The rise of distance learning has put courses onto the web that are designed for those who want to run their own companies, and has paved the way for business owners to gain a business education.
Courses once received a lukewarm welcome from entrepreneurs but top business schools, from Stanford to Copenhagen and digital upstarts like edX and Udacity, are gaining favour with founders.
Gerard Grech, chief executive officer at Tech City UK, the government-funded group promoting the sector, says: “Campus life and entrepreneurship are not mutually exclusive.”
By putting content online, even traditional educational institutions are seeing growth. UCLA Anderson, MIT and Haas School of Business, which has a campus in Silicon Valley, all offer online programs which are designed for entrepreneurs.
Start-up founders often suffer from a lack of time and financial resources – putting traditional degrees like MBAs out of reach.
But digital tools enable the replication of classroom learning online. “Technology adoption – especially the internet – is the key,” says Dr Shailendra Vyakarnam, Director of the Bettany Centre for Entrepreneurship at the UK’s Cranfield School of Management.
Stanford’s Ignite series of courses has generated much hype. Tech allows the US business school to beam high-definition lectures from California and San Francisco to entrepreneurs in London, India and beyond.
Digital start-ups have emerged to compete with top business schools for entrepreneurs’ attention.
Coursera has been one of the nosiest challengers. “Blended learning models and online courses cater to the increasing number of people who want to take courses or degree programs, but are not able to because they work full-time, cannot afford it or do not have physical access,” says Julia Stiglitz, Coursera’s head of business development.
At Tech City Gerard says there is a “revolutionary shift” in attitude, shown in the way organizations are approaching online learning, and accessing opportunities in the fast-moving tech industry.
Since launching last year, more than 12,000 users have signed up to the Digital Business Academy – a venture between Tech City, Cambridge Judge Business School and others. Competition rates are in some cases as high as 26% – nearly four times the industry average.
“We are seeing a real appetite for access to tangible digital business skills across the UK,” says Richard Dennys, head of the program.
Dr Joanna Mills Mills, deputy director of the Centre for Entrepreneurial Learning at Cambridge Judge, agrees that flexibility is key for entrepreneurs. "We use technology," she says, in an interview with BusinessBecause.
Cambridge's flagship start-up course, the Postgraduate Diploma in Entrepreneurship, is part-time and delivered largely online. "A dedicated virtual learning environment is the heart of the program," says Joanna.
Moocs – massive open online courses – have captured the awareness and imagination of millions but while promising, they are still early-stage. “We are yet to see the reality of what people learn and do with that form of online learning,” says Cranfield’s Dr Shailendra.
Some schools have been slow to adapt to digital. Stewart Thornhill, executive director of the Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies at Michigan’s Ross School, acknowledges the potential of tech, but says an online program for entrepreneurs is still a work in progress at Ross: “We are getting there.”
There is some resistance from professors who fear that technology threatens the very nature of business education.
Jeff Skinner, executive director of the Deloitte Institute of Innovation and Entrepreneurship at London Business School, is like many of his counterparts sceptical about online teaching methods. Classroom learning is a “contact sport”, he says. “It would be difficult to replicate the experience [online].”
But he does not rule out a move to digital in future: “It’s clearly a very important force.”
Investment in digital technologies is spurred by the growth of entrepreneurs, which are changing the makeup of workforces.
Business students have caught entrepreneurship fever. A survey of 15,000 prospective MBA students released this month by GMAC found the proportion of them who were aspiring entrepreneurs was 28% last year, up from 19% in 2010.
It’s never been so cheap to launch a company, says Margaux Pelen, executive director of the Entrepreneurship Center at French business school HEC Paris.
“It’s the combination of these low barriers to entry and the well-known backgrounds and stories of successful entrepreneurs that encourage a ‘why not me’ effect,” he says.
Copenhagen Business School (CBS)
CBS: efficient international network
CBS has always been ranked among the best universities in Europe and this means that it has become a sign of professionalism and success. The academic level is great thanks to the good teachers and the atmosphere is proactive and challenging. Lots of events are planned every week and this helps you to find your own way. CBS is not only a business school, it is a great and efficient international network.
Good academic career
I did my Bachelors at CBS and their academic excellence and career opportunities led me to pursue my Masters in Accounting, Strategy and Control. I was very lucky to go on an exchange in Singapore for one semester it boosted me to get a career in a global firm. I like that it is super modern and has all the facilities for the business student in 2019. Especially, I liked the library and Bitlab where I spent most of my time studying. However, note that it is very demanding and studying here is no joke. Everything is very competitive and you are among the most excellent business students in the country. The interaction with international students helped me to see different perspectives in business and culturally and I was lucky to make friends from any part of the world. CBS is like a brand in Denmark. Every serious business company prioritizes us over any other Danish university and also it is free for European citizens. Overall, I have a very satisfying experience at CBS and I'm looking to continue my academical career even further.
CBS is one of the best!
All I have to say regarding my experience at CBS is that it is AMAZING. Having been tutored by world-class academic staff, I can definitely support that I am receiving the best of quality regarding my studies in Digital Marketing. Staff is very friendly and easy to approach. In addition, the facilities we enjoy are top class and meet any demands. Keep in mind that, EU citizens do not pay any fees. Student life might be non-existent here, but the location of the University in The very center of Copenhagen has a huge variety of choices to offer to students regarding their entertainment. Accommodation might be a problem, but early research of the market can be very useful. In addition, the University promotes diversity. In CBS University you can meet people from the whole world which is quite interesting. I definitely suggest CBS for any student who he's interested in pursuing a career in marketing or business.
The ideal business school
I have been enrolled in this university for 2 semesters. What I took from this experience is that there is nothing better out there for those looking for professional growth while being guided by some of the top-notch professors in Scandinavia. They have a really strong focus in technology and digital transformation and they are up to date to guarantee you land a job in the modern fast-evolving world. They also embrace diversity which means many students come from any part of the world and it takes the entire learning experience to another level. You simply learn from every other student cause everyone has different experiences and background which makes you open your mind and see the world from a different angle. In Denmark, even businesses prioritize people who graduate from CBS as it's commonly perceived as the most prestigious university for business graduates.
A Place of Personal Growth
In CBS you can expect an environment of proactive thinking and growth. The university staff is always open to help and to debate. The teaching methods balance theoretical knowledge and practical skills enabling the student with capacity and confidence to enter the job market successfully. The existence of students from all over the world stimulates discussion and promotion of different cultures, ideas and perspectives. I highly recommend this university for students in business-related areas.
The environment here is really great. Despite the well organized buildings and libraries, there are also places for students to just stay and relax also even study in the corners of each campus. The professors are mostly really nice and try to interact with students a lot. So, to sum up, the environment is really nice for studying here.
Quality education where it emphazises the importance of academic. No finger to put on this aspect of the school. However, sometimes the administration and IT can be lacking a bit, but in general a really good choice for education!
Classes are challenging and conducted in a professional manner. CBS offers a wide range of possibilities to develop outside of the classes! Libraries and other facilities on the campus are very well adjusted to the student needs.
A heavily theory-based curriculum combined with an ever-stimulating environment
I am currently a Master student at CBS, but I have also completed a Bachelor's Degree in this university. I am quite satisfied with my studies and the teaching level. However, when compared to other business schools, it becomes apparent that most courses at CBS strive to find a good balance between theoretical insight and real-life examples. Compared to my exchange university, the projects that I have found myself writing at CBS have a far less practical application and also leave little room for creativity. If the teaching is heavily theoretical, on the bright side, the university arranges a number of events throughout the year to encourage students to apply their knowledge, in the form of career fairs, case competitions, and other events organized by student associations. In my experience, teachers are very easily approachable and happy to answer your questions. A foreign student like me will find a more international environment at Master level, since the number of international (or at least non-Scandinavian) students enrolled in the Bachelor programs is quite low. However, all communication (both oral and written) from teachers and the university offices is always in English. Administrative offices, student guidance services, the career center, and the international office are definitely worth a mention. All of the requests that I have had throughout the years have always been met with kindness, promptness and efficiency.