Program Name: Master of Entrepreneurship & Innovation
School: HEC Paris
Length of Program: 10-16 months
Cost: 20,000 euro ($21,600)
Peter Todd made news last year when he became the first non-French dean of HEC Paris, one of Europe’s oldest and most prestigious business schools. Now he and the school are hoping to make news again, this time of the curricular variety.
At the Coursera Partners Conference at the University of Colorado in Boulder, Colorado, on March 29, HEC Paris announced that it will launch a new Master of Innovation & Entrepreneurship program this fall, in partnership with Coursera, that is geared toward executives and entirely online. The course “will be as selective as all other degrees at HEC Paris,” Todd tells Poets&Quants — but also will be designed to be flexible, allowing prospective students to start learning immediately on the Coursera platform with open enrollment Specializations that, once a student is admitted, can then be credited toward the degree.
The program promises to teach successful applicants “how to combine talent and capital, manage rapid growth and reduce risk factors by using decision-making skills they have acquired.” Its entrepreneurial angle will encourage students to “explore new ways of thinking when faced with different opportunities in social ventures, governments, and life.” As Todd says, “HEC Paris offers participants the opportunity to learn from world-class practitioners in their industries. Through innovative, fully online and interactive courses, participants will leave the program ready to launch their own venture or to innovate within their existing organizations.”
In the second part of the program, students will work in teams over six months “on a project of choice, from the planning stages to bringing the idea to life,” receiving once-a-week mentoring from experienced entrepreneurs and business leaders. Seed funding from HEC Paris will be granted to successful graduates. Todd says he expects between 125 and 150 students in the first intake this fall.
“We’re moving into this online world, and these are people that have got great experiences, they’ve got great drive, and really strong self-motivation,” he says of the type of student HEC Paris is looking for. “Also people coming into this program are going to have a project in mind. Coming into the program, they’re going be able to define their notion of success in terms of what they want to accomplish — not just in terms of their learning, but in terms of a real outcome. This is sort of rooted in our long-term philosophy here, being tied to industry in Paris, being tied to the Chamber of Commerce in Paris, this idea of learning by doing.”
In his 2016 interview with P&Q, Todd said his tenure as dean would be defined by three big themes. The first is entrepreneurship. “About one-quarter of our students today are interested in entrepreneurship,” he said, “and we have 100 startups coming out of the school every year. That’s a very interesting dynamic and it’s something that is well tied to the economy of France. It’s something we want to build on.”
The second theme? Digital transformation, “where we already have an advantage in our offerings. We see the need to be changed or we will be changed. I think for us it’s better to be in a leadership position, and we’re thinking about how it will change our executive education model. It’s important to us how we integrate blended learning into everything we do today. I think our students and the marketplace demand it. I’d rather have us define the pathway then have it imposed on us.”
And the third big theme that will define Peter Todd’s deanship? Social responsibility — which on the surface doesn’t seem to connect to the new master’s degree. But then again …
“We have a group of about 25 professors who work in this area and study the relationship and the linkage of business to society,” Todd said in 2016, “the obligation of businesses today and the notion of managing values in an organization. It is another track where we clearly have some great strength and some points of distinction.”
Why did HEC Paris launch the program? “We’re in a world where our business is starting to change,” Todd says. “And this for us after five years of doing MOOCs, after putting some exec ed certificates together and so on, and we’ve really developed our capacity in online delivery — and, we think, what it takes to deliver a really high-end program in an online model.”
How is it different from what else is on the market? “There aren’t a whole lot of business schools at our level who are pushing out digital product to the point where you’re saying, ‘We’re offering a degree,’ and I think the way the faculty have come together, there’s now just over 20 different professors who are each involved in cutting new online courses together, and that’s something where you see a rolling around a whole new way of thinking about pedagogy. So as we push out this program on innovation and entrepreneurship, we’re having our professors being both very innovative and entrepreneurial with the way we put the program together.”
Who is the ideal applicant and student? The program, according to the HEC website, is aimed at “professionals in charge of or interested in product Prietag: $21,600innovation, business development, entrepreneurs, aspiring entrepreneurs, and intrapreneurs.” Todd adds: “The program is targeted at an executive learning audience, people with five-plus years’ work experience, and people who are interested in internal innovation inside large organizations and people who are looking to start their own business and build business plans.”
It’s not an intangible, Todd says. “We really want that aspect of people who are not just self-driven and self-motivated, but who really want to learn things by taking courses, yes, but really by applying what they’re doing and applying it to the goals that they have, that they want fulfilled.”
What’s the application process? Are GMATs or GREs required? An essay? Applicants for the degree program must have a bachelor’s degree, five years’ work experience, and English proficiency. Applicants will be asked to submit a potential project idea. GMAT or GRE are recommended, but not mandatory. Applicants also must make a three-minute online video pitch.
What are the application deadlines? The next sessions of the program are on September 25, 2017. Applications are now open; the deadline for Round 1 is May 15.
What can a student do to best prepare for the program in advance of its start? “What we’re looking at is how we open up the entrepreneurship universe on Coursera for people to look at and think about,” Todd says. “And then part of our idea is having these front-end certificates so that students can actually work their way through the certificates independent of applying to the degree program. If they want to, they can also apply directly. But that lets them test and develop their own capacity around creativity, around new product development, around scaling up business operations and operations management.
“So we’ve kind of tried to build some of that idea of, ‘What do I need to do to prepare?’ into these certificates, where students can basically do some sampling of these things to get themselves ramped up heading into the program.”
What will students learn in the program? What’s the program format? The program has a flexible format designed for busy professionals, who begin by completing a series of foundational courses over eight to 10 months leading to a HEC Paris Certificate in Innovation Management and Entrepreneurship, issued by HEC Paris. The courses are self-paced, “providing both greater flexibility and the option to credit these courses towards your degree,” according to descriptions from HEC Paris and Coursera.
The foundational courses are offered as Coursera Specializations, and participants “have the option to earn credit toward HEC’s degree programs through case studies, assignments, and a proctored exam. Course topics include creativity and innovation, new product development, entrepreneurial strategy, and scaling up your business.”
“What’s interesting about it is, we’re building a set of online classic courses built on things we’ve already done at HEC that provide the front end for it,” Todd says. “The back end of it is going to be a very interactive online learning experience where the students will actually be in virtual learning teams working together with a sort of mentor who is working with them directly on the development of a business plan and end project.”
Describe the final project. Students seeking the full degree will “complete a six-month project-based curriculum taught by HEC Paris faculty and mentored by seasoned entrepreneurs and business leaders. The key objective,” according to Coursera, “is to help you transform your ideas into business reality, culminating in a final pitch.” Interactive courses will be taught by HEC Paris faculty, with topics including design thinking, teamwork, business planning, negotiations, and start-up financing.
“The series of project-based courses in the degree module on the back end will all be tied around the idea that students are working in a team towards a business goal that they’ve developed, a business idea that hey’ve developed. So that gets them thinking about really working in teams, really thinking about design, really thinking about how to use and work in a virtual and online environment — and then how to go out and raise the capital you need to launch that business.”
What do you expect student outcomes to be? “Long-term, the measure of success over time is going to be how these people build businesses. Are they launching new businesses and building businesses coming out of this program? And whether that’s launching a new business inside a business or whether that’s launching a new enterprise — and that’s something we’ve put a keen amount of emphasis on, as you’ve seen over the last five or six years, to the point where coming out of the business school you’re seeing about 100 startups every year rolling out of the school, and we’re seeing about 80% of those still going three years later. It’s those kind metrics that I think we’re going to want to apply here, too.”