As a direct response to the health and economic crises fuelled by the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr Geraldine Kennett and the La Trobe Master of Business Admin (MBA) team developed the Online Leadership Development short course.
The Leaders in Lockdown program was initiated in April 2020 after a request from Carlton Football Club for resources to boost morale of their staff who had been stood down due to COVID-19.
Given the prevailing economic conditions, the program was extended to all La Trobe partners and the general public from May. Currently, there are more than 10,300 people are accessing key knowledge and skills to respond to evolving challenges through the course.
The content in the Online Leadership Development Course is a curation of curriculum that already exists in MBA subjects, repurposed from other modules and adapted for a non-academic working professional. The content is distributed to the course participants using Moodle, Zoom and a LinkedIn group.
“It is really a convergence of practical leadership topics from across two key subject – Critical Skills for Success and Responsible Leadership, with bolted-on topics presented by business school staff who are keen to make a difference – e.g. tailored webinars in business analytics, COVID-19 response, recovery and re-imaging and risk management” says Dr Kennett.
“Some concerned MBA alumni and staff spent Easter Lockdown developing the course ready for launching as people emerged from their isolation holiday.”
“What we thought would be taken up by about 150 staff from our partner organisations, rapidly spread to 1000, then 3,000 and now more than 10,000 people from everywhere. How were we to cope administratively and maintain high quality learning? ICT and EdTech came to the rescue with incredible support. Their role became even more instrumental as the media team sent weekly releases resulting in more media and more enrolments. We were having a positive impact on La Trobe University’s reputation and it was at this point that I felt we had created a program that united many of the La Trobe departments. As we took the leap the net was there to catch us"!
"One innovation that we were most grateful for was access to the library database. This manual process initially took 15 minutes per person to arrange login details, but as the numbers dramatically increased it became evident that ICT needed to develop an automated approach for library staff to upload external participants. The result is an innovation that may not have otherwise occurred."
As an online-only course, all of the content can be found on the LMS Moodle split into modules and supported with drop-in sessions. The course is facilitated by volunteer MBA alumni and MBA teaching staff.
Forums with alumni and teaching staff encourage participants to keep engaged with the course content and ensures they are transferring their learning to their workplace and/or community. Writing a reflective learning journal action plans and participation in discussion forums is a hurdle requirement to receive a certificate of completion.
Geraldine’s learnings from the Online Leadership Development Course span across both academic and administrative scopes.
“Participants appreciate peer-to-peer learning. That’s why we have included the drop-in sessions. The structure is now a quick poll, 30-minute break out rooms of 4-5 people, and a question and answer session about the content and further questions”.
“We realised we can’t just have a fully online program where people just work their way through the content with videos and podcasts - they want face-to-face. The participants want connection with other people”.
“As a University, we need to innovate our administrative systems in order to conduct more courses like this, on a large scale. The administration and customer service is more resource intensive than the actual teaching at this point”.
Short courses are becoming increasingly sought after by time-poor individuals and organisations wanting to upskill their staff, so this is also a good experiment into micro credentialing through ‘bite-size tasters’ which is being considered going forward.
The Leaders in Lockdown course will remain free and accessible until December 2020.
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