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

Entrepreneurship and Technology Innovations in Education

Course Number 1602

Senior Lecturer John J-H Kim
Spring; Q3Q4; 3 credits
28 Sessions
4 Blog Posts

Career Focus

Entrepreneurship and Technology Innovations in Education (ETIE) is a course that explores how entrepreneurs are applying business practices and technology innovations to transform classrooms and schools/colleges to lead to higher performance.

With prosperity and life outcomes closely linked to educational attainment levels, entrepreneurs and investors are stepping in to reimagine the classroom and schools, and the whole approach to teaching and learning. In the last few years, the sector has witnessed innovations such as tools to highly personalize learning, online learning platforms to increase access, and creating new affordable private schools in developing countries such as India and Africa to address the lack of quality public schools. With trillions of dollars spent annually on education around the world, the large potential market, and significant opportunities for improvement, there has been a corresponding growth in investments in companies seeking to transform this sector.

ETIE takes a general management approach and is intended for a broad audience. The course is appropriate for students who are interested in creating, leading, investing, or merely supporting education enterprises. No prior experience in education is required.

Educational Objectives

The course takes the perspective of a leader in an educational venture or enterprise. As entrepreneurs lead their organizations through product development processes, monetization strategies, scaling approaches, etc., they must also contend with working within a large bureaucracy, addressing entrenched interests, and being subject to public scrutiny. The course looks at ways in which entrepreneurs are seeking to overcome these obstacles but also taking creative approaches to turn them into sustainable advantages. ETIE's objectives are to teach students:

  • To understand the key forces and challenges in the education sector creating opportunities for entrepreneurs.
  • To develop an approach to identifying promising opportunities for 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

Majority of the classes will be on the opportunities that exist in K-12 with a module on post-secondary opportunities. Most of the cases will be about U.S.-based organizations, but there will be several non-U.S. cases and lessons can be generalized to a more global context. Many of the classes with host the case protagonist who can provide greater understanding of the context and the decisions faced by them. They will also host a coffee session right after class for deeper discussion. There will also be a class session with a panel of educational entrepreneurs.

The course is organized into four modules:

  1. What does entrepreneurship and technology innovations in education look like? And how do you measure success? What problems are entrepreneurs tackling? What are the opportunities that technology is uniquely positioned to address? How good is good enough? How should one define successful performance in education?
  2. Tool Makers: What do you need to do to develop a successful educational technology tool/service and build a successful business? Can you do "good" and do "well"? How are entrepreneurs addressing important questions such as:

    a. What are potential business models? Should it be a service or product?

    b. What should be the monetization strategy given that most of the customers may be a government entity? Should the entrepreneur seek to sell to schools and school districts, to teachers, or directly to students and parents?

    c. Should the entrepreneur organize as a for-profit or not-for-profit?

    d. How should the entrepreneur navigate regulatory and privacy issues given the public nature of education, especially when focusing on K-12?

    e. Where are the likely areas of greatest resistance? And how should the entrepreneur prepare to address them?

  3. School Builders: what does the school of the future look like? Rather than just selling products and services to schools, some entrepreneurs are harnessing technology to completely reimagine the traditional K-12 school or college. We will explore questions such as:

    a. How will the roles of teachers/professors change in schools/colleges of the future?

    b. Can technology fundamentally change the cost of schooling?

    c. What are the challenges in replicating, scaling, and sustaining successful models?

  4. Conclusion: How can you scale what works? How can you have an impact on this sector?

Course Requirement

Grading will be based on class participation and blog posts. Students will be required to write three 500-750 word blog posts of a student's choosing on any case or class discussion topic during the course. One blog post will be on a topic assigned by the instructor. Each student must also respond to at least four blog posts.