S1:E20 Pardeep Kullar – Building an online professional education program from the ground up

June 16, 2021 |  News
31 min

Pardeep Kullar shares her experience building Kullar College as a fully online executive education institute. She shares the skills that they provide and some of the challenges they faced along the way. www.kullar.edu


Tyler Jacobson  0:00

Welcome to LabChats, a podcast from the team at LabStats. I’m Tyler Jacobson, your host for today’s episode. Each week we’ll sit down with technology leaders in higher education to get the latest buzz and insights while we discuss current events, trends, problems and solutions. Now let’s get into it. Today for LabChats, we are joined by Pardeep Kular, who is the Founder and Chief Learning Designer for Kular College. So Pardeep give us a little bit of background on Kular College and your experience and we can take off in the conversation.

Pardeep Kular  0:36

Sure. Hi, everyone. So my name is Dr. Pardeep Kular, and I found the Kular College last year which actually launched this year. And so Kular College focuses on leadership development in three domains. We focus on Analytics Leadership, Agile Leadership and Inclusive Leadership. And in the creation of our institution, we paid attention to the market demand and kind of taking a look at what was needed in terms of the next generation of leadership, versus the traditional models of leadership that focus on like leadership traits, like charismatic leadership or transformational leadership, or servant leadership, we wanted to focus more on the tactical component that would move companies and organizations as well as their people forward. So that’s a little bit.

Tyler Jacobson  1:27

Okay, excellent. So are your customers more geared towards the businesses or towards the people that you’re wanting to enroll in your courses? Or are they the same?

Pardeep Kular  1:40

So right now, Kular College is a B2C. So really, we target students, individuals that want to learn and uplevel their leadership insights and capacity to lead. They want to take on additional projects or greater responsibility or you know, lead a team, anything like that, as well as executives and VPs, managers that are ready in that space that want to learn a little bit more acumen, and gain insight into specific leadership strategy that focuses on analytics driven leadership or agile leadership, especially during the time like with COVID happening, where all companies had to make massive changes immediately. And inclusive leadership, which is, you know, an urgent topic in today’s economy. 

Tyler Jacobson  2:28

Okay, so what courses do you currently offer?

Pardeep Kular  2:31

So we offer three programs. We have analytics leadership, which really focuses on helping leaders learn how to use data to drive strategy and growth, how to look at the numbers and understand the story that the numbers are telling, and also how to focus on the right numbers. A lot of times, what we find is that individuals…[that] in organizations there are specific individuals that have a lot of data. But that data is a little bit disaggregated, it’s a little bit chaotically, structured. There’s no story they can pull out of it, because they don’t necessarily know what they’re looking for. So we help guide them on how to find the right information to pinpoint the right data that they need to make a decision on how to move forward strategically. And that’s one of our programs. And then we have Agile Leadership, which focuses on just innovation. If we look at the core of agile, it’s really team innovation. Agile is a term that’s been really popularized in the project management space, and with Scrum, and Kanban, and all these other things. But really, agile is a leadership strategy. If you put it into place effectively, it really opens the doors for creative and innovative teams to take the lead and move the company forward with these small projects that could be iterated and iterated until there’s a final landing place where they land and they say this is what we’re ultimately looking for. A lot of times, what we found was that through my own experience, companies are delayed in taking action because they get lost in the planning process. And planning takes two years, before they even get into implementation or even like the project of taking action on the planning. And in today’s economy, you’re going to be a dead company if you spend two years in planning, right? So we’ve got to get you to iterate and get into this concept of having an agile mindset. And you develop that through the practices. And so we really kind of hone in on helping leaders understand what those practices look like. And then our last program is Inclusive Leadership. And that one really focuses on diversity, equity and inclusion, given the circumstances of what’s going on in our world today of all of the hate and the movements of inequality or inequity, and so we really are highlighting a little bit of a deeper level of understanding of what inequality and inequity has looked like and how as a leader, you can make some changes. And what that would mean to create belonging in a space of inclusiveness for all of your people, versus just a select few. And so it’s a deep level program. There is a lot of personal exposure, I would say that an individual has to feel comfortable sharing in order to get the most benefit out of it.

Tyler Jacobson  5:32

Excellent. I kind of interjected after that first one, because that’s very close to our heart at LabStats because it has data on for instance, computer lab usage and things like that. But they need to be able to get the data formatted in a way that will answer the question. So if you’re looking at a high level question, you need high level data. And if you’re looking at a very specific question, you need to be able to get very, very specific filters and things like that applied to answer a question. So I understood that first one fairly well, and the other sounds like great, great programs, just things that I’m a little less familiar with. So we had talked just a little bit before. Before we started recording. You started this in the last year and a half. Is that accurate?

Pardeep Kular  6:25

Yes. So Kular College actually launched in March of 2021. But the culmination of it has been in progress for the last year and a half or so. And I could even trace it back to maybe the last 10 years, because the formation of Kular College I should say, developed out of my own experience as an executive coach. So I’m also…I’m an administrator in the higher ed space. And then I also had this sidetrack career, which was as an executive coach for some big companies. And in the work that I did as both an administrator in higher ed and as an executive coach, I realized there was a need for really revamping what leadership looked like, but also what the educational delivery model looked like for the modern learner. So it was like when I looked at myself, and I said, “Okay, let me just take myself as an example. I’m a high functioning, high performing, high level executive in the higher ed space, and how much time do I have to commit to a leadership development program?” And if I’m learning online, what do I want that program to look like? What do I want it to consist of? And so really, we built this model of like finding…So [I experienced] the same thing, when I was coaching. Looking at a lot of the clients [that] I was coaching, were in similar high level positions as myself. So we were looking at that, like, what are the needs of this niche clientele? And we really developed a program that would target and hit them and meet their needs. Whether it was like we need quick access to learning, we need it to be robust, we need it to be informative, we need it to be meaningful, we need to be engaging, but we need it also to be self-paced and available for us when we need it versus being controlled by someone else telling us when and what not. I took programs through a couple of different organizations myself in large institutions to kind of get a sense of what online learning could look like. And before I transitioned into it, I would tell you back in, like 2017, I had thought about the idea of transitioning from being a[n] on ground executive education training company to being an online company. And I had nixed the idea, because I had said, “Well, you know what, you can’t get the same experience online as you get on ground because we have that person to person connection. In person that just can’t be emulated on the ground online even in this virtual space.” And so then we went a little bit further from that when we started developing color and color already, as we launched in March. And we’ve already gone through one big reiteration in our program, in our offering, [which was] the instructional delivery model. And that really is to make it self-paced, completely isolating the requirement for a live interaction or commitment on the students’ part because they don’t have that time, especially during COVID. When they have children at home, they’ve got all these other family obligations, work has been a little bit more stressful than normal, because of all the changes going on. So we’ve really taken that into account to create something unique that still gives them a personalized experience. But without having them make a commitment to a specific time slot that they’ve got to say, “Okay, from 11 to noon, every Wednesday, I’ve got to be here.” And what we also did was we took a strategy that is not common in the online space, and we created a one day intensive. Really a model that’s unique to say, “Hey,  we’re going to give you the same experience that you would have if you took an executive certificate program, which is usually a weekend seminar that you do in these high intensity environments, right? With networking, collaboration, group work, things like that. And we’ve taken that we said, we’re gonna do the same in a one day intensive, because giving you a three day intensive of online is a little bit much, but we can do it in one day, and the student has the option to break it up, whether they want to do it in a day and five days and five weeks, however they want to go about it. And that’s been really a unique factor for us, in driving a lot more desire, I should say, because the students are…you know, it’s kind of like, the “quick fix” economy, you know? I want it now and I want it immediately. But at the same time it’s a deep dive. We do a lot of things like, learning that integrates the concepts into their understanding and their knowledge base. And we carry a student through from understanding all the way to application, and then even evaluation. So they get the full spectrum in that one day.

Tyler Jacobson  11:05

So I’m assuming with the one day, that would be more of a joining together in some sort of format that it’s live, or is the one day intensive, just a…they’re on their own completing the material.

Pardeep Kular  11:18

Yeah, so it’s not necessarily there on their own completing their material, there is group [work] that happens, but it’s not live. So they have group interaction. So they get to interact with learners globally, but it’s not live. So they can be on their learning at 3am. If they want or learning at 8pm if they want or midnight for all it matters to us. And we also have integrated AI. So we’ve looked at AI and utilized AI as an instructional methodology to really deliver a personalized one on one experience for the student throughout every lesson by having some interaction with someone.

Tyler Jacobson  12:01

Okay. So what is the end result? Is it a formal degree? Is it a certification? What do your students…what are they working towards?

Pardeep Kular  12:11

They get an executive certificate. So it is a formal certificate in that leadership. So whether it’s analytics leadership, agile leadership, or inclusive leadership. It’s a formal sort of executive certificate. And we opted not to provide a leadership certificate specifically because having the insights and the knowledge base to lead with a specific skill set or in the domain of a specific skill set is very different from being a leader in that skill, in that skill set. And so we were very thoughtful and mindful of that, and ensured that the certificate we offered was appropriately classified. And the reason why it’s executive is because the quality of the content that we’re providing is at the executive level. We’ve partnered with Harvard Business School for our curriculum. So it’s not a curriculum that we’ve created with industry experts, or anybody else, but really, with vetted researchers and professionals and leaders, global leaders in their space.

Tyler Jacobson  13:13

So are you still getting the feedback from the corporate world of what, what types of things? Are they hoping that their employees are going to be able to gain out of this? And how is it enriching their employability and their job success?

Pardeep Kular  13:28

Yeah, so a couple of things have been going on. Some of [it] is I think a lot of corporations are just feeling a little bit stressed, and they’re a little bit disoriented. So they’re, like, “We need this, and we need this. And we need this. And we need this and we don’t know how to get it.”, is kind of a lot of it. So a lot of it has been kind of helping them channel and direct that and for us to guide them to say, “Hey, this is where we think you should start your employees,” or “We should focus on this area or this area.” So really kind of helping them streamline it to say “This is this is the one domain that we think your need is in right now. And this is the starting point we can build out on it. But this is where we recommend starting,” If they’ve got like, for example, if they’ve got someone that’s a high functioning executive that’s got like maybe a large domain of responsibility, we would suggest that they take all of our programs, and then they would get an executive diploma in an organizational leadership. So that would encompass the analytics, the agile and the inclusive leadership components into it. And with that, they have broader scope, broader understanding and broader responsibility.

Tyler Jacobson  14:42

Excellent. So what challenges have you run into as far as marketing and getting awareness because that just see