WEST LAFAYETTE - Purdue University is partnering with two Fortune 500 companies, Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq CSCO) and Eli Lilly and Co. (NYSE LLY), to offer flexible online programs to employees.

Executive Vice President for Purdue Online Gerry McCartney says the companies have differing, but specific needs and will take different approaches to the courses.

“One thing we have learned is that companies want flexibility in their online education. We are able to offer an immediately available product that works for one company’s learner cohorts rather than requiring the usual academic scheduling. We listened carefully to another company’s business problem to create a series of custom courses for their employees,” McCartney said.

Lilly Vice President and Information Officer Tim Coleman says there is a need for partnerships like this. 

“Technology is moving so fast and elements of it have become mission-critical in most businesses. So if you are a senior manager or experienced technology professional, you may recognize that a modern understanding of capabilities like cybersecurity, machine learning, IoT and automation are essential for you, but that certainly wasn't a core part of your coursework five, 10 or 20 years ago,” Coleman said. 

The custom courses for the Cisco sales team were designed by Anita Dale from Purdue's College of Health and Human Sciences by using her experience in selling. The Purdue Center for Professional Selling will offer practical experiences to help students develop selling skills, with the ultimate goal of the initiative being to develop a portfolio of courses from the university's physical campuses and from Purdue Global.