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How IE University’s Emphasis on Stackable Competencies and Change Skills Sets Its Approach to Online Education Apart

Written by Evan Schiff on Mar 30, 2022

Related content: Diversity And Inclusion, Boot Camps, Executive Education

Communication. Collaboration. Stakeholder management and negotiation. At IE University (IE), these are examples of “change skills”—as in “the ability to understand what it takes to transform what exists and improve it,” says Teresa Martín-Retortillo, executive president of IE Exponential Learning. From IE’s perspective, it’s the pairing of change skills with tech skills like coding, data analysis, and cybersecurity that helps make an individual unique and stand out in the job market.

“Oftentimes, we forget the power of combining change and technology skills,” Martín-Retortillo says. “But the data tells us that’s how you find and create leaders who can drive real results and impact. With over 50% of Europe’s workforce needing to be digitally reskilled, this emphasis on teaching change and tech skills together will be critical moving forward.”

A new global 2U partner based in Madrid, Spain, IE has been working with us to bring this synthesis of change and tech skills to life through 2U-powered educational programs that multiply the bandwidth of its already expansive online and on-campus offerings. Particularly renowned for its esteemed business school and blended learning MBA program that is consistently top-ranked worldwide, the university was looking to augment the ability of its School of Sciences and Technology to scale faster in the alternative credentials space. With 2U, IE has launched a Web Development Bootcamp to complement its previously established data science boot camp, soon to be followed by four tech-focused executive education courses ranging from predictive analytics to AI for business leaders.

“With the know-how that 2U brings to market, the thrust of our partnership is to accelerate programs in support of the university’s vision for lifelong learning,” Martín-Retortillo says. “2U has both the instructional content and the people to help us make that happen.”

Teresa Martín-Retortillo, executive president of IE Exponential Learning

The Pursuit of Precision and Proven Methodology in Stackable Learning

Last year, as IE was looking for the right partner to help extend its global reach, a Burning Glass study about the impact of COVID on the future of work resonated with Martín-Retortillo and her team. “The study pointed out that the content of any given job can alter up to 40 to 50% over a decade, and the content of a tech job can alter even more,” she says. “Between the years 2015 and 2025, for example, the definition of what makes up a job can be fundamentally different. So when we talk about lifelong learning, we need to separate the demand for jobs versus the demand for competencies—and dig deeper into the skills that are being sought out. At IE, we’re putting a lot of effort into creating the right course units for those competencies and the right rubrics for assessing them, so that they’re compatible and stackable with each other.”

With the exponential growth in stackable and modular learning as an essential way for learners to keep up with the rapid pace of technology, remain relevant in their professional roles, or pivot to new career opportunities, Martín-Retortillo likens the curriculum development process to that of designing Lego blocks. “Legos offer tremendous flexibility in building things, but in order to stack correctly, they must be precisely defined down to the micro-millimeter,” she says.

At IE, this means it’s important to build the right bridges between study and work—and vice-versa—so that individuals can drive their careers in whichever direction they choose. “Credentials like boot camp and course certificates are some of the stepping stones people can use to stack competencies toward their professional goals,” Martín-Retortillo says. “2U’s methodology for boot camps is tried and true, and the content is constantly being updated, so that will help us stand out even more in the crowded boot camp category. We’re also wrapping those critical change structures around the core technologies to be taught in the executive education courses. With 2U’s help, IE can continue to deliver quality and the great learning experience that people expect from us in order to succeed in their careers.”

Diversity Across Cultures and Generations

In seeking to extend its global reach, one of IE’s many advantages is that it’s already an international melting pot, boasting a student body of over 130 different nationalities. The ability to appeal to all kinds of learners, both near and far, is baked into its DNA.

“If you were to walk around campus, you’d see we’re incredibly diverse across races and nationalities, and we’ve been that way for a long time,” Martín-Retortillo says. “Diversity is a core value of IE; It’s very much who we are. If you want to continue driving innovation, embracing cognitive differences and complementary viewpoints is key. That’s one benefit of being part of our culture: You really do get to interact with people from a variety of backgrounds.”

Connected to its mission to support lifelong learning, IE’s goals also include increasing intergenerational diversity, which the university envisions achieving through creating more access to opportunity online.

“As the workforce continues to evolve, one of our challenges is, how can we teach in a way that’s relevant for both the 28 and 48-year-old learner—and how can we make something magical happen when they interact and share perspectives?” Martín-Retortillo says. “We also strongly believe that someone can start a learning track at 60 and become proficient through their journey. Part of our 2U partnership is helping us become a platform that welcomes people of all ages; where learning is a stepping stone toward a fulfilling career no matter how old you are. Really, all teaching and learning institutions need to figure out how to do this better in the future.”

Never Losing Sight of That Human Touch

Across all of IE’s programs, Martín-Retortillo explains how important it is for the university to emphasize “the human dimension” when it comes to helping learners prepare, adapt, and thrive in a digital world. As their needs evolve, so must IE.

”Learners today are expressing a greater desire to define their own purpose and happiness and the relationships they wish to have. In our own data science boot camp, for example, we encourage mindful medicine, because the learning process is a long-term marathon. I’m sure that will carry over into the 2U coding boot camp, too.”

“IE integrates the ability to connect and have a conversation in everything we do,” she continues. “It’s not a model based on videos you watch at your own convenience. Human interaction plays a critical role in how we develop as professionals—no matter how automated or scalable technology becomes.”


Are you interested in becoming a full stack web developer in 24 weeks? The first cohort of the IE Web Development Bootcamp starts June 6, 2022. Learn more.

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