“Online education is the greatest thing since the invention of democracy”: interview with Nina Rung-Hoch

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It is not online versus in-class. It is online versus none!

Nina Rung-Hoch

Nelson Mandela said that education is the most powerful weapon to change the world. If it is true, then Nina Rung-Hoch is an accomplished warrior. With 25 years of military, corporate, and academic experience in developing and delivering executive and board education and programs worldwide, she became an expert of online education.

What brought you to online education?

As a “good” HBS grad I worked in finance after graduating from Harvard. However my heart has always been in education. Not everyone needs more money but everyone could benefit from more learning couldn’t we? :-)
Also, as an immigrant to the United States (from Denmark), I was incensed by the notion that access to education (and health care while we are at it) was determined by your economic status. In the 00’s I was invited to teach graduate finance classes at at university in Seattle (think MS, Starbucks, Amazon, Adobe territory) and after teaching a few classess I was asked if I would work there full time. I did not know anything about the university world. I ended up taking a 200% paycut compared to my former position…..yet I knew this was the right thing to do.
In retrospect I also think my classes were very popular because they were….how do you say it…very politically incorrect. I saw “finance” as it was expressed in 2005 as THE problem and for sure the ’08 crash was staring directly at us. “Flee the industry” the professor said….
Shortly thereafter I was given the opportunity to launch a fully online global MBA program and I jumped at the opportunity. After many sleepless nights and long hours with a great international team we were off and running. My philosophy is “People support what they help create” and that was also the case here. The short version……costs went down and quality went up along with enrollments. More importantly…..this is when I realized what had bothered me about the “online versus brick&mortar debate” (which was very heated at the time).
The question is not: “Is online as good as in-class”. I came to the conclusion a better way of thinking about it is: “It is not online versus in-class. It is online versus none” for many many people. It made me angry to hear those white-upperclass commentators sitting on their perch criticizing the online world of learning. Of COURSE it is often better to be in a classroom with 15 bright students and access to a world renowned professor. However, that isn’t and will never  an option for the other “99%” so let’s do the best with what we now have.
With that in mind it has been especially rewarding to see those who typically not would have had a chance (or time) to finish a degree do just that. Single parents, first time college grads, minorities. Did I mention introverts?

How do you believe online education will change the world?

I believe it already has changed the world. NEVER before in the time of human history have you had access to education and training at low or no cost disregarding your color, gender, income, physical location. Never! Now we do. Granted some may spend the time on singing cats, porn, and make-up tips, but that’s the way it has always been with technology, you can use it for many things good or bad depending on how you look at it. The good news is….if you have the desire and discipline you CAN access top notch information and education …it literally is at your fingertips.

To your opinion, how can new technologies transform our ways of working?

New technologies allow you to “bend” time and distance or get pretty close. It can be the best part of globalization in that you can work and learn from great minds you typically would not have had access to or the opportunity to get to know due to …….location, socioeconomic status, age, etc.

Do you have examples of organizations/schools that successfully developed their collective intelligence?

Let’s nor forget the typical educational institution still mirrors the pyramid command and control organization in the same manner as the traditional church or military. Just have a look at the processions, robes, and staff at graduation and you get the picture. However, it will change in the future. Not all millennials have taken the blue pill.

Can you tell us of your current projects?

I am building a series of online degree offerings of accredited programs with a focus on Africa, Asia, and the Americas: you can learn more at
Additionally I teach online. You must have skin in the game to speak with authority as well as to be able to course correct based on practical experience, not just theory. Finally I serve as an advisor to a number of Ed-Tech companies and start-ups. I love all of it – I feel privileged to be part of this.

What makes you truly happy?

Being with people who are Smarter than me. Seeing a, albeit slow, move towards new ways of collaborating. Just look at git-hub or ColelctivZ….there’s hope. And let’s not forget… warming, financial corruption, coarsening of the “public debate”…yet…how do you tell something is really good? You put it next to something really bad (i.e. the current reality). Just maybe enough bright and or kind minds combined with the right technology can be the perfect storm for radical collaboration before we all fall over the brink? That’s my hope and what I work for.


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Boris Sirbey

Boris is Chief Editor @HumanAge and CIO @MyJobCompany. He has a PhD in Philosophy and is a specialist of Collective Intelligence Engineering. Super Powers; #Geek #Innovation #Change Management #Collective Psychology #Resilience Linkedin profile.

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