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Fuqua Launches First Purely Online Degree

The Fuqua School of Business at Duke University (Photo by Alex Boerner)

In what will likely be the first in a series of online degree programs, Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business today (Nov. 16) launched its first purely online master’s in healthcare analytics. The school said it would open applications to the new 17-month program next month for the first class to start in September of 2018.

The program, aimed at healthcare professionals with five to seven years of work experience, will carry a tuition pricetag of $65,000. The 18-course program will begin with an on-campus orientation of two and one-half days and end with a capstone project in which students will work with a company on a data project in the health care space.

The new degree builds on Fuqua’s successful launch this year of a face-to-face master’s program in quantitative management for pre-experience candidates. The school received more than 1,000 applications for the program and enrolled 142 students when it was initially expecting only 40. “It is what gives us confidence to extend the coursework into this new area,” says Fuqua Dean Bill Boulding. “The market has responded to this in a positive and powerful way. We didn’t expect over 1,000 applications to come flooding in. That was a pleasant surprise, and we were in a position to scale up to meet that demand.”

PROGRAM WILL FEATURE A MIX OF BUSINESS FUNDAMENTALS, ANALYTIC ESSENTIALS & A HEALTHCARE FOCUS

Fuqua Dean William Boulding (Photo by Justin Cook)

The school concluded that it could successfully expand on that demand with an online option devoted to a focused area. “We knew from day one that it was totally logical that we would introduce a working professional version because companies were telling us they were trying to hire talent or develop existing talent in this area,” adds Boulding. “This will appeal to the payer networks, the providers, the biotech and pharma firms. It’s everyone who is involved in healthcare. The especially challenging issue is how to move our world of healthcare from a quantity-based system to a value-based system. Without deep analytics, you are not going to make that transiton.”

The new online master’s in health analytics will feature a mix of business fundamentals, including leadership, ethics and communication courses, but also core courses in analytics focused on working professionals in healthcare who want to be, in the words of Dean Boulding, “more relevant in the world of big data.”

Courses will delve into machine learning, data infrastructure, data visualization, among other things, but also classes on health care institutions and strategy, integrated care management, analysis of healthcare outcomes, and ethical and legal issues in healthcare analytics. “It’s an interesting package of content that brings together a variety of domains that we feel hit the sweet spot,” adds Boulding, “instead of picking off one component of what people need to have in this healthcare analytics space.”

FUQUA WILL LIMIT ONLINE COHORTS TO 40 STUDENTS

The school will draw upon at least 18 different faculty members to deliver the course, including professors from Duke University’s medical school. “The number goes up because some courses will be jointly taught with faculty drawn from across the university,” adds Boulding. “But every course would have a lead instructor who then brings in people with deep expertise for different segments. One of our faculty members is Mark McClellan, the former Food & Drug Administration commissioner and the former head of Medicare and Medicaid Services.”

Boulding says the school will limit the online cohort to 40 students, with teams of five to six students each. “We are choosing to go at a more intimate scale by delivering the program with asynchronous content that can be accessed at any time within the structure of a cohort with scheduled exams and assignments,” says Boulding. “That was important to hold on to team-based and collaborative skills. Then, there will be synchronous delivery and team0based work that keeps us true to who we are.” Depending on the demand for the program, Fuqua could then scale up another cohort at a time.

Though the program is for working professionals, Boulding said that students should not expect a masters-lite offering. “They will be working their butts off as they juggle their professional responsibilities, their school work and maybe even their personal lives,” says Boulding. We think the data analytics space is amenable to the online format, and we also think the health analytics space in particular is an area where there is desperate needs. Duke and Fuqua have deep expertise in the healthcare area, and our current residential program doesn’t have a health analytics track.”