5 questions with…MOOC leader, Weatherhead School faculty member Michael Goldberg

Michael Goldberg CWRU headshotOne hundred years ago, Cleveland was the center of the start-up world, led in part by the presence of moguls such as John D. Rockefeller. By the early 2000s, the tables had turned—dramatically—as the area ranked dead last in Entrepreneur magazine’s list of 61 entrepreneurial regions. Fast-forward to today, and the city is being cited as a model for start-up success, thanks to public-private partnerships that aim to spur innovation in the region.

And Michael Goldberg, visiting assistant professor of design and innovation at the Weatherhead School of Management, is about to tell the world about it.

Goldberg will launch a Massive Open Online Course, or MOOC, April 28, titled “Beyond Silicon Valley: Growing Entrepreneurship in Transitioning Economies,” in which he’ll use Cleveland as a case study for how cities can grow business when private-sector resources are limited. This is the third MOOC taught by Case Western Reserve University faculty through Coursera.

So far, close to 10,000 people from more than 90 countries have signed up for his free course—more than 80 percent of them from overseas.

Goldberg is confident his course will skew heavily toward an international audience. He developed the course on that assumption, not only highlighting Cleveland entrepreneurs, but also featuring entrepreneurs and thought leaders from Turkey, China, Rwanda, Argentina and Vietnam.

Goldberg and his family on a trip to Burma

In fact, his own international experience led him to develop the course. In 2012, Goldberg, his wife and three children (now ages 11, 9 and 8) lived in Vietnam for seven months when Goldberg received a Fulbright award to teach entrepreneurial finance at Vietnam’s National Economics University in Hanoi.

While there, Goldberg conducted a seminar on entrepreneurship, and attendees wanted to know how their region could become more like Silicon Valley. Goldberg’s answer? “You’re actually more like Cleveland,” he told them, explaining that Silicon Valley is heavy in private funding, while Cleveland relies on public-private partnerships.

He then realized Cleveland was a good model for how government and private money worked together to spur business.

Goldberg’s experience abroad also taught him how to format his courses—although he hadn’t yet heard of a MOOC. (His first introduction to the term, he admitted, was after he’d told Weatherhead School Vice Dean Fred Collopy he would be interested in teaching one; he quickly Googled the acronym and decided his response was correct.)

His oldest daughter, Anna, who was 9 at the time, wanted to create a video explaining how to buy fresh chicken in Hanoi. Goldberg filmed her on his iPhone, and she created her own graphics and added them to the final product. Her YouTube tutorial has more than 4,000 views.

Her performance inspired Goldberg to use short-form videos in his video lectures. In his MOOC, each video lecture—there may be more than one per week—is about 12 minutes and features high-quality graphics and interviews with successful entrepreneurs.

He also focused on the story-telling aspect of the videos, seeking the expertise of a former 60 Minutes producer whom he grew up near in Shaker Heights.

Goldberg said he believes this approach—short, high-quality videos—is where MOOCs are headed, as opposed to the traditional longer lecture format.

And it’s also changing his outlook on how to teach his regular courses, initiating a “flipped classroom” in which students watch video lectures before class to leave more time for discussion.

This approach is necessary, Goldberg believes, as students’ learning techniques adapt.

“I feel like even I’ve changed how I digest information today—I’m listening to podcasts and watching TED Talks,” he said. “There’s a YouTube generation, and with a growing amount of content out there, having accessibility to information in all different formats is critical.”

Interested in Goldberg’s approach? Sign up for his free MOOC, which begins April 28.

1. Facebook or Twitter?
Twitter. It’s a great way to source news. Plus, I’m using it a lot to communicate with people around the world about my MOOC. I love the fact that it’s relatively limited in terms of characters; I love the discipline it puts on me to think about what I put out there.

2. What is your favorite building on campus and why?
My home building, the Peter B. Lewis Building. I like it because no one can find my office.

3. What is your favorite vacation spot?
Cape Town, South Africa. I lived there from 1993 to 1995, and [my wife and I] went there for our honeymoon. You have the beach and mountains all in the same city.

4. What is one of your hidden talents?
I was the play-by-play announcer for my college basketball and football team [at Princeton University].  After a 20-year hiatus, I came out of “retirement” last year when Princeton played at Kent State to announce the game for the Princeton radio station.

5. What is your favorite thing about Case Western Reserve?
I think the diversity of the student and faculty bodies. I’ve met people from across campus with such different backgrounds and interests. It’s really a stimulating place to work.