A series of massive open online courses, or Moocs, for entrepreneurs has been launched by two of the UK’s leading academic institutions in a partnership with Tech City, a government agency seeking to foster a cluster of tech start-ups in London that can rival Silicon Valley.
The Digital Business Academy, a joint venture with Cambridge University’s Judge Business School, UCL, Tech City and start-up course designer Founder Centric will beam eight business-related online courses onto entrepreneurs’ laptops and tablets.
It represents business schools’ latest efforts to diversify their learning to cater for start-up founders, many of whom cannot afford tuition fees or to take time off to complete an MBA, the flagship business degree. It is also their latest push into online learning, which promises to revolutionize the business education market.
Professor Stephen Caddick, UCL vice-provost for enterprise, said: “We are committed to helping as many people as possible to acquire skills in business, digital technologies and entrepreneurship so that they can start and grow the companies that will create jobs and drive the UK economy.”
By rolling out these Moocs, the business schools are able to cater to new demographics and reach a wider global audience. They also act as a feeder to their expensive post-graduate degree programs and Master of Management courses.
The method of teaching that the courses use, known as distance learning, sees lectures delivered via video and students interact with each other through virtual environments.
It is part of a wider bid to cater to the changing attitudes of today’s managers. Many graduates are turning to entrepreneurship and will prefer to start up their own companies or join smaller organizations, rather than work at large corporates.
By establishing a series of Moocs, the agency hopes to improve the commercial success of Britain’s digital entrepreneurs, whom they see as crucial in creating jobs and thus driving the UK’s economy.
In a statement, UK Prime Minister David Cameron said that ensuring that businesses have the right digital skills so that they can compete in the “economy of the future” is a key part of the government’s long-term economic plan.
“The Digital Business Academy will open up our great universities… Reinforcing the UK’s position as a leading digital economy,” he added.
The online courses cover subjects including business development, marketing, branding and finance. Each program will take three to six weeks to complete.
Over 1,000 people have already signed up during the pre-registration phase.
It is thought to be the world’s first government-supported online learning platform to provide digital and business skills.
The distance learning environment, UCLeXtend, has been endorsed by more than 30 industry partners including the BBC, Twitter and Microsoft Ventures.