It was the fall of 2017 and Professor Scott Shane glanced nervously at his watch. Joe Kirgues of the accelerator Gener8tor was due to speak to his class remotely over Zoom in two minutes and Scott had been unable to reach Joe by text, phone or email. The technology was all hooked up and the students were in the classroom ready to interact with Joe. All they needed was a speaker…
With 30 seconds to spare, Joe clicked in on the screen. Pulled over on the side of the highway between Urbana, Illinois and Madison, Wisconsin, Joe Kirgues, live, and on camera, presented his powerpoint slides and answered student questions about how accelerators work. At the end of Joe’s talk, Scott commented that long before 2040, Joe would no longer have to pull over to the side of the road to speak to the class. He would do it while riding in an autonomous vehicle.
Technology is transforming entrepreneurship education to make it more realistic. By 2040, there will be a seamless connection between education and practice in ways undreamt of by practitioners and educators today. We see five ways this is happening: through remote video connections; massive online open courses (MOOCs), augmented and virtual reality, embedded media, and mentorships and internships anywhere.
Remote video connections
Case Western Reserve University is a technically strong university located in the Midwest. Most of its graduates starting or financing high potential companies have gone to Silicon Valley and New York. But technology has rendered that disadvantage moot. Using Zoom to bring leading venture capitalists at firms like Greylock and Sequoia, accelerator directors at Gener8tor or Y-Combinator, or top angel investors from around the world into their classrooms, Professors Shane and Michael Goldberg have leveled the playing field. Getting top practitioners into the classroom no longer requires a location in Palo Alto or Manhattan. Today, professors may be doing this in a couple of classes. By 2040, if not earlier, every entrepreneurship class will have this structure.
Online, scale can increase dramatically. Today, we may have only a couple of courses like Beyond Silicon Valley: Growing Entrepreneurship in Transitioning Economies, Professor Goldberg’s massive open online course (MOOC), which has attracted over 135,000 students from 190 countries. But in 2040, many entrepreneurship courses will follow this structure. No school can get 135,000 students into a physical classroom, but they can be organized online. More importantly, universities will continue to develop local partnerships to allow MOOC students to have localized discussions in their home communities. Online platforms can spread the impact of entrepreneurship courses to new audiences around the world.
Augmented and virtual reality
Many aspects of entrepreneurship cannot be easily taught by lecture or even case discussion. Pitching investors at a demo day; telling employees that you are out of cash and cannot meet payroll; overcoming objections in a sales call are all examples of situations where most classroom discussions fall short. By 2040, no one will use a Harvard Business School case to discuss how to sell a software-as-a-service product. Students will don virtual and augmented reality headsets and practice selling the product to customers, overcoming objections of a very realistic simulated customer.
Professor Shane recently had one of his portfolio companies, Qeepsake, a startup providing text-based prompts for baby journals appear on ABC’s reality TV show Sharktank. In the episode, Qeepsake’s founder turns down financing from two of the sharks at low valuations to later obtain financing from a set of sophisticated investors. Using clips from the TV show, Professor Shane has created a short teaching case that walks students through the decision. By 2040, we expect all business school teaching cases to have embedded media from real world situations.
Internships and mentoring
By 2040, in-person mentoring and local internships will be quaint reminders of entrepreneurship education’s past, much like the chalkboard is today. Using online platforms to connect students to alumni mentors anywhere in the world, entrepreneurship programs will provide much more practical assistance to entrepreneurs starting companies than is possible at present. Similarly, other online platforms will allow students to work as interns at startup companies or investment organizations anywhere on the planet so that they can learn-by-doing while in school.
Forecasting how technological change will transform education is a dangerous business. It’s impossible to foresee the future. Just as students studying medicine are part of the volunteer team responding to medical emergencies on campus, students should be part of managing all services provided to students. Whether that be part of food service and sales, retail shops on and off campus, or even providing freelance services like graphic design work.
So we are probably missing many, if not most, of the specific developments that will change entrepreneurship education in the future. But we are sure of one thing: By 2040, technology will alter the way we teach future entrepreneurs by connecting academia more closely to practice.
Scott Shane is the A. Malachi Mixon III Professor of Entrepreneurial Studies and Professor of Economics at Case Western Reserve University. He has served as a Research Fellow at Burton D. Morgan Foundation, and a Visiting Scholar at Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland. He has written extensively about entrepreneurship. His book ‘Illusions of Entrepreneurship: The Costly Myths That Entrepreneurs, Investors, and Policy Makers Live by’ (Yale University Press, 2008) was one of the top ten business books of the year for Amazon.com. His 2005 book ‘Finding Fertile Ground: Identifying Extraordinary Opportunities for New Businesses’ won the 2006 Golden Book Award for best business book of the year and has been translated into eight languages. Shane was the 2009 winner of the Global Award for Entrepreneurship Research, the most prestigious award in this field. He has written for Entrepreneur, The New York Times and other popular publications and is an active pre-seed stage investor.
Michael Goldberg is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Design and Innovation at the Weatherhead School of Management, Case Western Reserve University. Goldberg created a massive open online course (MOOC) called Beyond Silicon Valley: Growing Entrepreneurship in Transitioning Economies, which has attracted over 135,000 students from 190 countries with subtitles in 16 languages (most on Coursera platform). Goldberg is also the author of book ‘Beyond Silicon Valley: How Online Course Helped Support Global Entrepreneurs’ (2018).