Online pivot offers new options for Executive Education programs

More than 50 students in the Veterans Program for Politics and Civic Engagement (VPPCE) are engaging online rather than on campus this semester. Like educational programs across the world, the program shifted to virtual learning this fall amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Although Executive Education previously offered hybrid formats, the unexpected shift spurred by the global health crisis highlights the potential to quickly expand online delivery formats.

“We were fortunate to have some experience with online education prior to the pandemic. Our work with the online Executive Master of Public Administration and other online training programs enabled an easier transition,” said Steven Lux, director of the Executive Education Program.

VPPCE, a training program for veterans and civilians working with the military interested in political careers, is a collaboration between Syracuse University’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families and the Maxwell School. Eighteen veterans graduated from the program in 2019, its inaugural year. VPPCE’s 2020 cohort began their program in September and will graduate in January, followed by ongoing alumni engagement.

Executive Education’s programs for the U.S. Government Accountability Office and National Security Management Course also shifted to an online delivery mode this fall. One benefit is the ability to invite speakers from a larger geographic region, diversifying options and opportunities for the participants.

Executive Education’s degree programs and Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship Program have also created opportunities to engage online. This summer orientation for new students offered asynchronous content on Blackboard learning management system in addition to synchronous sessions on Zoom. The 2019-2020 cohort of Humphrey Fellows celebrated its yearlong program on Zoom in the spring, and the 2020-2021 cohort of Humphrey fellows is initially engaging in sessions taking place via Blackboard and Zoom in advance of their arrival to campus.

Executive Education’s shift to online learning formats reflects the program’s commitment to providing training to midcareer professionals no matter the delivery mode. “It’s imperative for the School to constantly adapt in the face of the trends in adult education that suggest online learning is becoming more mainstream,” Lux said. “It also complements Maxwell’s longstanding international engagement.”

While the pandemic’s far-reaching impacts created challenges, it identified additional opportunities for The Maxwell School, said David Van Slyke, dean of the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University and the Louis A. Bantle Chair in Business-Government Policy. “Building community and strengthening connections can be accomplished with intention using any modality,” he said. “We are committed to preparing leaders for a complex global community, especially in times such as we currently face.”