Partners in online education
UCI's Corporate Education and Global Partnerships specializes in experiential training, with group activities and exercises similar to on-campus courses. Programs are offered in various formats: individual courses, Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), even university-accredited certificate programs – an option that Thermo Fisher Scientific found to be a perfect fit.
In 2011, the multinational biotechnology product development company partnered with UCI to develop an Integrated Marketing Specialized Studies certificate program for their marketing professionals. Many of them were scientists by training and had limited marketing experience, so there was a need to upskill the workforce through expert training.
The UCI marketing courses have been a clear success, with measurable, highly effective knowledge transfer and strong student feedback. But travel logistics were becoming impractical for onsite instruction even before the pandemic hit.
UCI had been flying instructors to locations across the U.S., Japan, China, Australia, Scotland, and more. Employees often had to travel to attend classes, which were becoming cost prohibitive, with the company paying for both instructors and employees to travel.
To reduce costs and accommodate more of their global workforce, Thermo Fisher Scientific opted for increased online training. At the same time, they wanted to maintain classroom interaction, a live exchange of ideas. UCI met this need with custom delivery systems tailored for Thermo Fisher Scientific’s employees.
So when COVID-19 shut down much of the world, it required some urgent, if modest, adjustments. The programs already in place did not have to be overhauled in any significant form, other than being made more widely available to a rush of new employees working from home, Virdo said.
“Most of our curriculum has already been offered in a virtual setting, so the content was broken into manageable chunks, with hands-on activities that vary slightly from the previous onsite curriculum,” Virdo said.
The transition has turned out to be a success by any measure. And further innovations are in the works to make virtual classroom interactions even more effective, tailored to mirror an onsite experience as closely as possible.
“Other than selling out by more than double for every course, nothing much is different,” Virdo said. “We saved money company-wide on travel and onsite services. We’ve also been working with UCI designers to ‘beef up’ our Virtual interactions and improve the experience, since we may have to shift the remainder of the calendar year to virtual offerings.”
Smaller breakout rooms are being developed, along with more video content to reinforce the course material and break up the lectures. “Also, we’ve started assigning new pre-work and ensuring that more live class time is used for group work and meaningful interactions with our instructors,” Virdo added.
Heather Virdo, head of Thermo Fisher Scientific’s Marketing University