Academic Entrepreneurship in Instructional Technology

Lindsey, Lee, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Bunch, John, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Burbach, Harold, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Covert, Robert, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Kinzie, Mable, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia

Academic entrepreneurship refers to any of several types of entrepreneurial activities conducted by university faculty, students, or employees. The activities it typically describes, however, are either the commercialization of university research via patenting and licensing to existing firms, or new firm formation. Academic entrepreneurship has increased dramatically in the last several decades, particularly in disciplines such as biomedical engineering, computer science, and medicine. Little is understood about academic entrepreneurship in education, however. Key questions include the identity of the entrepreneurs, what sort of products they are creating, the challenges they face, their motivation, their resource requirements, and the role of the university in the entrepreneurial process. This study sought to answer these questions by examining the experience of 5 academic entrepreneurs in instructional technology who had created new firms. Instructional technologies were defined as a product or service with an educational, instructional, or learning goal that used technology to achieve that goal. Findings reveal that academic entrepreneurs in instructional technology tended to be male, both tenured and non-tenured, and active researchers, and they created a variety of types of products for different audiences. They were motivated by having a tangible impact on real-world issues. Although this study did not rigorously examine the personality characteristics of those profiled, the characteristics of proactiveness, entrepreneurial self-efficacy, and tolerance for ambiguity were most apparent among those interviewed. Time was the most critical resource for them, followed by human capital and money. This study found that they key challenges for these entrepreneurs were finding sufficient time to carry out the entrepreneurial endeavor; identifying an appropriate marketing, sales and distribution channel; the adoption of technology by customers and in some cases, the distribution channel; and the learning curve associated with the transition from the academic to the business world. Some but not all of those interviewed created their companies based on university research, and none were directly influenced by the university, or used university-sponsored technology transfer mechanisms. Recommendations are provided for key stakeholders, including universities, providers of capital, and academic entrepreneurs themselves. Several additional implications for future research emerged from this investigation, which are noted. Dedications and Acknowledgements This dissertation is dedicated to my wife, Mindy, whose support throughout this process was essential. She offered many words of encouragement, and a gentle prod or two. I also must thank John Christman, my manager and the Chief Learning Officer at Genworth Financial, for making the completion of my Ph.D. a priority and providing me with the flexibility to pursue it.

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PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
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