MOOC’s for the Inquisitive Entrepreneur

There is little doubt that for many students the cost of education can be problematic. With course fees, accommodation and living costs amongst but a few factors to consider, many students will lean heavily on their Student Loans and numerous part time jobs to see themselves through University.

This blog post however will look at some organisations that I absolutely love, and the reason being they offer short specific courses created by Universities often at no cost at all. These courses are often referred to as MOOC’s or Massive Open Online Course for its full title.

What are the benefits of studying a MOOC? Well, there are literally hundreds of topics of which you can study, and entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial behaviours seem to be a very popular area, which is great if you are reading this blog!

The study is all completed online, and many are available for you to access at any time of your choosing. Others follow a more structured path and perhaps set specific tasks to complete on a week by week basis. As stated, MOOC’s tend to be free in terms of accessing the learning materials. Sometimes, if you want a statement of completion or participation of the learning there is a charge for this, however, this is optional if you wish to obtain this or not.

Many of the MOOC’s I have seen and studied are delivered by Universities from the UK and the wider world. This is also advantageous as a learner if studying via a University from outside the UK, its interesting to be able to see subtle differences in the learning and thinking of others. The courses are led by academics from the University provider and in my experience tend to last between 2-16 weeks in duration, study can be anything from around 2-10 hours per week depending on the course materials.

Open access learning has never been more obtainable and readily available for those who choose to engage. From its early ambition of providing ‘taster’ courses for those students looking to explore future learning options, it seems to me the MOOC is now tailored to students who want to further broaden their knowledge from alternative providers. The MOOC allows the inquisitive student to deep further into their specific area of interest. Indeed for non students the MOOC now appears to be an option favoured by employers as an option of CPD training for employees.

If you are studying or teaching Entrepreneurship in University, you can further develop your skills or just find out what is going on elsewhere by looking at some of the following providers and their courses:

FutureLearn

Offers a diverse selection of courses from leading universities and cultural institutions from around the world. These are delivered one step at a time, and are accessible on mobile, tablet and desktop, so you can fit learning around your life. Click on the image below to access free courses from FutureLearn.

FutureLearn Limited

There are a huge number of entrepreneurial related short courses, programmes and even a Degree ranging from topics such as Measuring Entrepreneurial Impact, Open Innovation and Teaching Entrepreneurial Thinking.

Coursera

100% online learning from the world’s best universities and companies. Over 140 courses from Beginner to Advanced level including Entrepreneurship, Innovation Management, Business Modelling and Product Development.

OpenLearn- Free Learning from the Open University

Several entrepreneurial courses available from Level 1 to Level 3 including Entrepreneurial Behaviours, Liquidity Management and Entrepreneurial Impression.

There are also many paid for providers where you can access quality online Entrepreneurship courses and these are certainly worth exploring, they include:

DisrupTek

DisrupTeK shows you how to grow your idea for a technological innovation into an entrepreneurial opportunity to be proud of.

Udemy

Over 100,000 online video courses with new additions published each month

Edx

Founded by Harvard University and MIT in 2012, edX is an online learning destination offering high-quality courses from the world’s best universities and institutions to learners everywhere.

So, there you go, a wide variety of resource available to the entrepreneurially inquisitive student. You may well know of others, if so, please do share.

Can MOOC’s replace traditional learning? In my mind the answer is no, standalone MOOC’s generally don’t provide the user with formal academic credits, so their use in this respect is limited. However a MOOC can be a great way to dig further into topic areas of entrepreneurship education that you enjoy and have interest in. A MOOC isn’t a replacement for traditional study, if this be online or offline, but it can be a useful additional tool to enable you to hear another voice and take on another opinion without eating up the limited student budget.

Entrepreneurial Students, Get Networking

You can find the accompanying podcast to this post here.

One of the most important pieces of advice I give to prospective student entrepreneurs is the importance of networking. For the young entrepreneur starting on their journey, the path can be somewhat lonely, especially if the early venture involves only themselves. Networking both online and offline can allow us to build the portfolio of people we know, who we can trust and who can help our business in the future. Don’t forget however, this ‘can they help’ should work both ways when building a successful relationship. How can you help them?

Having the correct relationships can allow you to build your business faster and in a more constructive manner. Finding the connection, however, is only the start of what networking is all about. It takes time to nurture and strengthen relationships so they can prosper and produce desired results.

For the would-be entrepreneur, especially if one is young the current network available may amount to friends and family, possibly academic tutors or those who you have worked with in part time positions. This is an excellent stating position and that trusted relationship you have with those people will likely allow you to gain access to additional networks through your original connections. Never be afraid to ask a trusted connection if they know somebody that could help or offer advice.

This said, to build a successful business requires much more expertise than is likely you will have immediate access to. Your network ideally should be full of experienced professionals and those beginning their journey who hold diverse units of knowledge and skills from various sectors. If you are running a retail coffee unit for example, we need more than people alongside us who love and live coffee!

Networks will take many forms, today we connect via social media to many thousands of people, however this network is very connection based rather than at any deeper level, so to build true relationships one must actively engage rather than simply observe. I use the LinkedIn platform to regularly to share my own thoughts and views, however, remember to engage with others is to show interest and begin to be part of new conversations, it is this engagement that will lead to trust, understanding and deepen business relationships.

To build local connections you can start with your own regional business community which depending on where you are based maybe established or fledging. Simple Google searches will allow you to find out locally what is going on in your area and how you can get involved. My experience is that established networking groups love ‘new blood’ and as the aspiring student entrepreneur your input is valued and respected often bringing new ideas to the table and being disruptive (nicely)!

The online community of entrepreneurs is growing month by month, it’s well worth looking into this world to find a community that you recognise and would like to be part of. To that end here are two organisations I would recommend exploring to find out about the online and offline opportunities that maybe available to you.

Start Up Grind

Startup Grind is the largest independent startup community, actively educating, inspiring, and connecting more than 1,500,000 entrepreneurs in over 500 chapters. 

There are local UK chapters based out of Thames Valley, Birmingham, Edinburgh, Southampton, Wolverhampton, London, Bournemouth and Glasgow.

There isn’t a chapter in my home city of Liverpool- perhaps I should start one?


Europe Conference Start Up Grind

Creative Mornings

Creative Mornings is a free monthly breakfast lecture series, designed for creative communities. There are currently over 200 cities hosting these networking opportunities globally.

Locally within the UK you can get involved in cities such as Birmingham, Cardiff, Derby, Edinburgh, Glasgow, London, Portsmouth and Sheffield.

Creative Mornings Summit

I hope this blog post has been useful and remember, its not how many connections you have which makes a successful network, its how well those connections are utilised, so always follow up on connections and keep engaging in conversation. A simple ‘nice to meet you’ or ‘thanks for your time’ by email / twitter etc may just be the start to a fruitful relationship. Be polite, be giving and build your network.

Understanding Entrepreneurial Instinct

You can listen to the accompanying podcast to this post by clicking here

From discussion, entrepreneurship seemingly means different things to different people. The practical elements of how to start and run a business can be taught, indeed I see this very often in UK Universities, and I should add taught well. However, with a fundamental ability of the successful entrepreneur being the skill to ‘recognise opportunity’, can this be taught within a formal education setting?

Entrepreneurs are those individuals with the ability to change or take advantage of the market’s behaviours, they can disrupt the norm and create value from their endeavours. Where successful entrepreneurs find their position depends if they embark on an idea which involves radical change or one which develops moderate improvements and marginal change. The key to success for both however, is the ability to take opportunities, which those around them don’t see.

Is it possible to teach somebody to see an opportunity? If we can, the more formal aspects of starting a business teaching will surely be more successful and useful long term.  The formal aspects of starting a business is one which many Entrepreneurship courses I have observed have placed great emphasis, the production of a business plan or business canvas, market research, financing the venture and so on. However, it’s that early and crucial aspect of opportunity recognition that is perhaps less developed.

Without the knowledge to recognise opportunity the formal aspects of business start up become less useful. A student group may be able to produce a wonderful report or business presentation however would have little chance of bringing the idea to life without that ability to realise ‘when the time is right’.

This is where the teaching of entrepreneurship becomes very difficult to get right. How do we get student groups to creatively recognise opportunities, how do we enable them to improve their Entrepreneurial Instinct (EI)? I think and speaking with academics this requires the development of critical thinking techniques and student’s ability to be alert to their wider commercial environment, it is this which will allow students to be ready when opportunities arise.  

So, in practice how have I seen this done? The process of allowing student groups to develop the skills described often takes place with groups forming small start-ups under the protection of the University. Whilst not a fully formed operational ‘real’ business, the premise is that business does begin, albeit in somewhat of a protective bubble. By engaging student groups with real life problems faced by other organisations they begin to understand from a commercial perspective how their business must operate in order to be a real-life success. What are the margins, what are the challenges, how do I make my business commercially successful to operate in the future? How do I recognise those opportunities and know when it’s time to act?

We should allow students to develop by asking questions of why something has been done the way it has, or how could we do this differently, creative thinking should be an important aspect of any Entrepreneurial Programme. We must ‘allow’ students to fail as this replicates the real world, and in doing so increases a student’s ability to be resilient to failure, and not fearful of it. It also should be said that honesty is important, some ideas are just bad ideas, outside of the bubble they could cost somebody to lose a great deal of time and money, if that’s the case we as educators have a duty to say this, and not be afraid to do so, its part of the education we provide.   

Experiential leaning is vital to allow students to develop their EI. Are there any other ways to develop an instinct without running a venture?

If you would like to read some more about EI take a look at: The Entrepreneurial Instinct by Monica Mehta.

You can also watch a short video below about how Rich Schefren describes ways to boost EI.

Enterprising Educator- I’m new, where do I start?

no, not this type.

This post is aimed at those completely new to the Enterprising Educator Community (post 18). You can find the accompanying podcast to this post here.

How does one become an educator? I guess through a multitude of avenues is the short answer, some are former or current entrepreneurs, others may be educational practitioners or business mentors, indeed you can even study how to become Enterprise Educator through designated Postgraduate courses such as the Enterprise and Entrepreneurship Education MA led by Coventry University.

There are literally thousands of books to read, videos to watch, podcasts to listen, people to follow and organisations to engage with. This whistle-stop tour will give you a flavour of how to begin to immerse yourself within the community.

What should I read?

Wow, where to start. My advice would be to look at some books which focus on how to start a business.

They don’t necessarily tell us how to teach somebody to start a business, but I think before we can teach, we need to have some of the tools and techniques required that those aspiring business owners may require.

Three books I really enjoyed reading which gave me a great and differing insight into what a prospective business owner should consider include The Start Up Playbook (Sam Altman), The Start Up Owner’s Manual (Steve Blank) and The Lean Start Up (Eric Reis). Details of all can be found within my recommended reading list.

What should I listen to?

There are hundreds of brilliant podcasts which can be informative as well as entertaining.

Many of them are US based but two UK produced programmes I find valuable are The Disruptive Entrepreneur by Rob Moore and The Bottom Line by Evan Davies. Neither are particularly academic based podcasts but more focused around the principals, challenges and benefits of entrepreneurship. Both give the listener the opportunity to hear from others about their journeys, their mistakes and their successes. It’s easy and enjoyable mainly weekly listening.

You can find details on my recommended podcasts list.

Tell me a brilliant website to visit!

OK- visit Teaching Entrepreneurship. It’s a brilliant resource. From lesson plans to assessment ideas, classroom tools to insightful videos, it literally has it all. It’s a simple website to navigate through and led by a guy called Doan Winkel (US based). I would absolutely recommend looking at the site for ideas and inspiration.

What organisations and groups should I involve myself in?

In the UK there is an ever-growing number of organisations of which you can join / engage with to become more familiar with the community. Many of these provide fantastic resources that you can use within your classroom as well as opportunities to network with others. Some of the key organisations I would suggest becoming involved with would be:

Enterprise Educators UK – The UK’s leading independent membership network for enterprise educators.

Institute of Enterprise and Entrepreneurs – A dedicated professional learning institute specialising in business enterprise and business support.

Institute for Small Business and Entrepreneurship – A network for people and organisations involved in small business and entrepreneurship research, policy, education, support and advice.

National Centre for Entrepreneurship in Education – Supports higher education to build its entrepreneurial future. It believes innovative and inspiring activities led by enterprising staff create graduates equipped for an ever-changing world.

Research in Enterprise Education (REntEd)– Launched as a collaboration between the ISBE and EEUK (see links above) this Community of Interest group is intended to explicitly link together the research and practice arms of the EntEd discipline.

All these organisations have various ways in which you can engage from membership to fellowship depending on your level of experience.

Who to follow?

My final piece of advice is Twitter! I love Twitter, I love LinkedIn as well but for different reasons. The main benefit to Twitter in my view is that you can follow the conversation of the people that you wish. You can create a timeline of information from those who interest you and keep this specific and without distraction (if you use Twitter lists).

Over the last 12 months I have started to engage myself with the Enterprise Educators Community on Twitter. Its active, lively, disruptive and often people have very different views, which keeps things more interesting! The debate is far ranging and allows for healthy disagreement. There are hundreds of interesting people to follow however twelve who I would recommend following include:

@mlackeus

@JP_JonPowell

@nigeladams

@entrep_thinking

@bozward

@DraycottMC

@DrDisrupTeK

@AlisonEntEv

@AndyPena

@KellyJS

@Trep_Ed

@tasdevilcol

Give these guys a follow, its an interesting conversation and one which will link you quickly to others to follow who can inspire.

So that’s it. My quick guide to how to get going, best of luck and remember- read, listen and engage.

First post- this is me.

Hi, I’m Andy and welcome to my first blog post!

As somebody who has been working in the Enterprise Education sector for the past 12 years, I have been fortunate enough to work with some fantastic professionals and brilliant young entrepreneurs.

Pictured presenting Start Up event in Loughborough, 2018

As time has moved forward, I have wanted to start to blog about my experiences within the sector, the thoughts and views of others and the general developments in all things enterprise.

Firstly, a little about myself.  My name is Andy Firr and I am married to Gemma. I have a little girl and we live in Wirral, a few miles from my place of birth Liverpool.

For a great many years, the sector of enterprise and entrepreneurship has been of great interest to me. I have been that person who has in their back bedroom built several small businesses. These have ranged far and wide, from chutneys to Vietnamese coffee, football stickers to educational resources, its been an interesting journey!

My brother and I on a Vietnamese Coffee trip, Ho Chi Minh City, 2014

I have been fortunate enough to visit many countries on my enterprise journey including Belgium, Finland, Latvia and Vietnam.

Hotel Torini, Helsinki, Finland 2017, part of the jaeec17

My current role primarily allows me to support young entrepreneurs from Universities and Colleges around the UK as Start Up Manager at the Young Enterprise organisation. It’s a great position and I get to work with some fantastic professionals from a huge range of industries.

Pictured at Enterprise Celebration event, Riga, Latvia 2018

Over the coming months I’ll be sharing industry insights, my own thoughts about the sector and moving forward providing resources that you can hopefully use with colleagues.

The blog is for all and anybody interested in enterprise, ented, innovation, new venture and start up.

I would LOVE to hear from you if you have articles you wish to share, thoughts or opinions.