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Collaborative consumption of online web, business, and entrepreneurship classes

By leveraging existing educational institutions, the ECE could provide a platform to connect web entrepreneurs with the learning institutions teaching the skills required to develop successful web ventures.

Photo of Denny Pallenberg
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As a recent graduate of a full time MBA program that is developing a web start-up, my experiences align well with what this question is trying to understand. While I am now better prepared to create a successful web start-up, the burden of student loan debt often prevents me from taking the risks associated with start-ups.

Colleges and universities around the European Union are already teaching web, business, and entrepreneurship classes. The fact that only the people sitting in these classrooms can access this information makes it an incredibly underused asset. The rise in collaborative consumption business models to share everything from cars, homes, and office space has shown that people are willing to pay for goods when they need them.

While people can take online or continuing education courses, they are often not taught by the caliber of instructors found at many of the leading educational institutions. Similarly, online and continuing education courses many times do not provide a solid community around which to germinate more complex business ideas.

By leveraging existing coursework and teachers, and its network of regional entrepreneurship centers, the ECE could provide a platform of learning and idea sharing at a fraction of the cost of traditional graduate programs.

How will your concept support web entrepreneurship?

1. High-caliber educational opportunities (often supported by tax dollars) would be available to a larger percentage of the EU population. 2. People can spend their time on the courses that are most relevant to their business ideas. 3. Provides a greater variety of course from all over the EU, while reducing the amount of time spent on courses not specifically related to business ideas. 4. Connects a larger community of web entrepreneurs with the tools, funding, mentors, and knowledge required to create scalable businesses. 5. Creates opportunity without the burden of high student loan debt. 6. Cross pollinates ideas across institutions, networks, socioeconomic populations, and cultures.

What kinds of resources will be needed to get this concept off the ground and scale it?

Resources: • Technology – Platform required to integrate online learning with the classrooms and teachers across countries and universities. • Capital – o Top-down: Initial investment from governmental entities in technology and program development would be required to get the program off the ground. o Bottom-up: Course enrollment fees o Side-to-side: Any companies that would benefit from increase capabilities of the workforce could support this program with funding or technology • Partnerships – o Technology companies with appropriate technology could provide their technology as a platform to develop a larger community of technology innovation. o Universities and colleges willing to open up their coursework are an essential component of this idea. o Partner with organizations currently working to expand this field including the Hubs, SoCap, and other entrepreneurship and technology affinity groups. • People – this program would use teaching assistants and other professionals to mentor online students. o This system would not cause more work for teachers and professors. o Would develop closer relationships between students and existing companies, while providing strong experiential learning from practitioners in the field.

How could we get started?

• Reach out to the European members of the Hub and ask their thoughts on this idea. • Work with the “We Mean Business” campaign to see how this program could work in parallel to meet their goals of increasing training and employment in younger populations • Engage college and universities to see if they are interested in expanding their virtual learning platforms and see what is already working well for them. • Speak with technology companies to see what current technologies could be utilized to achieve to the learning, collaboration and networking capabilities required to make this project successful.

Virtual Team:

Thank you to Katrina Elroy and David Arnedo for their seeds of my inspiration.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Amy Bonsall

Nice idea, Denny. I'm curious about a couple of things:

How would you envision the classes working? Would students be able to interact with each other or the professors in some way? What about using entrepreneurs to help support versions of the classes and provide their own twist on them?

At my business school we supplemented entrepreneurship class with fieldwork in which we worked for start-ups, something that was an invaluable complement to the classwork. Perhaps part of the requirement for the class would be to find a start-up that could use help and volunteer for them. What might be other ways to get a "real world" element into shared courses?

Photo of Meena Kadri

I can add some insight on online learning as I did my Masters a while back through the ahead-of-it's time, highly rigorous Masters in Design from RMIT, Melbourne which is delivered online. I completed it over 3 years and lived in 6 countries during this time. There was a high level of interaction between global students and faculty via forum topics – you could add images, links, discussion... not dissimilar to how we do on OpenIDEO. We collaborated remotely on creating outputs like websites, start-up proposals, written assignments, etc. At other times we pursued assignments and research individually but always had avenues to discuss with our classmates and faculty as our work progressed. Notable guest lecturers would join us for some modules. I especially liked that most students were actually working rather than being full-time students – and so could draw on current professional experience and share with others. I agree with Amy that real-world elements would strengthen Denny's concept – with the great advantage of being able to discuss that real-world experience with your online class and share learnings.

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Hi Menna. Really like the idea about creating an open source platform for entrepreneurs! Through utilizing the European Centers for Entrepreneurship Network, access to classes and videos allows for these web entrepreneurs to leverage resources to learn how to build their business.. seems like almost an OpenIDEO/Khan Academy combination we have here!

Photo of Denny Pallenberg

I went to the Bainbridge Graduate Institute for my MBA. The program focused on sustainability and was referred to as their "hybrid" program with 3 weeks of online learning and one intensive a month for four days. The benefit of the online component was the exposure to working in virtual teams which is more the norm than it was just ten years ago. But it was the in-person learning and community the worked as the glue to bring the people and ideas together in a cohesive manner. It is my firm belief that any online learning should have a face-to-face component to create the bonds and form the relationships required for business 4.0, 5.0. or where ever we may be at the moment.

Photo of Denny Pallenberg

@ Amy, at BGI all of our courses were co-lead with professors and practitioners in the field. With the current progression of business, I believe this dual approach to business education is imperative. From my experience, my professors never had enough time to manage all of their classes and students needs, so adding to their work would not seem like an ideal way to get their buy-in. I feel like a good strategy would be to have additional teaching assistants and practitioners teach the online components. Students and teachers could watch the recordings together while being able to comment on the class content. We used a platform that allowed for up to 6 people to speak in a conversation that would also easily move the class into smaller discussion groups. There was also a chat box for more immediate comments on the lectures.

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