Phase 1: Getting Started

Welcome to “Ventures in Learning Technology”!

ETEC 522 is an online immersion in the global eLearning marketplace with particular emphasis on emerging markets for learning technologies in public and commercial domains. The course will be delivered in a case-study modality from a venture and market analysis perspective. One of your primary learning resources, and creative outlet, will be a “pitch pool” of authentic 12-minute venture presentations by leaders of current, real-world learning enterprises spanning a range of application domains and market opportunities. Examples representing “entrepreneurial” and “intrapreneurial” ventures (see below) will provide a balance between corporate and institutional enterprise.

As the foundation for practical learning, you will undertake the critical due diligence analysis of ventures and markets individually and in groups. Given how quickly Internet technologies are changing, you will also be encouraged to explore, apply and evaluate emerging online tools and services as an essential part of the collective learning experience.

ETEC 522 is laid out as a simple narrative starting with an understanding of the what it takes to start a any new venture (“Business Boot Camp”) before looking at some particularities of the learning technologies world and then progressing into an analysis of emerging markets. We hope that this material will be useful for you, whether you are an entrepreneur working to establish a new eLearning business, or an intrapreneur, working to innovate within an existing institution or organization.

What do we mean by entrepreneurial and intrapreneurial?

An entrepreneur is someone who undertakes to found or rebuild a business motivated by an idea for a product/service that fits a defined market, with the expectation of earning enough to continue investing in the product from revenues. There are many people who are innovators – capable of thinking up dynamic ideas that become embodied in products or structured services – but who cannot actually build and run a business. Likewise, there are many people who are effective managers of an existing business, but who are unable to innovate with new ideas. The entrepreneur merges these two dynamics. You are an entrepreneur in the making if your first question, when struck by an idea, is “where’s the new business in this”? Our goal of becoming “educational venture analysts” is an attempt to use the skills and mindset of the entrepreneur to highlight what goes into the answer to that question as far as learning technologies are concerned.

The less-known concept of intrapreneur was first popularized in Geoffrey Pinchot III’s book Intrapreneuring (Harper & Row: New York, 1985), focussing on turning staff functions in organizations into “mini-companies” within the business – or on leaving and being hired back as an outsourced service provider. We think this definition is too narrow for the purposes of this course. You are an intrapreneur in the making if your first question, when struck by an idea, is “where’s the better business in this”? That is, when putting forward a project proposal, you have thought through the issues of the current business, market, customer, reinvestment needs and the larger learning technologies “ecology” as a part of your proposal.

Finally, we intend that ETEC 522 will also embody “emergence”. When we first launched this course the learning technologies world was dominated by “convergence” – new ventures driven by the rapid expansion of information and communication technology potentials, primarily centred on the Internet. Convergence is still accelerating, but it has spawned the even more explosive dynamic of “emergence” – largely unpredictable (?), largely social (?) phenomena arising out of the incredibly complex web of connectedness, freedoms, and capabilities that convergence has already delivered. Abundant emergence examples include Flickr, YouTube, FaceBook, wikis and the blogosphere. Will emergence transform learning? Nobody knows how much yet, but the potentials are important enough to determine our analytical focus on emerging markets, and for us to encourage plenty of experimentation on your part in the collective experience of ETEC 522!