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TMCNet:  U.Va. Darden Strategy MOOC Allows Students to Help Entrepreneurs and Nonprofits

[February 11, 2013]

U.Va. Darden Strategy MOOC Allows Students to Help Entrepreneurs and Nonprofits

Feb 11, 2013 (Close-Up Media via COMTEX) -- The University of Virginia Darden School of Business announced that more than 52,000 students have registered for Professor Michael Lenox's first Massively Open Online Course (MOOC) for Coursera, "Foundations of Business Strategy." According to a release, the six-week online course, which begins 4 March 2013, will deliver lessons on the foundations of a successful business strategy. Lenox's MOOC is also one of the first of its kind to offer real-world experience by providing students with the opportunity to analyze actual entrepreneurial and nonprofit ventures.

"Entrepreneurs, small business owners and nonprofits often don't have the resources to hire a consulting firm. Rather than have the students all analyze the same business, why not leverage their sheer numbers to do some good for others " said Lenox. "Businesses and social ventures can benefit from the wisdom of crowds to perhaps learn something of value for their enterprise." Lenox, who coordinates and teaches the Darden School's core MBA strategy course, is also executive director of Darden's Batten Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. Keenly aware of the challenges emerging ventures face, he views the MOOC as a way to provide benefits to students, entrepreneurs and nonprofits. Students will gain the tools they need to conduct a strategic analysis, and entrepreneurs and nonprofits will learn from the competitive analysis that the students will provide.

For their final project, students in Lenox's MOOC will choose an organization for which to conduct a strategic analysis. Lenox encourages entrepreneurs and nonprofits to register for the course in order to be eligible for the final project. Students will select an organization through online forums and more than one student may analyze an organization, though an organization is not guaranteed that it will be selected.

Lenox is working with Rhodes Scholar and Oxford University graduate student, Nabeel Gillani, to analyze the effectiveness of this approach. Gillani's master's thesis in education explores the power of MOOCs to help solve challenges for others.

"The concept can be applied in any number of domains," Lenox added. "Imagine a course on graphic design where students prepare solutions for real nonprofits or a computer program course where students develop code for small startups with limited budgets. The potential is enormous." Gillani is creating a platform to scale the idea called, which matches organizations with courses to empower students to solve real-world problems.

Lenox's "Foundations of Business Strategy" course is one of three courses offered on Coursera, by the Darden School this spring.

"We are very excited to see how the Coursera platform is allowing our faculty to experiment with new and innovative ways of creating value for participants in their courses," said Peter Rodriguez, senior associate dean of academic programs at Darden.

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