P&Q: Looking ahead, what initiatives does Wharton have in the pipeline or what are you working to perfect that would be attractive to applicants looking to eventually move into entrepreneurship?
KU: I think the big differentiators for Wharton, relative to other schools, are our size and scope. We’re a really big community and that makes it very easy to find like-minded classmates who are interested in similar things. If you’re interested in something relatively specialized, Wharton would be a very good choice because you’re likely to find 20 other people who have similar interests.
The other great thing about Wharton is that we’re seamlessly connected into the rest of the university. We have very strong connections to the medicine school, engineering school, the Graduate School of Education, the College of Arts and Sclences. We’re on the same campus as the rest of the university. We have actually re-named our program to be Penn Wharton Entrepreneurship for exactly the purpose of better connecting our students with the rest of campus.
And third, just to reiterate, no other school offers this ability to spend time on the East Coast (a finance-driven, Wall Street oriented setting) and the Bay Area entrepreneurial ecosystem. Our students can pick-or-choose or experience both at Wharton.
P&Q: You were a pioneering force behind the development of MOOCs at Wharton. How has the growth of MOOCs evolved in ways you’ve expected and (more important) not expected?
KU: I think the first lesson is that we were all quite shocked, pleasantly shocked, by the positive reception of world to our business fundamentals — the foundational content — that we put on the MOOCs. That’s true in entrepreneurship as well. As an instructor, it has been extremely gratifying to receive emails from all over the world. Recently, someone sent me a product in the mail that came out of their entrepreneurship course project from my MOOC. It’s just really satisfying to realize what kind of impact we’re having globally through the MOOC platform. Social mission was always my primary motivation with the MOOCs, being able to share and disseminate knowledge related to business.
From a business standpoint, I think we were surprised that the one area where people were willing to pay was for that professional credentialing (and that tends to be true of business and technical subjects). We quickly learned is that while the social mission is furthered by these MOOCs in many different areas, the relatively few areas in which people were actually willing to pay tended to be related to job performance or credentialing that’s relevant to their professional lives.
I also found that after I developed this MOOC content on video, I’d find myself in class wanting to show the video because I thought, ‘Hey, I said it better on the video and I have all these great examples.’ One day I was doing that in class and I thought, ‘This is kind of ridiculous that I’m standing here showing you a video that I made previously because it’s a better illustration of the content.’ So the next time I taught that course, I just pushed all of my video content onto the syllabus as preparation for class. That allowed me to cover a lot more ground in the course and use the time that the students and I were together to do things that only benefit from us being together in the same time and place. Anything else was pushed onto video. So it really changed my personal teaching style for sure.
P&Q: Are there any other points that you’d like to add?
KU: I think brand perceptions are very sticky in higher education. People perceive Wharton as being the finance school; Harvard as the general management school; Kellogg as being the marketing school. There are these brand perceptions that have been around for decades and they are so hard to move. What I would encourage any student to do is go to the school websites and look at the actual entrepreneurial resources; the alumni activities; the students who have come out of the program; and the resources that are actually available on campus. Let that inform their decisions. I think what they’ll find is that at Wharton we have hundreds programs that touch more than 2,000 students a year on campus in our entrepreneurial ecosystem. Those are often activities and resources that people might find surprising to see at Wharton because they perceive Wharton as primarily a finance school. That actually hasn’t been true, in numerical terms, for decades (if ever).
One of the things that they may not know, for example, Is this connection to Silicon Valley. We also have a very strong (and quite similar) connection to Greater China. We have a center in Beijing. I go there four times a year. We take students there. We have alumni entrepreneurial resources there as well. So the entrepreneurial resources at Wharton are extremely global and connect Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Beijing physical resources and many other parts of the world with virtual resources.