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Thought Leaders in Online Education: Jim Donohue, Chief Product Officer, Cengage Learning (Part 6)

Posted on Wednesday, Jan 8th 2014

Sramana Mitra: Let’s shift the discussion to Business education. In particular, the area that is of most interest to our audience is Entrepreneurship education. There’s been a huge surge of interest in Entrepreneurship Education around the world. What are you seeing? What are you doing?

Jim Donohue: Good news, bad news. Entrepreneurship education at the undergraduate level is very hard to scale. As a result, in the last 10 years, lots of schools and it’s different, we’re not talking about an Ivy League school, we’re talking about a state school where they have a thousand students taking the Marketing class. It’s very hard to scale an Entrepreneurship program to a thousand students.

Ten years ago, their entire course was based on simulations. What would you do? How would you run this business? What would you do? Build the business in a class. They have gone away from it because they just could not scale it in any real way.

I think that the education system is really struggling with how do we scale that, how can I provide a thousand students at a big mid-western university with an entrepreneurship course in a way that’s relevant and that can scale so that I don’t have to hire 500 instructors.

It’s a real challenge so we’re developing in our Business group a whole series of digital products, it’s two years away still, that essentially will allow you to create small business groups and create that whole simulation experience and flip the classroom around so it allows professors to be advisors, but they don’t actually have to teach that entire course. They really become business advisors and the product itself will teach aspects of Marketing and Accounting, and Product Aviation, and Product Design. The instructor then becomes sort of a business advisor. They walk through this process.

We really came to develop this because we have a couple of universities who have approached us about it and actually wanted to replace their entire curriculum with this kind of a product.

Sramana Mitra: Are you open to working with partners on this?

Jim Donohue: We have started working with partners and we can’t discuss who it is until next year but I will be thrilled and personally email you the minute we can release those names.

Sramana Mitra: I’m proposing that you work with us.

Jim Donohue: I would love to work with you.

Sramana Mitra: Seriously, we are really the only global, scalable entrepreneurship incubation program in the world today.

Jim Donohue: I would love to talk with you about it because it’s one of the issues.

Sramana Mitra: It’s an extremely complex issue that we have studied and we have developed our curriculum starting in 2006 so it’s a very mature curriculum. It’s a mature program. It’s a full-fledged incubation program. It’s not just a curriculum. It’s a full-fledged incubation program that we would love to roll-out at all these large schools.

Jim Donohue: I’d love to talk to you about it because the biggest problem is being at a Harvard or Columbia or Stanford, the size of the class allows them to have that experience but at a big state university with thousands of students, they just haven’t been able to scale it, so it’d be fantastic to work with you guys and help you to roll that out as a real entrepreneurship product particularly based on what we are doing on the digital side. It would be fantastic. Id’ love to work with you on that.

Sramana Mitra: Let’s absolutely do that because I think we have the solution that you’re looking for and we are not two years away. We have been in business and we are doing it at a global scale.

Jim Donohue: That’d be great. Have you guys been working with big universities and trialing it or have you found them resistant?

Sramana Mitra: No, we have worked with corporate partners. So corporations are using us for running their incubation program and we work directly with entrepreneurs. We do consumer marketing basically. We have a large following. We have a community of over a hundred thousand people who follow us.

Jim Donohue: How do we get that kind of a program as a base curriculum into a large school that would be desperate for that and does not have the resources to develop that themselves nor the faculty? It’s perfect.

This segment is part 6 in the series : Thought Leaders in Online Education: Jim Donohue, Chief Product Officer, Cengage Learning
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