World Without Entrepreneurs

World Without Entrepreneurs

An Entrepreneur is someone who uses capital, own or borrowed, to generate more capital and in the process takes risks, senses and creates business opportunities, disrupts markets , create employment, improve lives, and create wonderful things. Without them, there is quite a possibility that the world would not have had Telephone, Automobile, Computer, Railways, Water Purifiers, Coins and a many other things; this world might not have been the same as we see it today.

World has seen millions, probably more, entrepreneurs and their contributions touch our daily lives in many ways from bi-cycles to cars, computers to smart phones and the list can go on for pages.

Well, my list of favorites include four entrepreneurs who I believe have a major contribution in the way we live our lives in 21st century. They have changed the way we Commute, Compute and Search for information.

“If you embrace the unknown, you’re an entrepreneur.”

1. Automobiles have been such a integral part of our daily life that we just can’t imagine reporting to work on time without our vehicles, and an Entrepreneur named Henry Ford made this possible.

Despite experiencing two business failures, Henry Ford  democratized the automobile by making it available to masses. His constant endeavor to improve on the quality of automobile and reducing the price saw the production of better,faster and cheaper cars in early 20th century.  It took him close to 5 years for his first commercial product to be rolled out and another 5 years to roll out the famous Model T, which was inexpensive and was available for the masses, if it was not for his Perseverance & Focus, the automobile world could have been very different than we know it now.

His life inspires me because of his unparalleled tenacity towards his vision and his commitment to challenge and improve his own inventions.

Thinking is the hardest work to do, that’s why so few people are engaged in it.” – Henry Ford

“If you see opportunity when others see impossibility, you’re an entrepreneur. “

2. I am using my Personal Computer to write this blog, you are probably using one or your smartphone to read this blog. Now just imagine life without these wonderful gadgets.

When IBM clearly stated that a small computer was impractical, a young Entrepreneur named Steve Jobs resolved to have a computer on every table. Steve Job’s passion for perfect designs, better user interface lay the foundation of almost all the products Apple ever rolled out. His obsession with Customer Experience as a Innovator and as a Marketer saw Apple’s revival in 1997 and obviously changed the way computing is consumed. His spirit of learning from his mistakes and achieving greater heights especially after being hit hard continues to inspire many entrepreneurs.

Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me… Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful… that’s what matters to me.” – Steve Jobs

“If you believe that nothing is “unrealistic”, you’re an entrepreneur.”

3 & 4.  Take a pause and think, when was the last time you didn’t use Google to get answers to your questions.

Google was started with a mission to Organize and make the world’s information universally accessible and useful. Two Stanford students Larry Page and Sergey Brin saw an opportunity of improving the way information is searched over internet, the rest is over a decade’s history which saw Google becoming a synonym to search and changing the way people access information.

This duo continues to wow the world with amazing inventions, they keep challenging the status-quo, they keep taking unrealistic challenges and turn them into opportunities, which is hallmark of a true entrepreneur. One more thing which I like most about them is culture of entrepreneurship (or intrapreneurship) they have built in Google.

“If we were motivated by money, we would have sold the company a long time ago and ended up on a beach.” – Larry Page

Lets celebrate the spirit of Entrepreneurship at TiECon Pune’s maiden edition on 30th March 2013.

Republished from my blog on TieCon2013


Challenges in implementing Free Online Education in Developing Nations like India

MOOCs (Massively Open Online Course) have certainly created a buzz about how it has the potential to change the face of higher

education as we know it. While a lot is being done to assess the impact and efficacy, I just thought what would it take to crea

te a similar model to work in Developing Countries or specifically in areas where the current MOOCs have not been able to create a mark.

I understand that some of the MOOCs like Coursera, Venturelab are popular in Countries like, India, Pakistan, Srilanka, African Countries etc too but its not reaching to the masses, internet penetration could be one of the problems however its increasing.

The premise on which any online course work is the learner is motivated, and I feel there are enough motivated learners in these areas as well.

(Photo credit: silkolive)

I believe we just need to figure out the hindrances in adoption and find a solution. A few challenges which I have identified are,

  • Localization of content – The west generates enough content, however not enough localized content in India is being generated for now
  • Contextualization – An Indian learner might learn better with a content generated with respect to India context rather than US context
  • Figure out the motivation factors – Acquiring Knowledge has been one of the main motivation factors however certificates, job assistance are some of the key motivation factors in countries like India
  • Assessing interests of local universities to do so – A few universities in India including the IITs have some open content but creating a pedagogy model to engage participants would go a long way
  • How would teachers react to such a initiative by their universities? – Teachers in the west have shown tremendous interest towards such inititiatives, hence more and more experts, teachers and univerties are coming forward to conduct free online courses. This still needs to be assessed for teachers from the sub-continent
  • Create awareness about free and open education – Not many students know about this,
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Success & Failure of MOOCs – Learning from a recent course from CourseEra

A recent course on “Fundamentals of Online Education: Planning and Application” at Coursera was taken off in a weeks’ time from its launch, apparently because of some implementation problems. It was disappointing especially because the course itself was on planning & application of online education.

In one of my earlier posts I have highlighted the success factors for designing a robust learning environment. Lets look at this case closely and make an attempt to analyse the success and failure of such programs.

I think the most important aspect of success of such programs is designing the pedagogy to create an engaging model for self paced learning. Such engagements can be created in many ways, first, content and the delivery style, which has been very aptly demonstrated by Khan Academy among others.

Second the engagements should be made seamless by appropriate use of technology, like the user experience, design, group engagements etc. Discussions among participation forms a key part of the learning process and the first problem users faced was “How to join a group”, which highlights a flaw in user experience.

Third the pedagogical model or steps in the learning process, I felt the model should have been more challenging. Sharing video lectures and having a quiz after you watch all the videos is suddenly becoming an old school thought. Appropriate pedagogy model like the ones used by Venture Program was much more engaging, like learning videos supplemented by activity based  learning (with a combination of individual and group activities) for all the weeks, pointers to resources outside the learning environment and using practical examples.

Lastly, simple things like highlighting course progress in a simple graphical way, easy to understand clear instructions for assignments and pre-defined deadlines will go a long way in improving the quality.

Personal disappointment for me: I met wonderful people from around the globe and started engaging with them on serious discussions about Online Education. Some of them have been educators for over 15 years and was eagerly looking forward to learn from there experience, however the abrupt end of this course didn’t allow many of us to move our conversations to other mediums like mail, social media.

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Importance of Technology, content, pedagogy and values in a Learning Environment

Use of Learning Technologies in Education

I recently stumbled upon this educational initiative by Stanford University and found this fascinating course “Designing a New Learning Environment” by Prof. Paul Kim.

Prof. Paul advocates the use of contextualized content and technology to suit the needs of learners, he rejects the idea that localization of content (i.e. simply converting content into local language) would be useful. Examples used in a course in India, may or may not be relevant in US or Africa, and a need for contextualization arises in such cases.

He further claims that the success of any Educational Initiative depends on four important factors,

  1. Technology
  2. Content
  3. Pedagogical Model
  4. Values

Technology forms the base of the pyramid, appropriate use of technology is of utmost importance. It acts as an Enabling Agent and helps create new possibilities for ex: with the surge in use of mobile devices, mobile technology could play an important part in educating kids, who otherwise could not be reached through traditional education models. However Technology alone cannot serve the purpose. One cannot just install projectors, and provide state of art computer laboratories to schools in areas with no electricity, a numerous such initiatives have failed to serve the purpose.

Content: Next comes the content, the underlying technology should support rendering of the opted format of content. Content could vary from a SMS based content to Video / Audio animation,  technology requirement would vary accordingly. Foremost is applicability and contextualization of content as already mentioned earlier.

Pedagogical Model: Most of the education programs fail because of lack of structure, somehow it’s just assumed that teachers at the ground level will figure out how to use the technology to enhance learning. Educators must ensure that they define the use of content and technology in a particular pedagogical model, which could vary as per the needs of learners. Dumping of content on the  technology, usually platform doesn’t work very well for any organized learning environment. As Prof Paul says “Clear Meaningful Feasible Pedagogical Model must be in Place”

Value: While designing a learning program, all the stake holders in the learning ecosystem must be identified and one must find out their interests and value perception. Some stake holder in any learning ecosystem are students, teachers, parents, administrators etc. and how they perceive the learning initiatives, what motivates them. And this becomes the most important component in a learning environment.

To design a robust learning environment one most consider the use of relevant technology, keep the content appropriate and updated, change the pedagogical model to suit the requirement at that time and more importantly to suit the value perception. Each of these factors have to evolve with time.

Learning in the Clouds – Benefits of SaaS learning platforms

Off-late we have seen a shift in the way learning is looked at, and it is no longer viewed as a series of training programs. The approach has been changing to a learner centric process and cloud based learning technologies are enabling this paradigm shift.

Cloud based Learning Platform enhances teaching and learning in today’s world. It enables educators to manage a wide variety of digital resources to develop pedagogical models of the 21st century – Blended learning, Personalized Self paced learning, Flip Classrooms to name a few.

Benefits for SaaS based learning platform are,

Accessibility: It allows greater level of accessibility and up-time of learning environment via internet at all times enabling the trainees to choose the time of learning.

Scalability: Organizations don’t need to plan for the server space. While conducting online training programs, the hardware requirement could vary based on the usage. If additional infrastructure is required the cloud architecture provisions that at run time on need basis, optimizing resource utilization. With cloud based learning platforms, one won’t have to worry scalability as the SaaS provider will handle these things for you and will increase / decrease ones resource requirements and users end up paying for what they use.

Security: Data security is one of the most important aspects and Cloud based platform providers could offer improved improbability, centralized data storage and monitoring of data access.

Backup & Disaster Recovery: The provider ensures that your LMS data is backed up and can be restored immediately to ensure business continuity.

Enhancements: For the provider, the SaaS based product offering is her core business so she will ensure to offer of the best and latest product feature enhancements at zero or a very little OpEx driven cost while you focus on your core business.

A guide to TCO for Open Source Software – 7 reasons why open source is not free

Open Source Vs Commercial SoftwaresWhen software decisions are made, most often people select open source software (like Moodle) over commercial alternatives(licensed softwares, SaaS solutions)  with a premise that open source is free.

Yes open source is free, however we need to consider the following points to figure out the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) of  Open Source Software,

  1. Infrastructure: Only the software is free, your IT folks will still have to use some hardware either the in-house infrastructure or use cloud to de ploy the application.
  2. Availability & Reliability: Consider factors such as up-time requirements, downtime costs, business continuity and disaster recovery.
  3. Maintenance & Support: Applying patches, software upgrades and other IT support.
  4. Security: Security for your infrastructure, application and data.
  5. Enhancements: Extending the software to have New features and functions.
  6. Performance & Scalability: Ensuring that your application doesn’t break when a large no. of users login at a time, is the application smart to  auto-scalable in such scenarios
  7. Man-hours of your IT team: Your IT team need skills to ensure all the above and will have to put in a lot of time to get skilled on the required technologies, related platform learn about necessary tools.

A thorough consideration of above points would help stake holders to figure out TCO for open source software vs licensed softwares, and SaaS solutions.  Most often Open Source Software and licensed software would come out to be CapEx extensive with recurring Operational expense, however with SaaS solutions one can do away with the capital expense and work on a pure OpEx model.

Flipped Classrooms – Moving away from traditional learning environments

Let’s use video to reinvent education – Salman Khan, Khan AcadFlipped Classroomemy

We have grown up in environments where a teacher delivered lecture in the class and gave homework, without knowing whether the kids have understood enough to take up the difficult home assignments.

Problem with such environments is that they don’t consider the learning capabilities of each student. However, each student has different learning abilities and the pace at which a student learns is different than others in the class. So, to create level learning fields educators around the globe has been experimenting with “Flipped Classrooms“.

Flipped classrooms is the use of technology to leverage learning in classroom in a way, that instead of lecturing, a teacher spends more time interacting with students and helping them with their queries. This method of teaching was first used in 2007 and has been very popular with educators in the US, backed by substantial research proving it’s benefits.

There are various flavors of flipped classrooms, however the most common being use of recorded video lectures. Theory is delivered as part of video lecture, which the student is supposed to watch before he comes to the class. During the class, teacher ensures that the concepts shared in the video lecture are well understood and facilitates further discussions on problems (which otherwise would have been a homework activity).

The role of the teacher in a flipped classroom changes from a lecturer to a guide by the side of every student. Students on the other hand love to attend and participate in such classrooms rather than the ones with boring and monotonous lectures.

With traditional methods (one size fits all) of education delivering poor results, a widespread use of such methods is called for in all forms of education.