Entrepreneurs lap up byte-sized education

By Ashwin Damera|28th Nov 2016
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Entrepreneurs have to be super-humans.

A statement like this makes you wonder what I mean. Well, while there are multiple people performing different roles in a company, often across departments and geographies, the entrepreneur usually fulfills all the roles by himself. Obviously, many entrepreneurs realise that they are under-equipped to handle one or more such roles due to the lack of the requisite knowledge or experience. That’s why we are seeing many entrepreneurs opting for short-duration courses that help bridge the gaps. We refer to these courses as byte-sized education, as these are usually digital and of shorter duration.

Faster learning with technology
Faster learning with technology. Image credit: Shuterstock

Returning to school for entrepreneurs is their way of connecting dots (things they already know) with theory. Entrepreneurs hope to gain invaluable insights that can be applied to grow their business in real time and boost their potential. A specific course not only increases their practical knowledge but even sharpens and inspires ideas. A key incentive is the new pool of resources and guidance and insights provided by peers and instructors and the connections formed that could help the entrepreneur. Continuing the learning process is the right approach and helps in the overall growth as a business leader. Executive programmes and courses are not just limited to working professionals as entrepreneurs, especially the early-stage types, believe building and sustaining a business involves constant learning.

Stay updated with the dynamic business and technical landscape

Entrepreneurs are expected to be on top of the latest technologies and business tactics or they put themselves and their businesses at the risk of becoming outdated or ineffective.

Fill any gaps in their background and experiences

Understanding knowledge gaps and pursuing relevant educational programmes not only helps with filling the gaps, but also helps business leaders gather better understanding of the business and spot harmful inefficiencies and redundancies.

Diversify and grow the business

An entrepreneur may wish to shift business models, introduce a new product or service, enter a new market, or make an important new hire – taking a class provides him with the necessary expertise and skills to make key decisions and achieve success.

Access new networking opportunities

Furthering their education allows business owners to enhance their list of connections which is invaluable for their business. Peers, faculty, guest speakers, and others involved in the programme provide out-of-class learning opportunities that open up the possibility for future partnerships and collaboration. Moreover, through online learning, the networking opportunities are global and not limited to one geographic region.

Online vs. traditional learning

The rapidly changing educational landscape has made it easier for the founders and working professionals to seek learning that is affordable, pragmatic, real-time, self-paced and tailored to an entrepreneur’s busy lifestyle. With so many options suitable for a busy schedule, continuing one’s education has never been easier. The online route seems like the most convenient way to go as participants can even hang out at a nearby Starbucks and simply learn what they need to know when they need to know. Being a business owner already makes an entrepreneur self-directed and disciplined towards his goals – the key traits needed to complete and excel in online programmes. The primary aspect to consider before selecting an online programme – apart from the certifying schools and faculty – is that it should offer the right curriculum and the appropriate networks for the entrepreneurs.

Many online learning players such as Coursera, edX, Udacity, Udemy and traditional Ivy League schools such as Harvard, MIT, Stanford, etc., are offering entrepreneurs more tools than ever before.

Traditional education throws two major hurdles our way – accessibility and financial affordability. The tuition fees for premier B-schools are very high and they spike periodically. This situation pushes a majority of applicants to the lower tier schools with mixed track records. An entrepreneur who is evaluating going to a business school may be extremely discouraged when they consider the tuition costs, living expenses and, most importantly, the loss of revenue or giving up the business during the period of education in a full-time programme.

Entrepreneurial journey and knowledge gaps

CB Insights has presented top 20 reasons for startup failure by analysing 101 startup failure post-mortems.

Reasons like lack of connections/network, legal challenges, domain expertise, timing the product launch, lack of business model and the number one reason that most (42 percent) of the startups fail – the pricing/cost issue can all be dealt with by gathering continuous and real-time knowledge through online courses that are delivered by faculty who are considered to be thought leaders in the domain. The courses are designed to suit the need of the entrepreneurs such as – how to build a startup, innovative ideas for new companies, startup engineering, design thinking, finance, law, competitive strategy etc.

Highlights of online courses

In addition to a variety of programmes and courses (mostly tailor-made and keeping up with the latest industry trends) and affordability, there are other factors encouraging business leaders to take this alternative.

Convenience and flexibility: The top reasons for entrepreneurs going the online way is that there is no strict time to be online for a lecture. Except for assignment deadline and exams, the participants can decide when to study and catch up with video lectures. Course materials are always accessible online, thus avoiding trips to libraries. This further makes online learning a good option for entrepreneurs balancing work and family commitments.

Freedom and accessibility: Online classroom do away with the commute, time that can be better invested in completing an assignment or online lecture, further avoiding the need to fight traffic, leave work early or miss family commitments. Moreover, the faculty coordinator and support team is more accessible as compared to the university staff with fixed office hours.

Platforms for collaboration/discussion: The latest online courses are equipped with user-friendly interface, complete with e-mail, discussion boards, assignment page, profile pages, video tutorials, news updates etc. Few even integrate interfaces with Facebook, so the participants know exactly when quarter grades are posted or when they have a new assignment.

Enhanced faculty-to-student interaction: Web-based education tools increase communication between students and faculty, through discussion boards, chats, and emails.

Peer-to-peer learning: Quality education facilitators strongly believe that students can learn as much from their peers as they can from the faculty; and peer-to-peer interaction is inevitable to attain professional, interpersonal, negotiation and leadership skills.

Learning by doing: Every student has a unique learning style. Some are visual learners, some learn better when they "learn by doing." This approach helps in in-depth understanding of concepts and even allows the learner to directly implement the techniques in the workplace and solve real-world problems.

Pedagogical benefits: Online learning features pedagogical benefits, both for the learner and the faculty. Frequent and prompt assessment provides concept reinforcement and increases motivation. Faculties post exams and end-of-chapter reviews without worrying about finding the time and resources to analyse results, as the grading is computerised and learners can receive immediate feedback.

Globally recognised certification: Online courses offered by the leading business schools and institutes offer globally-recognised certificates in addition to world-class learning and faculty.

In conclusion, the integration of web-based learning brings added value to traditional education. Entrepreneurs have a customised approach to knowledge acquisition that suits their learning styles and busy schedules. Continual access to resources through online delivery and automated management tools minimises cost and time associated with the experience. As technology evolves, online education promises to deliver even greater benefits in the future.

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)