What is an edupreneur? You don’t have to look any further than your Web browser to find practically unlimited examples.
In short, because of the massive shift technology has enabled in how we can connect with an audience and share our expertise in seemingly unlimited ways, edupreneurs are everywhere.
But let’s go a little deeper to define edupreneur and explore what an edupreneur really does.
The roots of edupreneurship
As you may already realize, the term “edupreneur” combines the more common words “educator” and “entrepreneur.” While we can pretty easily define “educator” as someone who educates or plays a key role in educating others, “entrepreneurship” can be a little trickier to define. In fact, people can get pretty passionate about how to define it properly.
My view is that to define entrepreneurship it’s valuable to start with the person who coined the term in the first place: French economist Jean-Baptiste Say. Around 1800 or so, Say wrote that “The entrepreneur shifts economic resources out of an area of lower and into an area of higher productivity and greater yield.” (Source)
To Say’s definition of entrepreneurship I would add that an entrepreneur usually assumes a level of risk in creating the “shift of economic resources” that non-entrepreneurs see as unacceptable. And, the entrepreneur seeks a return on her efforts – most commonly a financial return – that appropriately reflects the time, effort, money, and overall risk involved.
I also like to shorten Say’s shift “out of an area of lower and into an area of higher productivity and greater yield’ and simply refer to this as a “positive value shift” – much less of a mouthful in my opinion.
So, building off of Say’s original language and my additions, we can define edupreneur by saying that …
An edupreneur is someone who creates a positive value shift with the specific economic resource of “learning.”Jeff Cobb, Learning Revolution
Learning as an economic resource
Most of us probably don’t think of learning as an economic resource, but it always has been, and in today’s world, its value has escalated dramatically.
As I wrote in Leading the Learning Revolution, we now live in a global learning economy and learning is what fuels that economy. Whether and how well we learn is the arguably the strongest predictor of whether we will thrive as individuals, organizations, and societies.
I see edupreneurs as one of the most important stewards of learning as an economic resource. Among the various entities that serve the vitally important but often under-appreciated third sector of education, they are the most likely to have the agility, flexibility, and creativity needed to meet rapidly evolving learning needs across our global economy.
It’s important to recognize that “learning as an economic resource” is not limited to just traditional education. It’s not limited to courses, classes, or conferences, whether online or off. In fact, the great majority of learning happens outside of these formal channels. And, real learning takes place over time – it is a process, not an event.
The difference between education and learning represents one of the greatest opportunities for edupreneurs. Yes, edupreneurs are well positioned to do things like create and sell online courses – a new generation of online course platforms makes that more possible than ever. But they are also well positioned to wield influence, build long-term relationships with their followers, cultivate learning communities and, in general, lead learning in the fields, industries, and areas of life they serve in ways that usually elude more traditional institutions and businesses.
Recognizing this difference opens up now opportunities and new ways to create value not just for teachers and trainers, but for consultants, coaches, authors, and speakers.
The edupreneurial shift
The positive value shift that all successful educators help to make happen is from bounded to unbounded.
As an economic resource, learning is often “bounded” in that is captured within a single person’s head, within a single organization, or within in some set of circumstances that constrains it from being shared and spreading.
Access to learning and the ability to capitalize on it may also be bounded by a lack of experience, prior knowledge, or other factors on the part of the learner. Even in a world where so much information is freely available, our abilities to make effective use of information can vary dramatically.
The successful educator helps break down the boundaries, opening up the movement of learning from one to many, from localized to global, from the past and present into the future.
Edupreneurs aim to make this shift in the context of a market that will recognize and reward them for the value they create. Learners who trust they will be transformed through new knowledge, skills, and behavior gladly compensate the edupreneur who can provide the transformation.
As the brief video below suggests, we’ve entered what might be characterized as a golden age of expertise.
Keys to success as an edupreneur
How to become an edupreneur and thrive in the role is the whole focus of the Learning Revolution Web site, but there are a few imperatives for success. I’ll highlight four here.
There’s a “get rich quick” mindset that can sometimes seem almost like a disease when it comes to Internet-based entrepreneurship. With the boom in online courses, you see plenty of this mindset among wannabe edupreneurs.
If you are really going to make it as an edupreneur over the long term, though, you have to care about what you are doing and really care about creating positive impact for your learners.
Invest in teaching and learning.
Truth is, there’s a lot of junk out there. Successful edupreneurs often have deep subject matter expertise or access to others with deep expertise, but having expertise and knowing how to teach well are two different things.
Successful edupreneurs invest time and effort in understanding adult learning principles, developing their teaching skills, and working hard to engage and retain their learners. They also invest in “sharpening the saw,” making sure that they are continually learning and improving in their chosen subject areas.
In my experience, edupreneurs are often convinced that they have really unique content that no one else can offer. As a result, I get a lot of questions about how to protect intellectual property, but the truth is that very few edupreneurs have anything all that new to say.
What’s new – and unique – is who’s saying it and how they position their offering to the world. Successful edupreneurs embrace strategy and learn how top stand themselves out in an increasingly crowded market for education.
While you can be an edupreneur without using technology, it’s increasingly difficult. Leveraging web-based technologies for creating, promoting, and supporting your offerings simply makes since. It increases efficiency, enables you to scale, and if done correctly, can greatly enhance the experience you provide to your audience.
You don’t have to – and shouldn’t – chase after every new technological innovation (again, be strategic), but you should make a point of keeping up with major trends and take time to reflect on how you can leverage any emerging technologies effectively.
Understand it’s a business.
There are plenty of educators who see the opportunity in the global market for lifelong learning, but are either squeamish about mixing education and business or just don’t want to have to deal with the business side of the equation. Needless to say, these people won’t succeed as edupreneurs.
In the adult lifelong learning market, the exchange of money for valuable learning outcomes benefits both sides of the equation. The learner is positively impacted, and the educator is able to support herself and continue on to help other learners.
Of course, the only way this exchange of value happens is if the edupreneur puts ample time into business activities like assessing and validating the market, planning for launch, and putting in the necessary time and effort for promotion. Without these activities, you may still be a great educator, but you won’t be an edupreneur.
To sum up everything above, I’d characterize the edupreneur’s journey as an ongoing process (a learning process!) of leveling up and seeking and point where:
- You are really able to reach and connect with a substantial audience – beyond viable
- You offer a portfolio of learning opportunities to align with clear needs across your audience
- The opportunities you provide set the pace in your market
- The opportunities you provide are highly impactful and you have the data to prove it
- You generate significant net revenue – enough for you and any one who works with to thrive
Who is an edupreneur? Possibly you.
So, that’s how I define edupreneur. You may have your own opinions on the topic, but if all or most of what I say above is ringing a bell for you, and …
- You have expertise you’d like to share with others
- Your committed to the idea of creating a positive value shift
- Your willing to take a few risks and invest the necessary time and effort
… then you are probably already somewhere along the road to becoming an edupreneur.
Best of all, your timing couldn’t be better. There is pretty much always a market for effective learning, and that market continues to grow larger and larger as more of the world comes online and seeks out the education that is the foundation of a better life. I see it as a real Learning Revolution – and I hope to see you there.
- 5 Long-Term Challenges of the Edupreneur
- Strategy Insights for Edupreneurs
- Why you probably already know how to market your online course