Entrepreneurship and Technology Innovations in Education - Harvard Business School MBA Program

Entrepreneurship and Technology Innovations in Education

Course Number 1525

Senior Lecturer John J-H Kim
Spring; Q3; 1.5 credits
14 Sessions
Blog Posts

See video overview


Entrepreneurship and Technology Innovations in Education (ETIE) explores how entrepreneurs are applying business practices and/or technology innovations to transform K-12 education to lead to higher performance.

It is intended for students interested in creating, leading, or supporting education enterprises. It will also be of interest to those seeking to better understand the system so that they can contribute effectively as board members or volunteers in non-profit organizations with a social and/or educational mission. No prior experience in public education is required.

Educational Objectives

The U.S. spends more than $600 billion each year in providing public education to more than 50 million children in K - 12th grade. Despite ranking in the top tier in terms of per-pupil spending, the U.S. continues to lag by virtually every international measure of proficiency. Perhaps more problematic is the persistent achievement gap between sub-groups of students (e.g., white, middle class and affluent students on the one hand and African- American, Hispanic and low-income students on the other).

Significant entrepreneurial activity emerged in response to this performance gap in the nation's schools. For example, many entrepreneurs have started charter schools, which are privately managed public schools. Today, nearly 5% of all public school children in the US attend these schools, many of them managed and governed by HBS alumni.

More recently, there have been significant efforts to use technology to achieve greater personalization in teaching and learning or to increase engagement among parents, teachers, and students. Education technology industry investments hit nearly $2.0 billion in 2014, more than doubling the investment in this sector since 2012.

ETIE's objectives are to teach students:

  • To understand the key forces and challenges in the U.S. public education sector creating opportunities for entrepreneurs.
  • To develop an approach to identifying promising opportunities in technology-driven education tools and schools.
  • To determine an approach for determining the optimal business model e.g., for-profit vs. non-profit, platform vs. application, institutional vs. consumer, etc.
  • To determine ways to replicate, scale, and sustain successful educational enterprises.

Course Content

The course introduces students to the current context, challenges, and opportunities in U.S. public education, the critical elements for analyzing the potential effectiveness of technological innovations and entrepreneurial social ventures in education, and methods to identify and evaluate entrepreneurial opportunities in U.S. public education. The design of ETIE takes a general management approach.

The course will be case-based. Many case protagonists will be attending when their case is taught. The course is organized into two modules:

1) Incorporating Technology Tools. The typical classroom of today looks remarkably like the classrooms of a hundred years ago. While there are now some desktop, laptop, or tablet devices visible in classrooms, methods of instruction remain largely unchanged. This course will examine a series of innovative tools that are being introduced by entrepreneurs and the important decisions they are facing such as:

  • What are some potential business models?
  • What should be the monetization strategy given that the entrepreneur is dealing with a public, government entity? Should the entrepreneur seek to sell to schools and school districts, go to teachers, or directly to students and parents?
  • Should the entrepreneur organize as a for-profit or not-for-profit?
  • How should the entrepreneur navigate regulatory and privacy issues given the public nature of K-12 education?

2) Building New School Models. Entrepreneurs are pursuing the application of market and business principles such as greater parental choice, increased autonomy and accountability, and more transparent measures of performance to improve schools. Charter schools, independently run public schools, have sprouted in virtually every state. Entrepreneurs are now harnessing technology to completely reimagine the traditional school. We will use the cases to explore questions such as:

  • What role do market forces play in what is primarily a public good?
  • How will the roles of teachers change in a school of the future?
  • What are the challenges in replicating, scaling and sustaining successful models?

The cases will be primarily on U.S.-based organizations, though lessons can be generalized to a more global context. Many of the classes will have guests that can provide greater understanding of the context and the decisions faced by entrepreneurs. This will also provide students a chance to learn about and explore ways to enter and succeed in this sector.

Course Content

Class Participation - 50%

As with most HBS courses, active and effective class participation is an essential component of learning. Student grades for this component will be based on the instructor's assessment of the effectiveness of the student's class participation along with attendance, participation in polls, etc.

Blog posts - 50%

  • Two 500 -750 word reflection on any topic, case, or speaker during the course.
  • Each student must also respond to at least three blogs.