McKinsey Academy Offers MOOCs to Business Professionals

McKinsey Academy has developed a robust semi-synchronous MOOC platform to offer rich, interactive online professional development courses to business professionals.

About McKinsey Academy:

McKinsey Academy is the client education arm of the global management consulting firm McKinsey. McKinsey Academy provides business education to organizations and their rising professionals to increase their managerial and leadership capabilities. Additional details can be found here:

Marc Metakis, Director of Course Content and Operations at McKinsey Academy, provided details for this case study.

Learning need:

In today’s complex modern business environment, McKinsey’s clients often ask the firm to provide management training in various business subject areas. Providing this type of training through in-person channels is logistically challenging and difficult to deliver cost- effectively.

Drivers to Launch McKinsey Academy:

To address this market need, McKinsey Academy was launched in 2013 as a start-up initiative within the firm, to provide a new technology-based solution with scalable, high-quality business training. In addition to external training offerings, McKinsey Academy is also testing this training model with internal employees as well.

Target Audience:

The target audience for McKinsey Academy are business professionals, among both clients and non-clients of the firm. Topics covered include leadership, communications, strategy & finance, and innovation. McKinsey Academy started a pilot in 2013 and formally launched in September 2014 providing fee-based courses. Thus far, over 3,000 people have been trained from over 125+ companies in 20 different countries.

Key Program Offerings of McKinsey Academy:

Currently, two programs are being offered:

  1. McKinsey Management Program is a group of online courses for mid-level business professionals looking to build leadership and management capabilities.
  2. McKinsey Leadership Program is a group of online courses for top leadership teams of organizations to enhance their leadership skills.

The currently available online courses can be seen here:

The courses are taught by McKinsey leaders (usually senior partners) who are experts in the subject area, while strategy consultants function as teaching assistants (TAs). The course design includes traditional MOOC elements: professionally produced video lecture content, quizzes to maintain engagement, assignments to provide experiential learning, and discussion boards to enable social interaction. In addition, TAs host virtual office hours or conduct WebEx sessions to provide more individualized feedback.

Each course typically spans 6-8 weeks. The video lectures, consisting of 30-60 minutes of content per week, are divided into 3-5 minute easily-digestible modules. About half the videos are highly produced, with post-production animation. There is also a strong emphasis on group learning, and teams of four are formed to work on real-world scenario assignments, which are evaluated by peers or TAs.

Platforms Used:

McKinsey Academy chose to build upon the open-source Open edX platform, rather than build its own system. “We essentially have our own private instance of the Open edX platform,” said Metakis. This allows McKinsey Academy to leverage a world-class platform that is continually being improved by the open-source community, while still having the flexibility to adapt it to their needs. McKinsey Academy has committed to engaging with the Open edX community and is contributing some of its feature developments back to the community. An important business benefit is that if McKinsey Academy requires additional functionality, it is not reliant on a single vendor and can engage freelance software developers to create it.

Resources Required:

McKinsey Academy has a core team of 13 people in order to enable this platform and build these courses, which includes operations, program management, and instructional design staff. Each course requires partnering with McKinsey leaders to design and run courses. A technical resource implements and further develops the Open edX platform.

Each course requires 4-5 months to develop and involves these resources:

  • Program Manager 50% of time to coordinate the production efforts
  • Instructional designer 80-100% to design the content, leveraging the expert 1-2 hours per week, and more time from a junior SME
  • Primary filming of 3-4 days (via an external video production group), often on-site.
  • Post-production of video (typically 3-4 iterations) to add in graphics and animation.Post-production editing, according to Metakis, is often “where the magic happens, where you can take multi-camera angles and through post-production, really bring to life these three to four-minute videos.”Metakis estimates that the costs to create corporate MOOCs are in the range of 25-50% more than creating traditional e-learning content of similar quality.

Results / Impact:

The response from course participants has been highly positive and enthusiastic: 80-90% of participants said they would recommend it to others, and completion rates are in the mid- 90%s. McKinsey Academy offers a certificate for completing and passing the courses in one of their multi-course programs, and is experimenting with offering badges for completing individual courses.

Capturing data to demonstrate effectiveness will require time and follow up with clients, but McKinsey Academy is gathering insight via analytics on course activity. They find that gamification elements, such as leaderboards and badges, is an important driver of course engagement.

McKinsey Academy will continue to expand its programs, develop new courses, refine existing ones, and even potentially create custom private instances of courses for specific clients, all depending on client needs. This model of creating a new type of professional development experience has been a stunning success, and McKinsey Academy feels they are off to a great start in their mission to upskill the world’s business leaders.

Lessons Learned:

  • When considering platforms to use, thinking about both features and flexibility is key. For McKinsey Academy, strong group functionality was crucial, as was the long-term flexibility of the platform, thus they chose the Open edX platform
  • The instructional design process of developing MOOCs is similar to that of developing e- learning–the goal is to minimize the involvement of the subject matter expert through solid coordination (via a program manager) and design (via an instructional designer)
  • Make it easy on the experts by shooting ‘on location’ rather than requiring them to visit a production studio—this also provides more interesting experiences for those watching the videos
  • To drive high engagement, utilize a range of factors: strong content, a great platform, peer group assignments, and qualified, proactive TAs (who can reach out to individuals who appear to be lagging behind)
  • The optimal size for online collaboration appears to be four individuals,preferably co-located, or at least within the same time zone

“We’ve been doing various forms of online training for over a decade. One of the reasons we became very excited about MOOCS was being able to build an element of real social learning and engagement”
-Marc Metakis, Director of Course Content and Operations, McKinsey Academy

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