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Thought Leaders in Online Education: Executive Director of Academic Innovation at University of Pennsylvania, Bobbi Kurshnan (Part 5)

Posted on Friday, Mar 3rd 2017

Sramana Mitra: What have you seen in that program? How many of the people that have gone through that program have actually started EdTech companies?

Bobbi Kurshnan: They’re required to build a business plan as their thesis. It’s very interesting. I’ve compared the data from our incubator to our Master’s program. I think of this as a continuum. The people who come to our Master’s program are the people who read the manual first. The people that come to our incubator are those that read the manual and all else fails.

The interesting thing is, over four years, we got pretty similar results. The number of businesses that are written up in our Master’s program and are still in existence one year later is the same as that with our incubator. It is higher than the regular VC investment. Somewhere between 25% and 30% of our students in both programs either have raised money or they’ve built the school that they said they were going to build.

Sramana Mitra: What else? There were a few items that you talked about when you introduced yourself?

Bobbi Kurshnan: We run online certificates around entrepreneurship for people who are coming out of the global space. Countries like China that are growing an amazing amount of entrepreneurs. They’re looking for some kind of a certificate. In particular, Middle East, India, and China. We run an online certificate program for teaching online. It’s called the Virtual Online Teaching Certificate.

It’s more than a how-to as it’s clearly based on academic rigor. People who come to our online certificates are coming because they want the credibility and they want the prestige of an Ivy League university. That’s particularly important overseas. They also know that they’re going to get a program that gives them both the academic and practical ability to teach online or build an online course.

Sramana Mitra: I understand the teaching certification. My view on entrepreneurship is that a certification doesn’t really help. You have to do it, right? You either succeed in building customers, revenues, and profits, or you do not. Do you think a certification offers a lot of value for people who are trying to learn entrepreneurship?

Bobbi Kurshnan: I think that we make them do it. It’s a very hands-on program.

Sramana Mitra: I understand that. What is the value of the certificate? Let’s say for the teacher’s certification, you’re certifying people to teach. They can put that on their resume when they’re applying for a job. No investor is interested in an entrepreneur certification.

This segment is part 5 in the series : Thought Leaders in Online Education: Executive Director of Academic Innovation at University of Pennsylvania, Bobbi Kurshnan
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