinated, unified portfolio of offerings from the Purdue University system’s physical campuses and from Purdue Global that serves all types of students. 

Writers: Greg Kline 765-494-8167, gkline@purdue.edu. @mrgreg

Steve Tally, 765-494-9809, steve@purdue.edu, @sciencewriter 

Sources: Diana Hancock, hancockd@purdue.edu

Gerry McCartney, mccart@purdue.edu

Anita Dale , professionalselling@purdue.edu

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