EdTech: Google Latest Tech Company To Edge Into Online Business Education

Search giant launches digital degree for tech entrepreneurs

Google has become the latest big tech company to edge into business schools’ territory with the recent launch of a mini online degree for tech entrepreneurs.

The search giant’s push into the nascent educational technology market follows the recent $1.5 billion purchase of online learning company Lynda.com by LinkedIn, which could see management courses hosted on the social network. It also comes as business schools strive to offer a market to entrepreneurs.

Google’s partnership with Udacity, one of the top Mooc or massive open online course providers, will bear a four-to-seven-month long digital course on how to design, validate, prototype, monetize, and market a tech start-up. It is priced at up to $1,400.

The Silicon Valley based company has signed up big-wigs of the start-up scene to develop the program, including Kevin Hale, a partner at Y-Combinator, the San Francisco accelerator that backed Airbnb and Dropbox, and Steve Chen, co-founder of YouTube, now owned by Google.

All of the raw content is free — but Udacity provides additional paid services, such as access to coaches, career counselling, and a certificate upon completion of the course, costing $200 a month.

Top graduates of the Tech Entrepreneur Nanodegree program will be able to pitch their final product to venture capitalists at Google.

Udacity’s Nanodegree’s are part of a growing set of monetized online courses on everything from finance to marketing that are said to be disrupting business education.

But Oliver Cameron, VP of engineering and product at Udacity, told BusinessBecause: “We expect online education and traditional education to coexist, supplement and increasingly intertwine with one another in the coming decades.”

The announcement follows news of a growing pool of entrepreneurs warming to formal business education, and word that top business schools are developing new courses for the swelling number of MBAs launching companies.  

Jeff Skinner, executive director for the Deloitte Institute of Innovation and Entrepreneurship at London Business School, said many students at LBS go on to “create very successful enterprises”.

“We make extensive use of entrepreneurs on our courses,” he said, adding that for the Entrepreneurship Summer School LBS recruits 50 successful entrepreneurs to act as mentors to students.

The flurry of business-related online programs offered by Mooc developers such as Coursera, edX or ALISON, however, is increasingly viewed as an alternative to schools' expensive and often longer business masters degrees.

Julia Stiglitz, director of business development at Coursera, which has nearly 16 million online learners, said: “Traditional degrees will remain as relevant and important as ever for the foreseeable future. But online learning will continue to emerge as a new category that propels lifelong personal and career growth.”

Simon Nelson, chief executive of FutureLearn, the online learning company with two million users, said there are large elements of business school and university education that “can’t be replicated online”. But he added that online learning can make the experience of studying for a degree more flexible, convenient, and affordable.

“We are just scratching the surface,” he said.

Google’s online degree for tech entrepreneurs will ultimately be proved a success or flop by the fortunes of its graduates.

However, while many MBA programs still pump students into investment banks and consultancy firms, an increasing number lay claim to greatly successful entrepreneurs.

Graduates of Spain’s IE Business School, for example, have raised $360 million in venture capital for 39 start-up companies; at HEC Paris the figure is $275 million for 42 start-ups.

INSEAD, another top business school, has produced 165 start-ups that have raised funding of $1.9 billion. These include BlaBlaCar, the French ridesharing start-up that recently secured $200 million based on a valuation of €1.4 billion, and MongoDB, a US database company that was valued at around $2 billion this year.  



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