Category Archives: Global Higher Education

Are Universities Teaching the Wrong Entrepreneurship Process?

I’ve long wondered why so many schools support a business plan/VC model through contests and course work when most of their students will never be in the running for venture capital. Over the past few years through Startup Mason and other activities, we’ve moved to a more experiential model/process for entrepreneurship education. We’ve supported action, iteration and experimentation in lieu of planning. (Though many contests demand plans and/or executive summaries).

Dileep Rao at Forbes.com has an interesting piece arguing against teaching business plans and competitions and for a more hands on approach to learning entrepreneurship. There is much good in this piece for those who care about entrepreneurship education.  From Rao,

 As I am constantly repeating, the capital intensive VC model has worked in Silicon Valley, but seldom outside. While 88 percent of Silicon Valley’s billion-dollar entrepreneurs used venture capital, 91 percent outside Silicon Valley did not.

This means that universities may want to consider the following:

  • Teach students how to build businesses using capital efficiency, not just capital intensity. Most areas do not have successful VC funds. Even if they did, most VC funds do not build home runs. The top four percent of VC funds earn about 65% of industry IPO profits. Getting money from the other 96 percent may not do much to build a great company or to make you wealthy. With capital efficiency, students learn to grow without wasting both time and their opportunity in order to seek VC, only to be rejected by VCs. VCs reject about 98-99 percent of entrepreneurs who seek funds from them

  • Encourage students to build their business with smarts, not money. Less than five percent of VC funding goes to startups. This means that students need to learn how to build their business, and actually get some traction, before anyone will take them seriously. Universities should teach them how to do this.

  • Teach sales. Selling is the oxygen of a new business. To sell is to succeed. Unfortunately, many business schools believe that teaching sales has no academic value. Without sales, there is no business.

  • Encourage business startups rather than business plans. Universities organize business plan competitions with the hope that wise judges can pick winners. VCs, who are the foremost ‘wise judges’ in the business, fail to reach their target 80 percent of the time. If the VCs, who are full-time professionals, fail 80 percent of the time, why do universities think that their own ‘wise’ judges can do better?

  • Teach all students, rather than just entrepreneurship students or business-school students, how to build a business. I have found that many business-school students do not have a new-business opportunity to pursue. I would suggest casting a wider net in the hope that students in other schools have ideas for a new business that they want to develop and grow.

If you are involved in entrepreneurship education or considering studying entrepreneurship, read this entire article by Rao as it will give you many things to consider as your approach university entrepreneurship offerings.

Has Online Education Won Wonders Daniel Pianko @UniVenturesFund

Just received the latest University Ventures letter with a piece, “You Won”, by Daniel Pianko. He explains that his tenured professor brother has acknowledged the future is online and that #highered is going to get whipped by educational equivalents of Amazon and Uber:

As colleges and universities face off against new technology, how does this game compare with the one retailers and taxi drivers have been playing?

It’s true that three million American students – nearly 1 in 6 enrolled at colleges and universities – are earning degrees entirely online, without setting foot on campus. But they are doing so at accredited universities (nearly all regionally accredited). Students haven’t fled the system for an Uber- or Amazon-alternative. Overall enrollment is up 18% over the past 5 years. And new private sector universities (i.e., publicly traded companies like Apollo Group, parent of University of Phoenix), which had seemed on a path to market domination, have experienced enrollment declines.

At the same time, my brother sees clouds on the horizon. As Ben Nelson, the founder of the Minerva Project, explained to me, about 100,000 students at the University of California and California State University systems take Psychology 101 each year. Psychology 101 is a first year lecture class with, on average, over 200 students in each class. That’s 100,000 students, at an average of $1,500 of revenue per student per class. So Psych 101 generates $150M in revenue at a cost of delivery that can’t possibly exceed $50M. As a result, the California systems generate $100,000,000 of gross margin (i.e., profit) on Psych 101 – a contribution that is used to support other activities in the systems. What happens, my brother rightly and fairly asks, when new entrants like StraighterLine and UniversityNow push the price UC and CSU can charge for Psych 101 to the actual cost of delivery? What will UC and CSU have to cut?

That last question… what goes away? Is that the only question? How about… what can get added that people will pay for? Or are their new customers for the traditional goods (face to face interactions, dorms, extra curricular activities?). There is lots of opportunity out there!

A Self-Publication Gold Rush? | Disrupting Higher Education | The Chronicle of Higher Education

Amazon is playing a role in disrupting academic publishing. From Marc Bousquet at the Chronicle of Higher Education (h/t Paul Rogers)

En route to a professorship of rhetoric and writing at the University of Texas at Austin, Clay Spinuzzi published scholarly monographs with the MIT Press 2003 and Cambridge University Press 2008. Last January, right on schedule, he brought out a third book, Topsight: A Guide to Studying, Diagnosing, and Fixing Information Flow in Organizations. His publisher this time? Himself.

Using the Amazon CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform and a couple of thousand dollars in freelance graphic design and copy-editing, Spinuzzi will make back his financial investment after 300 copies are sold. That’s because he’ll earn exceptionally high royalties: Around $7 for every digital copy, a little more for each print-on-demand paperback. If he sells just 1,500 copies, he’ll earn $10,000. If he gets to the academic equivalent of best-sellerdom—15,000 copies—he’ll easily clear more than $100,000.

Those numbers flow from Amazon’s revolutionary royalty structure. For self-published e-books priced under $2.99 or more than $9.99, Amazon pays a 35-percent royalty. But for those priced between those benchmarks, authors can clear 70 percent for themselves. The sweet spot is designed to keep prices within the range that traditional publishers expect for mass-market and many trade paperbacks­­—and to keep Amazon from underpricing its own traditional wares.

Later in the piece,

Of course, even in the narrower world of textbooks and other works for lay or crossover readerships, the possibility of a cash payout isn’t the only advantage to self-publishing. Spinuzzi cites swift turnaround, freedom to experiment, and greater creative control of layout, images, and content: “I got away with a lot of things that traditional publishers wouldn’t allow,” he says. “Something as small as referencing Scooby-Doo can really set the tone for a book, making it friendly and accessible, and I didn’t want to give that up.”

In the end, those advantages may have more and more influence upon young scholars, for whom the digital-humanities movement has begun to at least modestly undermine the centrality of the monograph in scholarly communication.

Today’s digital humanists increasingly share not only the apex of our analysis but all the constituent elements of our research—unedited oral history in various languages, for instance; edited, arranged, and translated clips; slides; searchable raw data; sorted data; collected primary texts; annotations of primary texts; and so on. This digital, multimodal, social, dynamic scholarship is truly unsuitable for (merely) print, as Jerome J. McGann and others at the University of Virginia’s Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities proved long ago with projects like the Rossetti Archive and the Sixties Project.

I am excited to be experimenting with some of the tools/technologies as I finish up my dissertation over the next few months.

via A Self-Publication Gold Rush? – Commentary – The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Venture College @BoiseStateLive Launches in August

Received a thoughtful email from Greg Hahn at Boise State University the other day telling me about their new Venture College. Sounds very exciting and it seems they have buy in and support from the entrepreneurial community in Boise. Can’t wait to hear about their incoming class. From Venture College’s homepage:

Venture College prepares students to launch businesses or nonprofits. This new, non-credit program is open to all full-time students in any major , especially non-business students. Students who successfully complete the program receive the Boise State University Venture College Badge.

Start-up is Fall 2013. While the application deadline has passed, we are accepting applications for the wait list. If you would like to submit an application and be added to our wait list click here to apply. We expect to notify wait list applicants on May 15 as to whether or not there is room in the program.

Interestingly, when you visit the Why Venture College page you read this…

Boise State is taking a leadership role in developing models to teach the skills necessary to succeed in the 21st century.  We are challenging traditional educational strategies and piloting new methods for superior, relevant education. One of the new models is Venture College, a skills-based program that will prepare our students, especially non-business students, to launch enterprises of economic and social value, some while they are still students.

Venture College will provide self-paced, on demand access to knowledge, intensive mentoring and an opportunity to compete for resources needed to start a business.

Venture College is a unique university-wide initiative independent of any academic college and structured as a concurrent, non-credit program for degree seeking students.  This independence from traditional course, credit and accreditation requirements frees Venture College to deliver an innovative and rigorous non-traditional experience for those students, regardless of discipline, who have a passion for starting their own businesses or working in new ventures.

Pretty exciting, glad to have learned about Venture College at Boise State and we’ll see what the Broncos come out with and what the playbook looks like in August 2013 when the first class begins.

via Venture College | Green light your dreams.

MBA Students: Why Take an Internship When I Can Start Up?

When I took an internship with a pre-IPO startup in between my 1st and 2nd years of bschool at U of C I was nearly alone on the entrepreneurship career path. Today the route is more established and the infrastructure is filling out. From Inc.

An increasing number of MBA students are foregoing traditional summer internships in favor of a start-up experience, reports Bloomberg Businessweek.

Thirteen percent of this year’s Harvard Business School graduates founded or worked at a start-up last summer—a 4 percent increase since 2011—while 9 percent of both the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and Stanford Graduate School of Business’s graduating classes did the same.

“[Students] want a different skill set. They’re looking for a skill set that’s appropriate for start-ups and small fast growing companies, which is quite different from the skill set they’d need for a large company,” Prof. Erik Gordon, who teaches entrepreneurship at University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business and University of Michigan Law School, told Inc.

BTW, the BusinessWeek article by Erin Zlomek has some great information and anecdotes.

Business accelerators have become another popular destination for first-year MBA students looking to start a business over the summer. These programs, which support startups through a combination of grants and mentoring, legal, accounting, and other services, are highly competitive and frequently reject applicants who aren’t committed to dropping out of school if their companies flourish. “I made a spreadsheet of 55 or 60 accelerator programs of all different flavors. Some paid, some didn’t, some took equity,” says former Harvard student Danielle Weinblatt, 29.

Again, its great to see how much the infrastructure for entrepreneurial students is growing. As to be expected, much of this is coming bottom up or from off of campus.

via MBA Students: Why Take an Internship When I Can Start a Company? | Inc.com.

#Hackmason | edx/XBlock · GitHub | MOOC

Startup Mason and The Mason Center for Social Entrepreneurship are hosting HackMason 1.0 on April 5th and 6th. We will be offering broad #highered challenges for our attendees (sign up here). One of the challenges will involve developing for edX and its Xblock. Here are some basics at GitHub on XBlock Courseware Components from edX.org (created by Harvard and MIT):

XBlock is a component architecture by edX.org for building courseware.

This is a pre-alpha release of the XBlock API, to gather input from potential users of the API. We like what is here, but are open to suggestions for changes. We will be implementing this shortly in the edX LMS.

This repo contains the core code for implementing XBlocks as well as a simple workbench application for running XBlocks in a small simple environment.

BackgroundEdX courseware is built out of components that are combined hierarchically. These include components like the video player, LON-CAPA problems, as well as compound components like learning sequences. We are developing a second-generation API for these components called XBlocks. Although they’re in a prototype stage, we like the API, and want to collaborate with others to develop them into an industry standard. This is our proposed API and specification for XBlocks.

How does this differ from existing industry standards like LTI and SCORM? On a high level, XBlocks is a Python language-level API, and it provides sensible defaults for things like storing data. XBlocks could be wrapped up in LTI, and one could make an LTI XBlock. The core reason to write an XBlock is that it is deployable. You can give us the code to an XBlock, and we can embed it in our courseware. LTI would require you to give us a virtual machine image which ran it.

We are really excited to work with this new courseware to see what can be developed at our Hack Mason 1.0 event. Please, if you are in the DC Metro, let us know how you would like to be engaged in this event. #edtech #highered #hackedu #mooc

via edx/XBlock · GitHub.

CA Crazy | Bold Move To #MOOC Sends Shock Waves, Details Scarce | The Chronicle of Higher Education

California politicians want to use MOOCs to satiate those on waiting lists for basic classes at public institutions of higher education. Interesting approach, looking forward to watching this unfold. As with all things, California’s size has the ability to alter policy across the country and even the world. From Chronicle of Higher Education:

Senate Bill 520, sponsored by State Sen. Darrell Steinberg, a Democrat who is president pro tem of the Senate, calls for establishing a statewide platform through which students who have trouble getting into certain low-level, high-demand classes could take approved online courses offered by providers outside the state’s higher-education system. If the bill is passed by the Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat, state colleges and universities could be compelled to accept credits earned in massive open online courses, or MOOCs, bringing the controversial courses into the mainstream faster than even their proponents had predicted.

But right now SB 520 is just a two-page “spot bill,” a legislative placeholder to be amended with details later. And for those concerned about the consequences of a sudden embrace of a relatively new enterprise such as MOOCs, the devil may be in those details. Who will approve the courses? What role will faculty members really have? Will student financial aid apply to paid online courses? How will the revenue collected by the companies benefit the colleges? The students?

At a news conference announcing the bill, Mr. Steinberg acknowledged that such a bold move could be expected to cause “some fear, and sometimes some upset.” He took pains to emphasize that the legislation “does not represent a shift in funding priority” for higher education in California, and is not intended to introduce “a substitution for campus-based instruction.””This is about helping students,” he said. “We would be making a big mistake if we did not take advantage of the technological advances in our state” to do so.

via A Bold Move Toward MOOCs Sends Shock Waves, but Details Are Scarce – Government – The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Report Says UK Struggles with Research Commercialisation | Times Higher Education | #highered

The Times Higher Education site has an interesting piece highlighting the difficulties British universities are having commercializing all of the research funding they receive from their government. A new report on the subject has supported this criticism. From Elizabeth Gibney:

“British entrepreneurs are being badly let down by a lack of access to financial support and a system that often forces them to sell out to private equity investors or larger foreign companies to get ideas off the ground,” said committee chair and Labour MP, Andrew Miller.

MPs said they had been encouraged by the work of the Technology Strategy Board and its network of “catapult” centres, but said that they were concerned about the access of small firms to facilities, and that government grant funding was often highly bureaucratic to apply for and only enough to “get an idea off the ground”.

The report, Bridging the Valley of Death: Improving the Commercialisation of Research, adds that while academic research is the “jewel in the crown of UK innovation activity”, the committee had concerns about how universities interact with the commercialisation of research.

It questions whether changes to the Higher Education Innovation Fund, which reward institutions that have already benefited from successfully commercialising their intellectual property, might further decrease the success of already struggling institutions.

“We would like to see how well changes to the Higher Education Innovation Fund improve commercialisation activity; whether there is a need for greater amounts of proof of concept funding in the sector; and challenge the institutions to become more accommodating to non-traditional backgrounds among their academic staff,” it reads.

“We have concerns that driving an innovation agenda too aggressively through universities may have diminishing returns with regard to commercialisation and risk damaging the academic research that is working well,” it adds.

via MPs criticise government over research commercialisation | News | Times Higher Education.

Gates Solution for #HigherEd | Yoda | Inside Higher Ed

I didn’t see Bill Gates’ keynote at #SXSWedu, but I really enjoyed this piece by John Warner that takes on Gates’ use of the Yoda-Luke relationship in support of online learning as personalized learning. From Warner in Inside Higher Ed:

The assumptions that Gates and others like him bring to these discussions is that education, as is, is too expensive. After all, tuition is rising faster than inflation and college is threatening to become a bad investment. Technology, Gates argues, has the potential to make college cheaper, for example by not needing as many professors since, what the heck, we’ve got Yoda on tape!

Like Gates, I’m distressed by rising tuition and the strain it puts on my students. Many more of them are taking on shocking amounts of debt, or trying to work full-time jobs while also being full-time students.

But I get distressed when the discussion turns immediately towards the corporate buzzwords of “efficiency” and “productivity.” In the 90’s, when unemployment was 4% and we were all getting rich on our shares of Pets.com, I don’t remember people falling over themselves criticizing our system of higher education.

Not that we can’t get better, but the truth is, we’re actually pretty good at it. The teaching/learning model is not particularly mysterious. Students benefit from being in the presence of their Jedi-masters. Sometimes a hologram is okay, but it isn’t a substitute for the real, little green thing.

I am a huge proponent of the campus given that my research hypothesizes some entrepreneurial value on campus. We know Gates fully knows the value of the density of people and face to face interactions that a campus provides. His interactions in both his high school and at Harvard were crucial to his early development and the creation of Microsoft. Enjoy the article.

via Bill Gates Has a Solution for Higher Education: Yoda | Inside Higher Ed.

ACE Supports So Called Disruptions in Higher Education Business Models | Inside Higher Ed

I love studying/being part of higher education right now. It is the perfect confluence of my startup experiences/business education and my PhD research and teaching/work at the Mason Center for Social Entrepreneurship. I am by no means part of the industry elite — never been to an ACE event or even a traditional academic conference — but I do enjoy reading about them. From Paul Fain at Inside Higher Ed:

The council says it wants more students to earn college credit for learning that occurs outside the college classroom. Some of these credit pathways are trendy and new; others have been around for decades. But interest in prior learning assessment has grown rapidly, particularly during the last six months, and ACE is riding the wave.

ACE’s leaders say they are giving a boost to alternative credit pathways because of the college “completion agenda,” work force development and money worries that are buffeting colleges.“We are experiencing a confluence of forces of change,” Molly Broad, the council’s president, recently told the University of Wisconsin System’s Board of Regents. “All of this coming together is persuasive that business as usual is not in the future cards and we must innovate.

“While it’s known primarily as a lobby and membership group, ACE, whose annual meeting opened Sunday, has long had a hand in prior learning assessment. The council started issuing credit recommendations for military service shortly after World War II, and added the assessment of corporate training programs for credit in 1974. These days students can get transcripts for ACE’s credit recommendations for $20 a pop. The council has issued 63,000 credit transcripts since 2001.

The article goes on to explain in great detail the recent, large push towards awarding credits for ‘alternative’ learning — ie work experience or MOOCs and a variety of other options.  Its an interesting debate and it underscores how much people still value degrees even with the push to self-led learning (Uncollege), dropping out, badges, and all of the other opportunities being presented to today’s learners.  Degree attainment is a policy goal of President Obama and many other leaders — whether it crosses a point of diminishing returns. But with technology, budget challenges, debt reflux, etc… its a really interesting time for higher education.

Btw, for many colleges these alternative credits could be a gold mine. Its kind of like Amazon.com’s marketplace — where Amazon.com plays host to a buyer and seller and collects basic fees, and often upsells both parties on more items/services. This business model is much more high margin (profitable) than Amazon actually stocking and selling things themselves.

Also, while we are talking Amazon, lets think Kindle/ebook model — digital products served on demand with few physical activities and interactions before, during or after the sale. MOOCs/distance are the proxy for higher education. Like the Amazon marketplace model, this model should be higher margin than traditional sales, distribution, delivery, and service — even compared to Amazon’s original model of selling books online only (which was radical at the time).

Enjoy Fain’s piece and let me know what ACE’s angle is?

via ACE doubles down on prior learning assessment | Inside Higher Ed.