Next week, an innovative MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) featuring SnapShot's demand management segment will debut via Coursera. The MOOC was developed by the European startup in conjunction with ESSEC Business School and Coursera over the past year, in order to offer hospitality students and industry professionals a chance to expand their knowledge of current industry trends and management and operational strategies. SnapShot and ESSEC are joined by Duetto in presenting this subject in three segments: hotel distribution, revenue management, and demand management.

I recently spoke with David Turnbull, COO of SnapShot; Peter O'Connor, Dean of Academic Programs at ESSEC, and Janel Clark, Head of Education and Consultancy at SnapShot, to glean a better understanding of the genesis of this MOOC, and why it is so important for the industry. Here's what they had to say.

"Can you tell us how this demand management MOOC come about?"
David Turbull:
It occurred to me that companies like Coursera and Edex had a low supply of hospitality related content . So, based on our own wish to increase the scale of our educational services for future leaders, we started approaching various university partners about their willingness to work with us, exploring if we could convert the content of our demand management bootcamps into an online course.

We focused on ESSEC out of the need for a very credible partner, known globally, but with a European footprint, which is part of our heritage as well, to certify students who want to go further than our MOOC on commercial strategy and on demand management. So that's really where the first conversations with ESSEC took place.

In future, we hope to form a collaborative hub where other companies could come in and build other content around this, effectively building a digital online library of resources to help existing as well as future hoteliers get real, up-to-date, zeitgeist content on how the industry operates.

That's the ambition and in this first generation, three partners ESSEC, SnapShot, and Duetto, have come together to create a specialization in Hotel Management. Our hope, as we move forward, is that other industry partners will join us and ESSEC in bringing more content into the Coursera environment, so that we can build this up a credible database and library of up-to-date content.

Peter O'Connor:

This course is something that David, Michael Levie [SnapShot board member], and Lennert [De Jong, SnapShot board member] really believed in, and they really believe in education as well, particularly in trying to make the next generation aware of what's happening in the industry, and what some of the trends are, trying to make things a little bit better.

So this course came out when David and Michael said, "Okay look, we're doing this in schools one at a time. Wouldn't it be great if we could do something bigger?" At ESSEC we started to experiment with this whole concept of MOOCs – Massive Open Online Courses– so we started tying the two together. The project originated as a single MOOC, with SnapShot and ESSEC talking about distribution and demand management. We pitched this to Coursera, and they came back and said, "You know that's a really, really interesting idea, but you're thinking too small. Having one MOOC from this area isn't going to be enough. Why don't you do a specialization?" A specialization is basically three MOOCs, plus an assessment module. So they said, "Okay, we'd like you to do this, and fast. In order to help you do this fast, we're even willing to finance it." Because they obviously saw it as a high demand area, we ended up pitching the specialization in early June, got accepted by the end of the same month, and, then, we had to develop it.

I developed the first MOOC, which is on hotel distribution, Duetto did the second MOOC, which is on the fundamentals of revenue management, and SnapShot finalized the third MOOC, which is on both demand management and on breaking down the siloed departments in the industry. Finally, there's the assessment module, which is yet to come.

To summarize, the whole idea is to reach out to as broad an audience as possible globally, not necessarily high-level people in companies, but really the next generation who is going to manage and work within this particular area.

Janel Clark:

I was one of the first collaborators to contribute content towards SnapShot’s series of Demand Management Bootcamps, which started in 2013. It was funny, as when the MOOC was recorded 2 years later, it was the first time that I'd seen some of the work that I had contributed towards, and it had morphed into this accessible platform of online content and exercises.

"Why an online course? How will the benefit students and what will it do for the hotel industry?"

David Turnbull: The next question for us was, "How can we get this message out to as many students and future leaders at possible?" You have this whole army of people who enter hospitality at different levels of education, and qualifications, but ultimately they all end up spending their first two years considering if they're going to stay in the industry, and if so, where are they going to grow into. We feel that at this level they're the most primed to receiving guidance. And if they get the right guidance they can actually help to introduce the industry to this other way of looking at things, a way of breaking down these commercial silos.

Peter O'Connor:

To me, this whole way of doing this thing, the MOOC, the combination of the video with the readings with the examination and so on, to me it's the textbook for the future. These days you can't write a textbook because by the time the bloody thing comes out, it's out of date. And you can't update it and you can't keep it live. With the MOOC for example not only can we, whenever we want to, switch out various components, there's also the user forums where people are interacting with each other, where we can jump in and add extra data and so on.

One of the things, for example, that we're introducing is we're going to do a quarterly webinar with different people involved in the MOOC and from the industry, to talk about what's happened in the last three months. So we're able to constantly update the content and keep people up to date on what's happening, and what the latest trends happen to be.

As a method of giving a base level of education and a base level of knowledge and understanding to everybody, it's a phenomenal development.

The Takeaway

My discussion with SnapShot's David Turnbull also showcased larger value for students, and the future of the innovative education process. Turnbull, a longtime expert in industry education, spoke briefly about the value of students being able to fully customize their learning experience. He also cited this as yet another reason for partnering with ESSEC and Coursera. Turnbull explained, "We want to be part of a wider collaboration where our customers, from an education point of view, can tap into knowledge from ourselves, from ESSEC, and from other partners in the future as well."

The future of this kind of MOOC collaboration seems bright indeed, and Turnbull reflected this. The SnapShot co-founder heaped some praise on his new head of education, industry veteran Janelle Clark, who joined the startup just last month. Rolling out this technology-centric course has been a challenge, especially having had to do so on a tight deadline. We also learned SnapShot will be developing a Mandarin-language version if the Demand Management MOOC for early 2016, a clear strategy towards expanding into the Chinese market.

With a number of bootcamps under its belt, SnapShot is uniquely positioned to educate people hoping to better know today's hospitality industry. Turnbull says the company will next institutionalize their educational effort as SnapShot gleans valuable insight via working with various universities and schools. All in all, this new Hotel Management MOOC represents a paradigm shift in hospitality management training, one imbued with cutting edge business intelligence trends, and predictive analytics knowledge. The future of this kind of MOOC looks like the future of hotel management training.

Phil Butler
Senior Partner
Pamil Visions PR