Open Education at Oxford Entrepreneurs

Today I had a meeting with two brilliant minds; John Burk Stringfellow, the new President of Oxford Entrepreneurs and Yuning Chai, an Associate Intern at McKinsey and also a committee member. Oxford Entrepreneurs is the largest student society at Oxford University and the largest student society promoting entrepreneurship in the world. As of September, I will be honoured to become part of the committee and begin working on some exciting projects. One will be OE Podcasts, an initiative that draws upon the principles of open education. The concept for the upcoming online series came up when John asked me for ideas for the upcoming year. I pitched him the following high-level concept:

“Oxford Entrepreneurs’ (OE) mission is to inspire and educate on the highest level, and provide an outstanding network, competition and support. In order to achieve our mission and continuously become better, we are dependent on the following:

  1. access to students
  2. access to experts
  3. access to money
Increasing any of the three variables (students, experts, money), we will also increase our success in meeting our mission. The number of students that can join OE is bound to the number of Oxford students and therefore very limited. I was therefore thinking of new ways to improve our access to experts and money (support/sponsors) by finding better ways to meet their needs. So why do experts and sponsors invest their time and money in OE? What are their needs? I assume that experts seek acknowledgment, sharing their life story and supporting the largest number of students possible (independent of whether they are from Oxford). Sponsors seek increased awareness, brand building and propensity to purchase form the largest number of students (independent of whether they are from Oxford). It seems to come down to the number of “eyeballs” we can attract. The more people e.g. listen to our speaker series, the better sponsors and speakers we will be able to attract. The better sponsors and experts we have, the better we can inspire and educate our OE members and provide network, competition and support, hence meet our mission.

So how do we get more eyeballs? Up to now, most of our actions had an internal focus. They were mainly targeted at OE members (with some exceptions) and therefore were restricted in their potential to please the sponsors’ and experts’ needs. Why not open our events to the public in a scalable way? My suggestion is to start by publishing recordings of our events publicly. We will develop an additional platform with a new brand (which is closely linked to OE) and open our speakers series to the public. The site will have a database of speaker recordings and will be linked to iTunes, Google Play and YouTube for additional discovery channels. By doing this we will be able to communicate the high quality of our events to the public and enable potentially millions of people to get inspired and educated by OE. Our brand awareness to the wider public becomes stronger and we can potentially attract more sponsors and speakers. Additionally, it’s a great way to build a stronger relationship with our Alumni.

And we have a proof of concept. The OxfordUnion and eCorner from Stanford with millions of downloads are following a similar concept already. Overall, there is a big and growing market for open education and we would have a head start and USP with the international reputation of the University of Oxford. We seem to have a product/market fit and we would operate highly efficient due to the utilisation of already existent content, as well as the support of marketing we can expect from the University. I could develop the system infrastructure and platform, someone else would need to take responsibility for the high quality recordings.”

This happens to also meet John’s visions for the upcoming year. He told me that among other interests, his agenda is to raise awareness beyond the established follower base in Oxford. He wants to carry the brand of the University with its association of entrepreneurship beyond the city and country. I am super excited to continue working with John, Chai and the the other committee members in the following year.

Expect education and inspiration of world thought leaders on your browser and iTunes capable devices by the end of the year. In case you cannot wait until then, I suggest to have a look at eCorner, a similar initiative from Stanford University.

Oxford University - Saïd Business School

In the new offices of Oxford Entrepreneurs at Saïd Business School

Mockups I created for OE Podcasts

A mockup I made of how OE Podcasts will be integrated into our site look like. 

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  1. Pingback: Open Education at Oxford Entrepreneurs by Jan AhrendJan Ahrend | Coleman Education

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