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College Offers Free Online Course for Entrepreneurs

By Reyna Gobel

Montgomery County Community College created a free online course that prospective entrepreneurs across the country can use to learn about business.

There are many aspects of the American dream. One is that with enough hard work and dedication, you can start your own business. Of course, financial acumen, a business plan, and a few other key skills also really help.

Pennsylvania’s Montgomery County Community College (MCCC) is helping prospective entrepreneurs gain those business skills with “Start Your Own Business,” a free online course and resource it developed.

We chatted with three MCCC staff members to find out more about the course — what it entails, why the college developed it and how it can help budding entrepreneurs.

What does the course cover?

“Start Your Own Business” is comprised of five modules designed to give entrepreneurs the skills they need to succeed in business, including information on marketing, finance, accounting and legal issues. “We consider the course as much of a course as resource,” says Philip Needles, dean of business and entrepreneurial initiatives (BEI) at MCCC.

Students can go through all five modules or pick and choose what they need to know. “For example, someone could want to learn about how to legally register their business and spend time learning about sole proprietorships and LLCs,” says Ayisha Sereni, interim assistant dean of BEI.

Why did MCCC create “Start Your Own Business”?

“We already had an active entrepreneurial program and received a grant from the Department of Labor to create a course that could help individuals and businesses fill in skills gaps and also give credit for prior learning,” says Denise Collins, MCCC’s director of the grant program that funded the course. The Department of Labor was especially interested in helping already employed individuals with technical skills develop business acumen to help their current employers grow and hire more people, Collins says.

How was the curriculum developed?

A committee of faculty, administrators and community partners culled through existing open-source curricula. Reviewing the curricula and pulling it into one course took several months. Then the committee spent another year developing the interactive components, from video and audio to test-taking functions.

Who can take the course?

Anyone across the country who needs the skills can take the course. “We want the money and time put into this course to help other colleges,” Sereni says.

How can students earn credit for the course?

At the end of the course, there is an option to create a business plan. Students who do that can bring their business plan to their local community college and apply for prior learning credit, if the college offers it. MCCC awards up to three credits for the course, based on how the student did on the course assessments and on the quality of the business plan.

How are students assessed virtually?

“One of the hardest processes involved in creating the course was developing questions and answers of varying levels with a variety of answer methods. We don’t use multiple-choice questions, but we do use drag-and-drop and true and false options,” Sereni says.

What’s the biggest myth involved with entrepreneurship?

That it’s only for individuals who want to start their own businesses, Sereni says. MCCC markets the course to employees who might not want to start their own businesses but whose employers expect entrepreneurial thinking when developing ideas and solving problems.

How long does it take to complete the course?

It can take a few days or a few months, depending on a student’s schedule and prior knowledge. Also, some people just want to learn specific material in one module and don’t care about going through all the modules and earning credit. “We encourage both individuals and corporations to use the modules to gain the information they need to fill their skills gaps,” Needles says.

Since the class is taught virtually, where can students who don’t attend your college go for extra help?

The SCORE program offers free mentorship in person and virtually across the country. Students can also visit their local community college’s entrepreneurial or business development center.

What courses and resources does your community college offer to entrepreneurs? Tell us in the Comments.

Reyna Gobel

is a contributor to the 21st-Century Center.

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