Star Online Learning Excellence Program

OLE: Creating the Next STARS of Online Entrepreneurship Education

The STAR Online Learning Excellence Program is a comprehensive training and mentoring program for entrepreneurship educators. Participants learn firsthand, educator-to-educator, how to identify and tailor the best possible learning tools and exercises for specific online learning objectives. Award-winning trainers help make online experiential learning more than just a collection of activities, leading a revolution in entrepreneurial learning. The STAR Online Learning Excellence Program is a comprehensive, memorable, and high impact learning entrepreneurship course.

What Is Online Learning Excellence?

A key to online learning excellence is understanding how people actually learn, how a person moves from novice to expert. Educational psychology tells us that we can think of learning in terms of a roadmap from A to B. At point A we provide inputs—learning content and experiences. These inputs become throughputs that are transformed by a process within and between learners that is guided by teacher/facilitators. The results are learning outputs, B, that represent expertise.

A: Inputs > Throughputs > B: Outputs

The throughput transformation process involves the development of a new mindset, in addition to skills and knowledge. In other words, effective learning is not about training memory but about developing minds.

By blending online and classroom experiences it is possible to design and deliver a radically new learning model. This new model can drive a dramatic increase in individuals’ learning, creating an entrepreneurial mindset that results in expert entrepreneurial thought and action.

For Example: With online/blended classes we can fully implement a learning experience by which individuals absorb the material on their own, in multimedia ways, then collaborate online (using both synchronous and asynchronous methods) and, finally, use face-to-face classroom time to identify, explore, and address deeper issues.

The Nature of the Learning Throughput Process

“Learning is not about filling a pail; it’s about lighting a fire.”
– WB Yeats

The learning throughput process involves a transformation in participants, specifically in their mindsets. Transformational learning, as defined by the educational scholar and researcher Jack Mezirow, involves deep cognitive changes in the assumptions that lie beneath our thinking.

Most people operate most of the time on autopilot. That is, automatic processing circuits in our brains make decisions about actions and, if we’re lucky, tell us why and how. It is hard enough to change conscious, intentional thinking; changing deeply anchored assumptions requires a deep form of experiential learning. This also means that the learners’ motivation must move from extrinsic—learning in order to get desired rewards—to intrinsic, that is, motivation to learn because of a deep desire for personal development through increased knowledge and skill.

“Experience is not what happens to you, it is what you do with what happens.”

Deeply anchored assumptions are changed by crucial developmental experiences involving activities that drive cognitive change. The STAR Online Learning Excellence Program begins with participants identifying the changes they want to see in their students. Participants then work to identify the important and necessary developmental experiences needed to produce those changes.

Tools and Techniques

How do we translate “critical developmental experiences” into actual online and classroom activities? A frequent criticism of online learning is that, unlike classroom learning, online learning cannot be experiential. Believe it or not, truly experiential, deeply transformative learning can be facilitated—even enhanced—through online learning. The STAR OLE program is designed to enable participants to create experiential, transformative online learning experiences.

For Example: In the classroom good simulations can be extremely effective experiential learning tools. However, the direct impact of the physical reality of the classroom can hamper that effectiveness, An online simulation activity encourages students’ deep engagement because their imaginations are engaged, as in any good simulation, but not contradicted by direct perceptions of a classroom.


While online learning is not strongly affected by the learning platform used, different platform-type mechanisms have different strengths. Kauffman’s iStart was designed to support student entrepreneurship competitions. The Dell Social Innovation Challenge and the William James Foundation competition have similar aims in the social entrepreneurship realm. Moreover, such platforms can develop into more general-use tools. The iStart platform, for instance, has morphed into a great tool for building teams and to access information for student projects of any kind using volunteered internet sources.

Many of the STAR Online Learning Excellence participants will have experience (or their school will) with Blackboard, WebX or Digital Chalk. Or they may havey used the platforms by Who Owns the Ice House or FastTrac. The STAR Online Learning Excellence program will help participants identify their own strategies and how to optimize their use.

Social Media

In the classroom, instructors often ban smartphones or laptops, reasoning that students will simply look up the answers to questions or give the appearance of having knowledge when what they have is skill at using others and the internet to quickly access information. In online learning it’s not possible to enforce such bans, and some see this as a limitation. However, education guru Marc Prensky argues that the use of social media to get information is a strength, not a weakness, and should be encouraged, in the classroom as well as online. The STAR Online Learning Excellence program will show particpants how to use students’ existing web skills to enhance learning and move them from extrinsic motivation to intrinsic motivation.

For Example: In inner-city Portland, the use of social media was encouraged, resulting in the disadvantaged youth in the program doing extra homework… without extra credit. This is an example of moving learning from an extrinsic motive base to one of intrinsic motivation.

Changing the Game

Understanding how to use tools and techniques for maximum positive impact permits one to effectively manage and radically transform the online learning process. It’s even possible to radically transform the grading process and turn it into a positive experience!


Again, let’s think Inputs Throughputs Outputs

Assessment is, of course, important at all three stages. However, online tools permit assessment in ways that were never before possible. Customized learning for every student becomes a reality, even in a large program. Specific micro-activities can be subject to assessments that increase learning impact. And assessment of an entire course or program becomes far more meaningful.

The Folly of Rewarding A While Hoping for B

The old management maxim that our metrics need to match our actual goals is critically true in human learning. What are the desired changes? How are those changes achieved? ARE they being achieved? And, are these the changes that are really the right changes? Learning how to learn—“double-loop” learning—is often cited as a crucial goal but is rarely assessed. It can, however, be monitored with tools that are designed for that aim. One key is to get learners themselves deeply engaged in assessment, tapping their unique—if biased—insights. (Which are no more biased than the insight of teacher/facilitators!) But what if we can’t assess the desired outcomes? What then? The field of human resource management provides some good tools, such as lesson plans.

Lesson Plans?

How many of us use formal lesson plans? How many of us have even seen a real one? There are few examples to be found in entrepreneurship learning. However, if one wants an arithmetic lesson plan for second graders, there are accessible repositories with over 100 lesson plans for proven best practices.

Inputs > Throughputs > Outputs are at the heart of lesson plans. The STAR Online Learning Excellence program will show how they work. As we build a community of skilled online educators, the STAR Online Learning Excellence program will also build a master repository of outstanding (and effective) entrepreneurship lessons.


The STAR Online Learning Excellence program will provide participants with examples of some great practices from “guest star” friends and allies. They can become allies of program participants, too. These invited resource persons will give brief descriptions the resources they have to offer.

We have carefully selected this group of key resource persons. Some will present in person, some by video and some by proxy. There will be a list of these key individuals in our master resource guide.

There will also be brief presentations that overview important strategies to boost learning, such as project-based learning, problem-based learning, situated learning, and the inverted classroom.

All of the above information will be available on a members-only STAR Online Learning Excellence website. And STAR Online Learning Excellence participants will be a central part of that resource. The community of STAR Online Learning Excellence participants is itself a great resource!

There will, of course, be academic/intellectual resources as well. There’s an old joke that a professor was using action learning, with active involvement of students in a real, problem-focused discussion. The dean stopped by and watched for a while, then said to the prof, “Don’t worry, I’ll come back when you’re teaching.” This old story demonstrates how little some people know about 21st century learning!

Here are links that can help to better define the aims of the STAR Online Learning Excellence program: (an early article) (entrepreneurship in practice) (grounding in theory and concepts)


A great online or blended experience can be powerful on its own, but its real power comes from making it a lasting experience, one that inspires participants to want more learning.

One key to this is building a community. Building a community of practice around online/blended entrepreneurship training is no easy task. Participants in the STAR Online Learning Excellence program are the key to it. The STAR Online Learning Excellence program can give participants a jumpstart on maintaining effective blended online/classroom learning experiences by helping participants create a living community. In this respect, STAR Online Learning Excellence program participants will be pioneers—and the STAR Online Learning Excellence program will have proven successful.

Problem-based learning (and project-based) has the attribute of spawning more problem-based learning. Once students have gone through a serious PBL experience, they tend to get hungry for more. The aim of STAR Online Learning Excellence is building learning capacity in participants who will then be capable of building learning capacity in students. If this is done right, learning capacity will be built into the institutions program participants are part of. That’s what the constructivistic learning model brings to the table. By training minds, not just memories, it’s possible to have a deep ripple effect of positive change throughout a society.

Making Your Program Safe for Entrepreneurial Learning

There are back-home institutional and “political” issues that should be noted. That is, promoting online/blended learning skillfully enough to set off ripple effects in an organization will not make everyone happy—remember that dean mentioned above! So, it’s important to recognize that effective entrepreneurship education is disruptive, in the classical sense as used by Schumpeter. And some will see this as not just disruptive but as downright subversive.


Sustainability means doing the right things the right way and for the right reasons. That means getting the right people involved. Those who choose to participate in the STAR Online Learning Excellence program are likely to be the “right” people for building a community of effective entrepreneurship educators.

A key aim of the STAR Online Learning Excellence program is helping participants design a program that works brilliantly for them, one that offers continuity, connectivity and confidence. There will be vigorous discussion of both barriers and success stories. As entrepreneurs ourselves we understand the entrepreneurial lesson that… we’re all in this together!

Topics and Speakers

> The Theory of Learning (PDF) – Norris Krueger
> Distance Education: A Decade of Lessons (PDF) – Paul Swiercz
> The State of the Art and Science of Entrepreneurship Education (PDF) – Charles Matthews

> Teaching Theory and Practice” – Katia Passerini
> Into the Frying Pan: Freshman Immersion Experience – Jeff Alves

> The Grading Matrix Model (PDF) – George Solomon

> Developing the Smart Classroom (PDF) – Pasi Malinen
> Sponsor Presentations;

> Leading the Hybrid Learning Model – Geoff Archer; Short PPT (PDF); Long PPT (PDF)