Lifetime Learning: What Cambridge Judge Is Doing Online

Conrad Chua, executive director of The Cambridge MBA at the University of Cambridge Judge Business School

Let’s face it. Lifetime learning is something that deans have been talking about for ages. But until recently no school has achieved best practice in making it a reality. 

Aside from the many executive education offerings in the market, few schools have attempted to systematically the knowledge and expertise of their faculty with alumni in an on-demand basis. The pandemic and the shift it accelerated toward online learning allows schools to finally realize the promise of lifetime learning.

At Cambridge Judge Business School, one early experiment is a livestream series of 45-minute seminars featuring faculty and alumni on a vast array of topics, from ESG measurement and greenwashing to industry developments and career opportunities in biotech and Big Pharma.

Dubbed The Balance Sheet, the segments are streamed live on LinkedIn and made available on a YouTube channel for on-demand viewing. They are free and available to everyone, not only alumni, and promoted via newsletters to alums.Of the 56 episodes recorded so far, the most popular was directly related to the school’s MBA program on an employment report (see ten most popular episodes below).


In June, Judge hosted 24 straight hours of online programming that attracted 650 alumni registrations and more than 500 unique viewers over the course of the CJBS+ event. Some 83% of alums rated it as excellent or very good. Some of the highlights included Professor Christoph Loch on strategic leadership under uncertainty; Professor Andrei Kirilenko on what drives cryptocurrency markets, and an alumnus on the difficulties of the transition to a green economy.

The person behind the school’s lifetime learning initiative online is Conrad Chua, executive director of The Cambridge MBA, who has been with the school for the past 14 years. For the marathon online session, Chua says he managed to get a three-hour sleep break, but otherwise was involved for 21 hours of the event.

Some 20 months ago, then Judge Dean Mauro F. Guillén wanted to make lifetime learning a strategic priority of his deanship. He asked Chua to study what Judge could do by using technology to reach alumni.

“The strategy came out of the pandemic,” says Chua. “People had spent so much time on online, both professionally and personally, that we asked ourselves, How can we use it for lifelong learning?’”


Poets&Quants Editor-in-Chief John A. Byrne recently interviewed him about the school’s lifetime learning initiative in Cambridge.

Byrne: There are a lot of ways to get started on a lifetime learning strategy. What was your approach?

Chua: The phrase lifelong learning has been around for decades, and it has meant all kinds of things. It’s one of the difficulties that business schools have had: What is it and what do students and alumni think it is? That is one challenge.

The other challenge is, what is it for? Many business schools view it as a service that they can get a return on through a tuition fee or a donation. But the flaw there is that if you get a donation, it is years in the making and there are so many different factors that drive that gift so it is impossible to measure.

The online side gave us an opportunity because everyone has become used to meeting online and it gives you economies of scale. You can reach your alumni anywhere in the world with relatively lower cost. It is much more inclusive and much more sustainable. The question then is what is the format and what can you do online that alumni will find of value?

Byrne: So that led to the livestream series.

Chua: I just tired different things. I started a livestream series with faculty and alumni and university guests to come and talk about the critical issues of our age. I have done about more than 50 in the course of 17 months. It is called The Balance Sheet and is available on YouTube and LinkedIn.

Byrne: How do you measure it’s success?

Chua: There are two elements to success: one is the number of people who are watching either during or after the event. But it is also the kind of engagement you see by alumni who post questions or answer each other’s questions. I think that is the great boost of online. It helps to form a learning community that allows people from all over the world to connect with each other.


Byrne: How do you connect this to the notion that alumni understand Judge is providing them with additional learning?

Chua: In the beginning, I did not want to overplay the lifetime learning side. I approached it as, ‘Let’s think about content that can build an audience?’, and then we can see what the audience wants and react to that. In the beginning, it was called Careers Takeoff but that was quite limiting in terms of the people we want to engage. We want people at all stages of their careers. We came up with The Balance Sheet after about 25 episodes.

Byrne: How do you market it to your alumni?

Chua: It goes out on the newsletters and on our LinkedIn page, and it often goes out weeks in advance. That is one of the liberating parts of it. Unlike an in-person event, you don’t have to plan for the logistics, the catering, the size of the hall, and everything else.

That regular cadence really helps. It is almost like thinking of it as a TV show that goes out on Friday at 12:45 U.K. time. It always lasts 45 minutes. And we do it every week, sometimes every two weeks on a topical issue.

Byrne: Do you provide incentives for faculty to participate?

Chua: So far no. They do it because of good will but also because they find it really exciting to engage with an online audience of alums. 


Byrne: Why make it available to everyone including non-alumni?

Chua: I see this as the first part of the lifelong learning funnel. The first part is getting a big audience globally. Online has to be free in terms of access. Later on, as you build that audience, you could think about how alumni can come in person and do other kinds of activities. If you have that momentum from the online sessions, people will start to self-organize and when they come here they could run online sessions themselves with people they have met online.

Byrne: What impact have you had?

Chua: We are at this point where different schools are trying different things. It will be quite exciting to see what schools come up with to serve their alumni. In terms of impact, I think we are all at the same level. We are trying to figure out what kind of delivery and format will energize our respective communities and how can we derive some benefit from it or is it merely a cost you write-off?

Byrne: Currently, there is no monetary value you can tangibly place on this, right? This is about building deeper relationships with alumni and future prospects.

Chua: Yes. I see this as almost two things: one is building that learning community and two is the marketing of the business schools to prospective candidates and prospective participants in executive education. It tells people that once you come here, your learning doesn’t stop; you are part of this lifelong learning community. To get a deeper dive, you can come back every couple of years for an in-person executive education course.


Byrne: That makes what you are doing sound like a freemium model: you get a taste of what the faculty’s expertise and insights. If you want more, you sign up for a paid certificate program.

Chua: That is true. We did one episode on the circular economy, and we do have a circular economy research center and executive education programs on it. 

We have executive education alums who have maybe come here several years ago and did a two-week advanced leadership program. They don’t have the deep attachment to Cambridge as a degree student. We have seen them come to these sessions, and I think that is how we can build a deeper emotional connection.

Byrne: It’s interesting that you also bring in alumni for these sessions. It would seem simpler to just ask a faculty member to come along for a session. Why use alumni?

Chua: The key thing would be getting people who are in the front lights of what the topic is. That kind of interaction provides a huge amount of learning. This is what happens when the theory hits the road.

Byrne: How do you see this evolving?

Chua: I hope that we get a much bigger audience but also that they generate these learning communities where they can do their own sessions and conferences. The way we consume knowledge has to be frictionless and easy. We think that is important for any lifetime learning effort.

Most Popular Lifetime Learning Episodes


Episode YouTube Views
The Cambridge MBA 2021 Employment Report 1,300
An Alternative View To The Role Liability Driven Investment Played In The UK Pension Crisis 948
Career Outcomes For Cambridge MBA Graduates 794
Super League Own Goal, But Is It Only Half Time In This Game 428
How To Prepare For A Career Featuring Digital Transformation 410
Are We Headed For Another Banking Crisis? 384
Remote Study & Work 379
Five Things I Learnt As MBA Careers Director 371
Exploring Startup Growth 350
Building A Business On AI & Robots 334

Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.