Interview: Glubal: A configurator for university-level education to solve the complexity of choice of study programs

Glubal logoWhether that be as a regular student, starting to dive into a chosen field of knowledge, or as a professional, taking the next career step by gaining additional skills, creating a matching a student`s very own situation of life  is very important.

However, there always have been a dis-connect: too many offers, and too much confusion. Since more than ten years, I am talking about the idea of an "education configurator".

Now this configurator finally came true.

Glubal wants to make flexible, individual university-level learning happen . The venture is just about to go live with their online configuration system and represents an educational network, connected to an online configurator.

Very simply put, learning interests (to-be students, professionals seeking promotion etc) will be enabled to configure a list of academic programs by the means of the configurator frontend. The programs offered are provided by the universities and other education facilities connected to the glubal network. The opportunity to filter avilible offers to match one`s own life situation best sounds like a compelling idea in theory.


Global configurator

Glubal Configurator: Beta version. Click to enlarge

Glubal results


Marc DrünerProfessor Marc Drüner, glubal CEO and partner at trommsdorff & drüner consultants, kindly agreed to engage in an online interview and explain the concept in more detail.

FTP: Professor Drüner, first. Congratulations to this great idea and realization! You have created glubal as an
intermediary to support a new kind of individual studying. Can you tell our
readers a bit more about the concept behind glubal and what makes it unique?

MD: Our brand glubal stands for global university network. We provide an online
platform ( )
making accredited study and training opportunities available online to students
and business in collaboration with international universities.

The idea of
derives from the background of the Bologna Reform ten years ago. The
establishment of the common credit point system (ECTS) and the
three-cycle-degree (Bachelor, Master & Doctor) in Europe makes a more
flexible and more international study possible.

As professor at the Steinbeis Hochschule Berlin for ten
years and director of an international management consultancy, I have gained
insights into economic as well as academic life. There is a problem on both
sides: Even though the employment market demands increasing flexibility from
employees and employers in terms of education and training, the current
mainstream educational system is just too rigid for many people and does not
support life-long learning. With glubal, we want to tailor study programs to
people’s individual, unique lifestyles. This is the way to ensure a smooth
entry into the jobs market and to guarantee chances of promotion by combining
working with studying for a qualification.

glubal’s USPs are individuality, flexibility and
. The unique feature of our concept is the glubal study
configurator ( ) . Dependent on a student’s personal requirements,
fields of interest, personal budget and chosen method of study, every course
component of our global university network can be combined flexibly and
individually with other components from elsewhere to create a study program
lasting as long as personal circumstances dictate. We ensure that the module
combination selected by a student will lead to a recognized degree.

FTP: Do you consider glubal’s target group to be more the
regular student, trying to go a more flexible way of studying or the “lifelong
learner”, the professional aiming to get additional qualifications?

MD: There is no conflict between students and
professionals for glubal in terms of the target group. Our service is aimed,
above all, at graduates and employees interested in promotion. We also offer an
attractive alternative for current students who need more flexibility and
individuality in their study.

Besides potential students, companies and colleges can
also benefit from our service. For companies, glubal offers not only a whole
new way to access the talents of tomorrow, but also the connection to the
university sector. For colleges and universities, we make it possible to take
on a growing number of students, to fill more places on existing modules, to increase
international brand recognition and improve access to business.

FTP: Establishing a network that allows to (more or less)
freely combine courses from different universities and nations with each other
sounds like a really challenging task, especially given the fact that the
awarding of academic degrees is regulated by national law. How do you ensure compatibility
between all these different modules?

MD: The given background
of Bologna Reform I mentioned before is the corner stone of mutual recognition
of credit points and academic degrees between colleges and universities in
different countries. People have been working on a more transparent and
compatible education system in the international context since more than ten

I think we have reasons to believe that this trend will carry on and
evolve further in the future and that glubal will be able to promote this
process. However, glubal will not interfere with the given administrative and
approval processes for academic modules at our glubal partner universities. The
degree-granting universities stay in the driver-seat and stay completely free
to define, which modules of other universities they do accept under their given
examination regulation.

FTP: The Bologna Process intended to do what could become a
reality with glubal: Allow to study internationally, not just in your country,
and in a way that works best for your interests. Yet, many politicians,
academics and students say that the ideas of Bologna have not been implemented
well enough to really work. What makes the glubal approach more promissing to
achieve better results in comparison?

MD: Of course there are still
dozens of problems to solve even after ten years reform, especially in terms of
the compatibility between the qualities of modules in different universities.
But you cannot deny that the mobility of students inside Europe has greatly
increased at the Erasmus program for instance. We believe in the vision of a
more tolerant education system in the future in the scope of Bologna Reform.
With glubal as an educational initiative we would like to contribute to the
process of harmonization between universities and help shaping a more flexible
education system in the future.

FTP: The idea of highly customized academic learning is not
new. Until today one of the great bottlenecks has been the lack of a
well-designed configurator, allowing (future) students to select the right
modules for their individual life situation and learning goal. Can you tell a
bit about the process in which your clients will select their individual
courses? Are they being guided or just presented with a configurator?

MD: We have been working the whole time on the more simplified and clearer
configuration process. Basically, a student only needs
to visit our online platform, choose his preferred subjects and other options
in our configurator and he will get the suggested study combination from the
system. Of course we also offer personal study consultancy through free hotline
with our professional study advisor, who will accompany the applicants along
the whole way of application.

Our first course begins this
autumn and the application has already started. Our glubal team will do the
best to cover the individual needs of our applicants. With the further
expansion of our global university network, we will be able to offer even more
flexible configurations in the future.

FTP: Developing a system that, if it works, could do a lot
to make flexible life long learning a reality is certainly no easy process. Can
you tell a bit about how you worked on designing the system? Did you work
closely with students and lecturers to get an idea of what they really desire
in a sort of customer co-creation?

MD: I am director of an international
management consultancy and professor at the Steinbeis Hochschule Berlin for ten
years. This kind of career combination enables the possibility to exchange
opinions with students, lecturers and companies for me. I have realized that
there are huge demands from both economy and academy in increasing flexibility
of the education system. The idea of glubal derives exactly from these demands.

FTP: Studying for a master's degree takes about five years,
often more. glubal is a private profit venture and as such is subject to the
laws of the market. How can you guarantee that students will be able to
complete their studies as planned in case of, say, glubal (or HighEd Solutions)
becoming insolvent?

MD: glubal is an aggregator of
studies and does not grand degrees. glubal students will enroll in and enter
study contracts with the chosen universities, and earning real credit points as
every other normal student. In this sense, they don’t carry any market risks in
terms of the possible fluctuation of glubal’s profitability.

FTP: Can you tell about your network of educational
institutions (universities, online course academies,…)? Which and how many
partners does glubal have so far and where are they from, geographically?

MD: glubal stands for global
university network. We have been in contact with universities from the USA, Great
Britain, Australia, Turkey, France, Iceland, Spain, Italy, Chile and of course
the so-called DACH countries (Germany, Austria and Switzerland). Many of them
are already official members and many other have given very positive feedback. We
are optimistic that our network will successfully expand to these regions. We
have also planned the market entry in BRIC countries in the future, starting
with Asia in 2013.

FTP: glubal offers scholarships as well. Can you tell a bit
more about these?

MD: We have already announced
the first three scholarship students for a bachelor’s, a master’s and a
doctoral degree at one of our first partner universities, the Steinbeis School
of Management in Berlin. With the growing membership of our university network,
applicants can expect more attractive scholarships at glubal in the future.

FTP: What are your plans for the future? Where do you see glubal
heading in the next 10 years and what do you think can (and should) still be
improved about the system/process as it is right now? Can we expect more
integrated services in glubal in the future?

MD: Like I mentioned before, we
are now already active in many countries. The intention of internationalization
will increase in the future. We have already planned the market entry in the
BRIC countries (Brasil, Russia, India and China) in 2013. Of course there are
still a lot to improve in every aspect, for example a bigger university
network, more personalized configuration, more optimized platform usability and
so on. The driving force in our team is to provide high quality education with
unprecedented flexibility to all students of the world.

FTP: Professor Drüner, thank you very much for the insights into the concept on glubal. Much success!!

About the Author:

Frank T. Piller is a Co-Director of the MIT Smart Customization Group at the MIT Media Lab, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA, and a chair professor of management at the Technology & Innovation Management Group of RWTH Aachen University, Germany, one of Europe’s leading institutes of technology. Before entering his recent position in Aachen, he worked at the MIT Sloan School of Management (2004-2007) and has been an associate professor of management at TUM Business School, Technische Universitaet Muenchen. Frequently quoted in The New York Times, The Economist, and Business Week, amongst others, Frank is regarded as one of the leading experts on strategies for customer-centric value creation, like mass customization, personalization, and innovation co-creation. His recent analysis of the crowdsourcing business model “Threadless” (co-authored with Susumu Ogawa), an innovative crowdsourcing business model in the fashion industry, has been elected as one of the Top-20 articles in MIT Sloan Management Review.