Professor Stewart Friedman, Director of the Wharton Work/Life Integration Project, founded the initiative in an effort to study Penn students and their balancing act of interests. 

Credit: Remy Haber / The Daily Pennsylvanian

Founding a successful startup may soon be as possible for anyone with a computer as it is for ambitious Penn undergraduates.

On Feb. 9, Wharton launched two new specializations on Coursera, an online learning platform offering users virtual courses taught by top professors all over the world for a fee. Specializations are packages of four or five courses that share a theme. The two that Wharton has introduced are called “Entrepreneurship” and “Business and Financial Modeling.”

These specializations join two other Wharton specializations, one of which is “Business Foundations.”

The “Business and Financial Modeling” specialization provides a conceptual introduction to financial modeling on Microsoft Excel. Excel was chosen over more specialized computer programs like “R” to accommodate the diverse group of Coursera learners, between a third and a fourth of whom reside outside of the United States, said Anne Trumbore, director of the Wharton Online Learning Initiative.

Six Wharton professors will teach the Entrepreneurship specialization. Each of the courses will be imbued with interviews with Wharton alumni who have founded and funded successful startups, as well as with executives whose companies encourage entrepreneurial spirit in their employees.

While Coursera customers are generally between the ages of 29 and 44, Trumbore added that students at other universities have taken Wharton Coursera courses as well.

David Bell, a professor of marketing at Wharton who has helped to develop courses within these specializations, anticipates a broad age range. Bell recalled an introductory marketing course he taught on Coursera several years ago that included a high school student and an MBA student. These two students later teamed up and wrote an introductory marketing textbook for high school students.

Bell hopes to teach students in the Coursera a conceptual framework for understanding Excel as means to implement more effective marketing strategies. Much of what he will be teaching on Coursera comes from his experience teaching a digital marketing course to both MBAs and Wharton undergraduates that emphasized in-depth analyses of successful companies founded by Wharton alumni.

These specializations are a response to the demands of global learners, Trumbore said. They represent Wharton’s social mission to globally disseminate knowledge from the world’s top professors.

It’s likely however, that these specializations might attract a smaller group of learners. They are part of a family of specializations called SPOCs (small paid online courses), and each costs $715. Financial aid is available.

“We just want everybody to enjoy them,” Trumbore said.

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