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Open learning in entrepreneurship

Donna Norris and Les Pyke
The Institute of New Venture Creation
Canning Senior College


Open learning has been practised since civilisation began. Scholars attracted to themselves those students who wished to learn and who found it convenient to do so. When the industrial era came upon us, it was realised that the learning of skills was a valuable resource and education became compulsory in many countries. Compulsory teaching and learning systems required teachers to meet with groups of students in schools, colleges and universities. Teachers and lecturers availed themselves of modern technologies in their delivery methods. Chalkboards, slide projectors, film equipment and amplified sound began to make the classroom more effective than the previous methods of talking under a tree, as did Socrates. Until quite recently, the formal classroom situation served the needs of compulsory education.

In our modern world, other attractions and the pressures of living have stimulated questions about the need for compulsory education and its formal overtones. Students now wish to enter and leave the system at their convenience and many find that further study is required during their professional careers. To some it is more attractive to study on a casual or part time basis.

Complementary to these modern trends, now demanded and enjoyed by both students and staff, new technologies allow us to deliver lectures over distances, to store and retrieve our knowledge at any time and to allow students and staff to interact through teaching and learning machines according to their own schedules. The old concepts of open learning are now being assisted by educational technology to allow students and teachers to pursue learning individually, at any age, at any time and in any place.

This paper shows the development of open learning principles at the Institute of New Venture Creation in delivering and studying Australia's longest developed courses in entrepreneurship, creativity and innovation.


For some time now, many leaders in Australian industry and government have lamented the low level of entrepreneurial skills in Australian industry and commerce. These ideas were put forward nearly a decade ago in Barry Jones' book Sleepers Wake (1983). Recognition of the need for an uplift in our national morale and enterprise gave rise to a study within the Confederation of WA Industry which was the basis for a paper, Education for Future Technology (1984), presented to the Perth Congress of the Australian and New Zealand Association for the Advancement of Science. That paper made the following recommendations. These kinds of ideas are now being implemented in the fields of enquiry education, motivation and educational technology. Concepts of mastery learning, modular training and evaluation of these curriculum models were examined in a TAFE paper (1982), which recommended an educative programme for staff. Courses in ideas generation, innovation, creativity and entrepreneurial skills have been developed at one of the senior colleges in Perth, Canning Senior College. There, adult students of all ages, from late teens to retired persons, from many different backgrounds, professions and trades, undertake courses such as Creating It; Making It and Marketing It. Graduates of these courses have formed the Institute of New Venture Creation, Inc. A primary objective of the Institute is to assist innovators and enterprising persons to access resources, market intelligence and networking teams in many entrepreneurial endeavours.

A paper presented at a National Conference of the Australian and New Zealand Association of Management Educators (Institute of New Venture Creation, 1988) included case studies in entrepreneurial education. The paper gives details of the development of courses, student profiles, industry input, the use of open education philosophy, further developments in the educational technology areas, successes by members and the work done by assessment panels. Its conclusions are listed here.

It became obvious that during the development of the courses that they were also in demand in country areas proximate to Perth. Adult students showed a willingness to travel long distances, up to two hours each way, to attend courses in entrepreneurship at Canning Senior College. The possibilities of correspondence courses were explored and rejected, partly because such methods of delivery were not within the brief given to Canning Senior College and partly because of the need to provide more than just written notes and audio or video tapes. Courses in this subject require interactive methods, active participation, personality projection and peer group contact. Those requirements are a challenge for modern educational technologists.

Rural outreach education

These concepts of presence, participation, projection and contact were evident in the operation of a pilot rural outreach education scheme conducted by TAFE at Wagin in Western Australia. A paper presented to a Symposium on Technology, Education and the Economy at College du Vieux Montreal, in Quebec, Canada, (Chappell, 1982) described the scheme.
Rural outreach education in Western Australia has prospered well. The pilot scheme at Wagin has been successful and continues to attract students from a wide range of the rural community. Undoubtedly this success is due to the personality of the coordinator who has been appointed to this scheme and much credit should be given to that person. The expansion of the scheme needs to be considered carefully and moulded around the demographic characteristics of the area in which expansion is envisaged. Furthermore the appointment of any future coordinators should be by careful selection, based on qualifications, background and personality, for it is upon these qualities that such a scheme can prosper or founder. Proposals for the expansion of the scheme and for the appointment of new coordinators have been given.
As a result of this report the following recommendations were made to extend this open education scheme. This rural scheme has been extended to many country areas in Western Australia, from the Great Southern to the far north and educationists are now delivering courses and providing training skills as their local communities demand.

A recent development in open education to remote communities in the Pilbara is the use of the LIVE-NET satellite transmission facility. The Central Metropolitan College of TAFE, Perth Campus, is using the Telecom Iterra satellite service to present interactive video conferencing for a broad range of lectures. The LIVE-NET system is operating for a trial period to acquaint staff with these educational technologies (refer also to Davy, 1990, in this volume).

Video conferencing is seen as a potentially valuable tool for lecturers in entrepreneurship. The ideas generation section of this course is a think tank conducted by a conference style delivery. Interaction and participation is most important. Members of the Institute of New Venture Creation are seeking to develop video conferencing delivery techniques for this course.

When reviewing video conferencing, we looked at its extension to nearby Asian centres, examining the feasibility of beaming educational programmes from Western Australia. That market research showed us that the facilities already existed in those countries and that they had been receiving training courses for many years from other countries via American, French and Japanese satellites. The footprints for those satellites have been designed to extend over the large populations of Asia.

Computer aided instruction

Concepts of interactive video, computer aided instruction and programmed mastery learning techniques have also attracted interest. The PLATO computer assisted learning system has been used at Canning Senior College and many adult students were able to access that facility, at their convenience, for their specific requirements. This innovative tool was useful in open education for introducing students, particularly those studying entrepreneurship, to self paced programs such as those offered for accounting, business mathematics and report writing.

A paper on computer aided individualised instruction in military fields of training (1986) showed the extent to which these techniques were used in the Navy and Air Force of the United States; the Navy and the Army of the USSR and the South African Navy. A problem which was addressed in the US Navy was that this more efficient technical training was at the expense of motivation and esprit de corps. A special Group Assisted Self Paced Program (GRASP) was established to overcome these problems, mainly by allowing more interaction between the students and participation with staff lecturers. In the USSR, there is much more emphasis on the human element in military training. The concept of vosipitanie, or total education, includes political ideologies and humanities as well as technical training in the development of personnel. Individualised instruction is particularly important so that training and indoctrination is moulded to individual characteristics.

The conclusions of this paper, recommending more use of computer aided instruction for the Royal Australian Navy, are set out here.

Later discussions on this paper, within military circles, have resulted in increased acquisition of more training hardware. In particular, the Boeing equipment is now used for a wide range of educational applications from rocketry to boiler operation and from flying training to communications. The current general attitude of military training personnel is that indoctrination, ideologies and engendering national spirit is best left to the educational authorities. This is seen as another challenge in open education entrepreneurship.

Client service purpose programmes

Aspects of training which need development in Australia are the areas of quality assurance, control and management. If we do not give more attention to quality in our exportable products, we will slip further behind our international competitors. Our education and training systems should now emphasise the dangers of low quality production and show the benefits of delivering goods and services that satisfy and attract customers and clients.

Some study tours of overseas countries, including Japan and Korea, show how attitudes to high quality are paramount in the expansion of those countries. A report on the contents and history of client service purpose programs (Institute for New Venture Creation, 1989) shows how total quality management and corporate culture changes were made to benefit those nations. The report shows how interactive group video and media work was done and how higher generation industry feedback techniques were used to achieve these aims. The conclusions in this paper are listed here.

This is seen as another challenge for educational technologists in open education. Our clients need to be indoctrinated with a total education and training system that makes them think and live quality products and services.

This need is very obvious in the provision of tourism related services. If quality service is not given, customers will not return. Training courses in the service industries such as hospitality, catering and tourism need the emphasis on quality in their deliveries. This was emphasised in the development of such courses for TAFE in WA where it was recommended that higher quality visual aids be produced. These educational technologies are particularly needed for servicing students in remote areas.

A review of the needs to develop tourism related industries in the Kimberleys is given in a paper on entrepreneurship in regional development which was presented at the 10th Pacific Regional Science Conference in Pusan, Korea (1988). That paper showed how multi objective resource planning should be based on sound, open learning training strategies.

Information technology

A catchword which now links computers, communications, research and human resources together is information technology. Naisbett and Aburdene (1985) referred to the transformation of the workplace and the home to the new information society. They pointed out that corporate structures are being changed, that innovation and entrepreneurship are being encouraged; that demographic changes are altering the profiles of the workforce and that there is a growing need for intuition and vision in business and government. They lament that there is a mismatch between the education system and the needs of the new information society, and that the need for new basic skills in the information society is forcing us to re-invent education. This again is a challenge for educational technologists. We must work with industry and commerce to make people aware of the onset, benefits, costs and effect of applications of information technology.

These problems have been addressed by members of the Institute of New Venture Creation in developing facilities for more realistic and cost effective open education. A proposal which is being discussed and implemented is to develop an information technology laboratory with the following outline specification.

Desired environments

Some desired features

Some desired systems

Some desired communication links

Some desired advisory services

Some desired research activities

It is noteworthy that such a laboratory is not necessarily seen as being in one place, say at Canning Senior College. Components can be located anywhere and connected by modern communication links such as satellites and optical fibre. There is no need for students to be in a formal single group in such an open education environment. Interaction can occur at any time, any place and between any persons who are willing to participate.

Students and staff interaction

As has been stated in this paper, interactive methods in educational technology, need to be extended to total open education. There is a need for projecting personality and ideology as well as basic knowledge and training. It is recognised that few lecturers are yet comfortable enough to perform effectively before a camera or video screen. Therefore, staff development to use interactive methods needs to address such issues. Such video training methods as were used by students and staff in public speaking and communications courses to improve postures, gestures and expressions of students at the WA School of Mines are now being proposed by the Institute of New Venture Creation.

However, even these staff development media programs could lack in consistency and spirit. More effort should be made to arrange meetings between students and staff, past and present as an alumni to allow personal interaction. The Institute of New Venture Creation is currently working with Canning Senior College in order to encourage such togetherness by the formation of an alumni. Currently questionnaires are being sent to prospective members to ascertain their interest in social as well as educational activities for which College facilities could be used by past graduates, as well as current students. Such facilities offered include the equipment of educational technology - computers, word processors, desk top publishing, projectors and communications equipment. Responses are awaited with interest and it is expected that considerable enthusiasm will be evident for the interactive use of modern information technology equipment. A copy of the questionnaire is reprinted at the end of this paper.

These entrepreneurial endeavours in open education are designed to reinforce Canning Senior College in its role as a community college over its wide catchment areas of the metropolitan area, rural communities and overseas. Student motivation and the will to learn underlies this strategy.


Open learning is a natural development for a flexible and fast moving world. Education develops a need for more education and modern technologies are assisting to satisfy those demands. One of the major areas of developing open education in Australia are programmes for quality assurance and client satisfaction, particularly in the service industries. The on going need for personal interaction and participation present the following challenges for educational technologists.


The authors wish to record their appreciation of the encouragement of the president of the Institute of New Venture Creation, Peter Stagg. We also wish to thank the Principal of Canning Senior College, Tom Grace, for encouragement and help in the production of this paper.


Chappell, D. G. (1982). Rural Outreach Education Australia. A paper prepared du Vieux Montreal, Montreal, Quebec under the auspices of the Association Canadienne de la Formation Professionalle and the Association of Canadian Community Colleges and published by TAFE WA.

Confederation of WA Industry (1984). Education for Future Technology. A paper presented to the Perth Congress of the Australian and New Zealand Association for the Advancement of Science, 1983. Published in Instead, 14 (1).

Defence Force Journal. (1986). Computer aided individualised instruction for the Navy. Defence Force Journal, 57, 45-51.

Jones, B. (1983). Sleepers, wake! Technology and the future of work. Melbourne: OUP.

Institute of New Venture Creation (1988). Entrepreneurship and management education. A paper presented to the Conference of the Australian and New Zealand Association of Management Educators, Perth.

Institute of New Venture Creation (1989). Kaizen: Contents and history of Client Service Purpose (CSP) Programs. Perth: Canning Senior College.

Multi Disciplinary Engineering Transactions (1988). Multiobjective resource planning for the Kimberleys region of Western Australia. A paper presented at the 10th Regional Pacific Science Conference in Pusan, Korea, 1987.

Naisbett, J. & Aburdene, P. (1945). Re-inventing the Corporation: Transforming your job and your company for the new information society. London: Macdonald.

Technical and Further Education WA. (1982). Mastery Learning Innovations. Perth: Curriculum Research and Development.

Appendix: Questionnaire

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Donna Norris and Les Pyke have worked on establishing The Institute of New Venture Creation as one of the continuing education activities at Canning Senior College, Bentley WA 6102.

Please cite as: Norris, D. and Pyke, L. (1990). Open learning in entrepreneurship. In R. Atkinson and C. McBeath (Eds.), Open Learning and New Technology: Conference proceedings, 263-276. Perth: Australian Society for Educational Technology WA Chapter.

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