The popular view of a successful entrepreneur is someone with a big vision, and an obstinate determination to reach his goals. However, one element that is often overlooked is the need for constant learning to keep abreast with latest industry changes. This is particularly true for IT businesses.
Universities are offering entrepreneurs more tools than ever before for on-the-job learning, while training companies are offering a range of resources, such as e-learning.
Those worried about the effectiveness of online learning compared to face-to-face classes will be reassured by a recent report from the U.S. Department of Education which found that “classes with online learning on average produce stronger student learning outcomes than do classes with solely face-to-face instruction.”
Let’s see a few examples of online classes that every start-up professional should take to make sure his business is going to be successful.
1. Steve Blank’s “How to Build a Startup”
Udacity’s course focuses on how to rapidly develop and test ideas by collecting big amounts of customer and marketplace feedback. Many startups usually fail by not validating their ideas early on with real-life customers. In order to mitigate that, the course will teach students how to “get out of the building” and search for the real pain points and unmet needs of customers. Only with these can the entrepreneur find a proper solution and establish a suitable business model.
2. Stanford University's “Startup Engineering”
This course taught by Balaji Srinivasan and Vijay Pande of Stanford University, gives entrepreneurs the skills they need to build a tech startup from the ground up. Key tools and techniques explored include command line, dotfiles, text editor, distributed version control, debugging, testing, documentation, reading code, and deployment. The class also features guest appearances by senior engineers at successful startups.
3. Munich University’s “Competitive Strategy”
Tobias Kretschmer of the University of Munich explores how firms behave in situations where its actions affect a competitor’s profits, or vice versa. By analyzing how firms select strategies to gain the competitive advantage, the aim of the course is to get professionals thinking about business strategy in a more systematic way.
4. University of Michigan's “Introduction to Finance”
This course primarily focuses on the fundamental principles of valuation and how to apply the concepts of the time value of money and risk to understand the major determinants of value creation.
5. Duke University's “A Beginner's Guide to Irrational Behavior”
In this course, you will learn why we don't always behave rationally, and how we might overcome our shortcomings. You'll also learn about cases where our irrationalities work in our favor, and how we can harness these human tendencies to make better decisions.
While these online courses offer a great affordable way to gain up-to-date skills, do not dismiss regular face-to-face trainings. For example, Activia Training, a UK-based face-to-face training provider, highlights that for busy professionals, time management is often the biggest challenge in their professional development plan. Since the traditional classroom setting provides a schedule, it’s easier for a lot of professionals to integrate the training course into the daily routine, compared to an online course that will be regularly pushed down the priority list.
As Steve Blank, the developer of the Customer Development methodology, said: “No Business plan survives first contact to customers”. That’s one of the reasons why entrepreneurs have started to attend training courses to achieve knowledge on how to identify and engage customers, market a product, and make a strengthen a business model. The way the training is conceived, planned and delivered keeping in mind the business needs and the requirements of the learners, is crucial to the success of any training program – online or offline. Hence, in a debate between advocates of traditional format of learning and eLearning, there is no clear winner.