By Hattan Ahmed, Head of KAUST Entrepreneurship Center
Prior to the pandemic, the demand for entrepreneurial education was high. At KAUST, we noticed that different universities across the Kingdom and beyond needed workshops, innovation challenges and bootcamps. One of the strategic initiatives that KAUST set was to develop an online entrepreneurship course in Arabic as a contribution to digitizing content for the youth in Saudi Arabia.
The biggest challenge was how to digitize such an experience. It took us almost three years to develop the content and gamify it. Most of the content is experiential in nature, and teams will be working together in a very interactive way.
On June 1, 2021, we shared the news about the launch of our Entrepreneurship Adventures course during the virtual event “Who Will You Be?” featuring inspirational youth stories and several industry experts, including Amin Al-Nasser, CEO of Saudi Aramco, Lubna Olayan, Chair of Saudi British Bank (SABB) and Chair of Olayan Financing Company, Kathy Pugh, Vice President of Content Strategy and Partner Success at edX, and Andrew Liveris, former Chairman and CEO of Dow.
On July 4, the course started with more than 71,000 learners signing up. The initial target was to hit 10,000 learners to join the adventures. This was a massive turnout, given it was for the initial launch. The big question is: why would so many people commit their time to this particular online course? I believe it points to a movement that is in the making — one worth studying.
Does it come down to our engaging teaser campaign?
Our teaser campaign and launch event titled “Who Will You Be?” certainly raised awareness, but our conversion rate was well more than our global benchmark, so clearly, other motivations drove people to sign up.
Was it because the content was hosted on an edX platform?
This is the first time we have launched a Massive Online Open Course (MOOC), and we wanted to ensure it was on a world-class platform. That is why we partnered with edX to host their first Arabic language course. The novelty factor clearly had some appeal.
Was it because the content is in Arabic?
We identified that language can be a barrier for native Arabic speakers to enter education. By creating the first Arabic language course, we wanted to democratize entrepreneurship education and improve access for the Arab world.
Was it because it is free?
Perhaps, but conversely, offering a free service can lower the perceived value. However, the course requires a personal investment of time when we are all time pressured. Hence, there is no such thing as a “free lunch.”
Was it because KAUST offers the brightest minds in entrepreneurship?
Entrepreneurship learning needs to be pragmatic, and our lineup of high-profile entrepreneurs, angel investors and venture capitalists bring first-hand knowledge and expertise to the learning process.
We tapped into ambitious Saudi youth who are passionate about contributing to Vision 2030 and helping drive economic impact and local jobs through entrepreneurship. I believe we have a nation of dreamers and makers who are keen to leave their mark wherever they go. Their ambitions are matched by strong momentum for entrepreneurship in the Kingdom.
Finally, I believe there is an entrepreneurial movement in the making that is promising a bright future for both youth and country. Reading positive and passionate testimonials from the learners during the course tells me that they have what it takes. Their mutual success will solve the major challenges facing the Kingdom — developing talent, creating jobs and diversifying our economy. I am proud to be part of the KAUST team that will make this happen.
Find out more by about our next Entrepreneurship Adventures course by visiting: https://entrepreneurship.kaust.edu.sa/