HEC Paris Leaders of Tomorrow Series

Lift-off for HEC Paris-Coursera’s Online Adventure

September saw the launch of one HEC’s most ambitious education courses, the Online Master in Innovation and Entrepreneurship, OMIE. 18 months after Dean Peter Todd asked Associate Dean in charge of Digital Marc Vanhuele to construct the business school’s first-ever 100% online degree course, OMIE opened its internet valves to welcome the first batch of students from the global web community.


A total of 17 nationalities, notably, but not exclusively, France, the USA and Pakistan; an average age of 37; and a diversity of horizons, with a dozen different job functions represented, two-thirds of which are managerial posts.

These are just some of the features of the successful candidates for the inaugural OMIE crafted by HEC Paris academics, led by Professor of Marketing Marc Vanhuele and Associate Dean for Executive Education Nathalie Lugagne, and the school’s Digital Learning Team.

The program’s Academic Director, Tom Astebro, has teamed up with some 20 HEC professors for the Master degree’s contents. This includes the creation of a new open course by Ambroise Huret entitled “Entrepreneurship Strategy: from ideation to exit”. “This course, part of the degree’s “Scaling Up” specialization, gives prospective and current students a taste of what our online courses are like,”  explains Professor Vanhuele. “We decided to offer it because we are aware of the commitment both the degree and certificate represent to those interested. It is natural they explore this type of discipline which is free-to-download.”

Online degree reaching out globally

Marc Vanhuele also underlines the tremendous work achieved behind-the-scenes since March by HEC’s Digital Learning Team. Their aim? To make the online experience as life-like as possible: “We want the OMIE students to feel they are as important to us as students on the campus. They have the same status and our online programs are designed to feel identical to classroom experiences.”

“This degree is part of a strategy where we reinforce the digital pillar for HEC Paris,” insists HEC Dean Peter Todd. “It has allowed us to access new markets and new kinds of students. On the social side, this digital education creates pioneering openings towards a burgeoning African middle-class and a vibrant community in Asia.” Indeed, the number of active leads is impressive. – Over 4,000 people have applied for, or have professed an interest in, the degree. Hundreds are based in 22 African nations (with Egypt and Nigeria topping the table) and 10 Asian countries (led by India and China).

The online degree is accessing current and aspiring entrepreneurs and business leader thanks to HEC’s partnership with Coursera, the world’s leading online company which boasts 25 million learners globally. “The OMIE makes a world-class degree accessible all around the planet,”  comments Coursera Chief Business Officer, Nikhil Sinha. “This Master is designed to combine the convenience of online learning with the rigor and selectivity that HEC Paris is known for.”

From the start, the OMIE has enjoyed glowing reviews in media circles. “A unique degree,”  wrote Le Monde. “Groundbreaking,”  trumpeted Cision PR Newswire, adding the program is “designed for present and future business leaders who wish to drive innovation within their organizations.”  The Economic Times of India noted that HEC Paris has forged a program with an “entrepreneurial angle (which) will help students explore a new way of thinking when faced with different opportunities in social ventures.”

Re-inventing business school education

Students are to work in teams for a six-month period on a project of choice, from the planning stages to bringing the idea to life, all the while enjoying mentoring from seasoned business leaders. Successful graduates will be able to move their respective projects into its next phase by applying for seed funding from HEC Paris. This will see their project come to fruition at HEC’s incubator, found at Paris’ unique Station F.

“HEC Paris and Coursera are re-inventing business school education to fit the needs of today’s students,”  underlines Nikhil Sinha. “The OMIE will give ambitious entrepreneurs all around the world access to an international network of business leaders and a rigorous curriculum from a highly reputable business school.”

About the Author

HEC Paris specializes in education and research in management sciences. As a leading academic institution in Europe and worldwide, HEC Paris offers a complete and unique range of education programs for students and executive education programs for leaders.