IT Managers Can Build Skills Using Online Academy

By Maggie O'Neill  |  Posted 2015-04-24 Email Print this article Print
IT Manager Training

A Professional Development Academy provides frontline IT managers with mentorship opportunities from Fortune 500 executives and business school instructors.

A new 46-week online Professional Development Academy is helping entry- and mid-level IT managers expand their skills in areas such as leadership, negotiation, persuasion and the art of influence. While many of them possess a broad range of technical skills, they may need to improve their management skills.

Recognizing this skills gap, Evanta, which promotes leadership development and runs executive summits, reached out to CorpU, which offers virtual professional development courses. The goal was to create an online program to solve this problem.

"Many of the people [in the Professional Development Academy] are stepping up to management for the first time," says Alan Todd, CEO of CorpU, which utilized its collaborative learning platform to set up the virtual learning communities for the academy.

Many students in the first group to finish the course came from Fortune 500 companies, but individuals can also enroll. A second group is expected to start in June and, after that, the academy courses will be offered on a rolling basis.

Todd expects interest to be high given the access the academy provides to C-suite executives and instructors from top business schools. This includes leadership brass such as former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Mark Varner, the chief information security officer and corporate vice president at McDonald's, as well as other Fortune 500 executives. Classes are led by instructors from top business schools around the country, including the Wharton School of Business, Harvard University and the Michigan Ross School of Business.

According to Todd, it was Evanta's CEO and founder Bob Dethlefs who was responsible for bringing General Colin Powell on board to provide leadership and guidance.

"This is the single best professional development training we have received in the past decade," says Keith Albert, chief of the IT Project Management Office at the Ohio Department of Public Safety. "I have witnessed transformations in myself and in my co-workers."

The program features six courses, each four to five weeks in length. The courses include The Leadership Mindset; Positive Leadership; Change Management; The Art of Negotiation; Business Communication; and Performance Management and Outcome Delivery.

The academy uses both problem-based and practice-based learning, which enables the course attendees to immediately take what they learn and put it into practice in their communities. They also can bring their wins—as well as their frustrations—back to their peers and mentors at their company.

These virtual learning communities each have from five to seven students and provide ample opportunity for discussion and collaboration. "Problem-based learning means we're working on a real problem," Todd says. "If you don't have one, we'll give you a [simulated] one."

Students are given short breaks between each of the courses, but they are still expected to participate in their communities of practice. The managers are asked to devote an average of three hours a week to the academy, Todd explains, including an hour committed to participating in a live virtual meeting that's facilitated by a faculty member.

The participating managers can complete their other hours at any time during the week. Some organizations even give them the opportunity to log on during the work day.

The Professional Development Academy does not yet offer certification, but Todd expects that, in the future, certification will come in the form of stackable credentials.


Maggie O'Neill, a Baseline contributor, has worked as a news reporter for more than 10 years.


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