RRU ready to invest? …

I may sound harsh here, but I’m going to start by saying no to investing in this one – for numerous reasons. (Comments most welcome if you disagree with what I say because I’m new to being an EVA.)

Burgess takes too long to get to the point in her pitch. The introduction is much, much too long. Actually, I’m curious: who is her audience? Would she not pitch this idea to people inside the university? If so, is it necessary to go into so much detail about RRU’s history? Please tell me if I’m wrong here. Regardless, I would spend a little less time talking about the historical significance of RRU … and the history of OCW, too.

Her words appear to have said a lot about RRU, but the rhetoric is empty. She said a lot about its history, its successful marketing team, its “innovative pedagogy”, and its “effective use of technologies”, but no concrete examples were given. Nor were there suggestions about how RRU’s OCW would be different from other universities. Yes, she showed that some research had been done with regards to how other universities adopted OCW, and she commented on common criticisms about this practice; however, there was very little (if anything) about how RRU would overcome the criticisms made about MIT and other universities. Instead she provides comments that are full of logical fallacies (sorry …), such as “The bottom line is it‘s the right thing to do”. Is it? I’m not convinced, yet. (Although, I do support the idea of OCW.)

Burgess does do well when mentioning how OCW would benefit the university. Yet there is little information about how this will be accomplished. Will they ensure high quality materials that are competitive against MIT’s OCW? Is that feasible? Will their methods for delivering content be innovative? How?

I also question whether her plan for how OCW would truly benefit students. She didn’t seem to give enough evidence for this. In fact, I got more of an impression that the OCW would be used more for marketing purposes, attracting more students, attracting more faculty.

And, which I’ll admit that I’m perhaps being too harsh here, I was not impressed by her delivery. For example, she relied too much on pathos (such as commenting on the university’s credibility) and ethos (such as visuals in the presentation like … the baby – why a baby?).


1 Erica T { 09.17.09 at 9:09 am }

I am also a neophyte EVA, but many of the points made by Sean McMinn resonated with me. In watching the pitch by Burgess, I found myself wondering exactly the same thing. Who is interested here? Who would be inclined to respond to her pitch? It got me thinking about the importance of understanding your target audience and clearly stating your business model. I did not see evidence of that in this pitch.

In the second viewing of this pitch, I tried to be open minded about the intentions of the speaker. She was acting as the intrapreneur. I believe her intentions were exactly to ask herself “where is the better business in this?” But as the EVA – in this case I would assume that I am to take on the role of the Dean or the President – I would ask for evidence of the setup of a management team that could handle all the facets necessary for success of the OCW. However the pitch does not seem directed at the Dean or the President, but as McMinn suggests, it seems directed at drawing more student enrollment into the school. Obviously that is the ultimate goal in instituting the OCW delivery at RRU, but I found the video lacked focus on who exactly was being pitched to.

The presentation did not elaborate enough on the Business Model. It did not show the feasiblity of incorporating the OCW or if there was any indication of market readiness to implement this delivery system.

I do believe that the destination was clear – to provide the benefit of OCW to the students enrolled at RRU and continue this university’s reputation as a leader in innovation. However as the EVA, I would have to turn down this pitch until more substantial data is given to show that they have the technical innovation necessary to make this venture succeed.

2 davidp { 09.17.09 at 11:36 am }

Yes, the OCW pitch in any academic context is very tough sell. You’re right that Deans or VPs Academic would be the target for such a pitch, but so would the faculty members whose content is being made “open.”

We’ll see more about open in upcoming module team activities. For the big academic institutions like MIT, the originator of the OCW approach, it is definitely about attracting the best students towards MIT, while providing access to open resources for self-study globally.

In many cases, open initiatives have benefited from significant financial grants from philanthropic organizations, such as the Hewlett Foundation (http://www.hewlett.org/).

These kinds of organziation may actually be a primary target for intrapreneurial pitches.


3 Stuart Edgar { 09.17.09 at 3:50 pm }

Hello, Sean.
What logical fallacies do you think Mary Burgess committed?
To say, “It’s the right thing to do”, may not be very persuasive but I don’t believe that it commits any logical fallacy.

4 Sean McMinn { 09.17.09 at 4:06 pm }

Hi Stuart,

You’re right; that phrase on its own doesn’t. I guess I was thinking of how she came to that conclusion, which seems to me was following the argument that becasuse everyone else is doing it so …

I was probably too strong by saying its full of logical fallacies, though. I guess I just felt that I would have to make too many leaps of faith.

5 Stuart Edgar { 09.17.09 at 5:14 pm }

Hi, Sean.
I agree that a lot had to be taken on faith.
…and where did that baby come from?

6 jennie wong { 09.17.09 at 6:41 pm }


Maybe she was trying to show that you can raise a young family and get a few degrees while you’re at it. You’re right now – no mention???

7 Jeff Laird { 09.17.09 at 7:12 pm }

I have to agree with Sean’s criticism of the introduction to this pitch. If I were a member of the Dragon’s Den I would have to ask “Who the hell cares about your beautiful and historic campus if you are pushing the idea of online courses? Does it matter if your servers are housed in Hatley castle or in a bunker at bottom of the ocean?”

8 davidp { 09.17.09 at 9:38 pm }

Clearly, this is not a reality TV Dragon’s Den pitch, Jeff. Do we actually think all the Dragon’s Den pitches are highly representative of real pitches, and not something hyped for a frothing TV audience?

This is an intrapreneurial pitch, to an internal audience of faculty and university administrators, pushing an innovation and seeking support from an audience of colleagues and senior staff.

I think it may require a slightly different EVA lens than that represented in the imaginary Den, no?


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