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The University of Arizona Brings Online Education To Entrepreneurs

As the state pulls itself out of the recessionary hole, small business owners and entrepreneurs have to re-think how they get things done. Getting advice from experts is critical, but who has the time?

The University of Arizona’s McGuire Center for Entrepreneurship at the Eller College of Management is making it easy for entrepreneurs and small business owners to expand their knowledge.

On Aug. 15, the McGuire Center launched three unique online certificate courses that offer entrepreneurs a “practical university education,” said Randy Accetta, mentor-in-residence and communications mentor at the center, a top-tier university-based center for entrepreneurship.

The three areas of study are commercializing an innovation, starting a small business and growing an existing venture. The courses go along with the UA’s land grant mission, and are funded in part by a United States Department of Labor Workforce Innovation in Regional Economic Development (WIRED) grant. The courses are offered through the non-credit arm of the UA’s Outreach College.

The UA is still marketing the courses, and online classes haven’t started yet, Accetta said.  Credit-bearing versions of the courses will most likely be offered during the spring 2011 semester at the UA.

What makes these online courses different is the amount of hands-on, one-on-one work students will do with Eller College of Management mentors and faculty members, Accetta said. Currently, the classes are structured as mentor-based and comprised of small cohorts.

Since the courses haven’t started yet, their structure can be modified and could range from small cohorts, as originally planned, to an independent study, according to what the market needs.

However the structure of the courses turns out, Accetta, the UA and the McGuire Center are committed to a high-quality educational experience that is focused on interaction between student and professor.

The UA and the McGuire Center wanted to provide entrepreneurs in the Southwest region with a university-type education in which students can end the course with a comprehensive understanding of the theories and concepts behind growing a business, Accetta said.

He added that the UA has been slow to offer distance learning and online courses, and these programs are part of the university’s effort to enter the world of online-based education. Distance learning is important, because the UA is pushing to “extend the intellectual quality of the university throughout the region,” Accetta said.

“Our long-range vision is to grow a more educated, more motivated entrepreneur community,” he said.

In these difficult times, courses like these can have an impact beyond the classroom, or computer screen in this case, Accetta said, adding that building a business community that can identify and act on opportunities to stimulate entrepreneurial growth will result in a stronger economy for Southern Arizona.