Making Social Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship Education More Accessible and Relevant

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The International Journal of Science, Mathematics and Technology Learning

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Social entrepreneurship


This article provides an example of an online certificate in social innovation and social entrepreneurship at Portland State University (PSU); an overview of the certificate’s design, delivery, and impact measurement; and preliminary feedback from student participants. The purpose of this article is to provide a general survey of PSU’s approach, including accessibility challenges encountered and potential solutions implemented, as a guide to other educational institutions considering an online program in social entrepreneurship and/or social innovation. Online education has rapidly expanded in recent years, driven by technological innovation, price pressures, and student demand. Interest in social entrepreneurship has also exploded, and universities have rapidly added new offerings in the field. As social entrepreneurship education moves online, it faces unique challenges. Core to theories of successful social entrepreneurship is the social-emotional skill development of would-be changemakers; however, facilitating the type of deep interpersonal engagement necessary for such learning has been difficult in online settings. To effectively teach social entrepreneurship online, PSU’s Business of Social Innovation Certificate took a unique approach: working with students, faculty, and experts to design the program; mixing undergraduate, graduate, and professional students in the same courses; requiring all students to serve as peer mentors; working to improve accessibility and inclusion to enable greater diversity of all kinds among students; and creating a process of rapidly gathering and integrating student feedback, coupled with impact measurement, to inform continuous updates.


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