Online Schools Connect Hospitality Professionals Around the World with New Skills

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The Hotel School at Cornell University has been teaching future executives the ropes of the hospitality business for the past 100 years. In the early 2000s, the university founded eCornell, an online learning outlet providing more than 50 courses and 10 certificate programs with content specific to hospitality leadership, operations, and much more.

Nancy Weislogel, executive director for online learning and open enrollment programs at Cornell’s SC Johnson College of Business, has been working with eCornell for 16 years, and says, “With a wide range of available content, it’s ideal for folks who are now to hospitality up through senior executives, all who are seeking to advance their careers. We also attract service related industry leaders who are interested in getting into hospitality.”

Around 90 percent of eCornell’s enrolled students are working professionals, and programs are completed on their own time. However, it’s recommended that students take three to five hours a week to complete a course in two weeks. “The model is flexible to accommodate different schedules. It’s designed for folks working on the job, and there are different tools, discussion boards, and projects along the way to engage with the material and draw on the best practices and challenges,” Weislogel says.

Twenty-five to 30 students typically begin a session at a time, and although working at their own pace, each can participate in relevant discussions. Weislogel says, “We make it as dynamic and interactive as possible in order to increase the learning and interactions. There are people all over the world sharing their stories and challenges.”


Certificate programs consist of five or six courses, where a six-course module would take three months minimum if a student were completing a course every two weeks. Each certificate program has projects where students can put what they learn into context at work and discuss with supervisors or coworkers.

Although put together by The Hotel School’s faculty members, the courses and projects are graded by former students and hotel leaders called upon by the faculty member who created the course. Weislogel says, “Projects and work are graded based on a rubric developed by the professor. It’s a nice mix of faculty content and expert-led facilitation by an individual who really knows the content from the industry.”

While data on promotions and career success have not been quantified, Weislogel says students are equipped with new skills unattainable prior to the course or certificate program. “People come to us for many different reasons. Sometimes they’re supervisors or management team members who are filling a gap where internal training is unavailable. Many times, it’s employees who are looking for professional growth opportunities. While we can’t promise promotions, we promise learning, good experiences, and sharing of best practices and challenges with people all over the world.”

Internationally, the program has skyrocketed since conception. Over Weislogel’s career, 200 countries have participated in some form of online content through eCornell. Recently, the school launched six-course commercial real estate and food and beverage certificate programs. Over the next 12 months, new content, development, and design will be added to the eCornell course portfolio and website.

Weislogel adds, “One of the goals of The Hotel School is to have reach and relevance in the industry, and online learning has allowed us to reach places we never could have. Cornell University is in a fairly isolated place in upstate New York–it’s not the easiest place to get to—but through online learning, we can reach the world.”

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Robin McLaughlin is digital editor of LODGING.