Rethinking education in the digital era- the use of moocs in fashion design management degrees

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There have been criticisms recently, about the lack of practical value of a post graduate degree and this has led to debate about the shape and role of education in today’s turbulent changing environment (Hay, 2008). How can curriculum reflect the rapid adoption of digital?
Graduate fashion designers tend to become entrepreneurs, typically working solo or with one or two employees as start-ups (Narra, 2008). Historically, they used a bricks and mortar model and not a digital platform. The digital era has allowed many fashion entrepreneurs to embrace digital technology wherein most activities can take place on a digital platform. In consequence the skills graduates need to take advantage of this opportunity are changing.

Entrepreneurs use digital technology to innovate their business models thereby reducing costs, improving internal operations and customer services (Davidson and Vaast, 2010). Digital enterprises go beyond simply adopting and using technology to improve isolated functions. They use digital technology as the infrastructure to support their entire operations and manage stakeholder interactions. The digital era provides an opportunity to gain more efficient access to geographically distant, prospective customers and other potential stakeholders (Reuber and Fischer, 2011). This infrastructure enables entrepreneurs to manage their entire value chain with their online presence giving them global reach to access a wide range of customers and partners. One example is Christine Hunsicker of Gwynnie Bee ( an online fashion entrepreneur. In under five years, she’s rapidly grown her company from four staff operating in a New York apartment to 350 employees. Her business, is the only clothing rental subscription service for women sizes 10 to 32. The company’s targets two thirds of the US population who are size 14+, yet only 16.6% of apparel spending. By offering a rental service, women can pay a fixed amount each month (from $49 to $199) for their apparel. This traditional entrepreneurship fashion business has moved into the digital arena with great success. This dependence on digital platforms is what makes digital entrepreneurship unique from other types of enterprise. Digital businesses face unique challenges and opportunities with mode of entry, methods of producing and delivering products/services, payments/revenues, and managing stakeholder relationships. This in turn requires proactive education programmes which consider the impact on business models in the digital era.

Adding to this dynamic environment is the popularity of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), having been largely driven by IT-centric business entrepreneurs (i.e. Futurelearn), who created a business partnership model with universities. With low completion rates (Fisher, 2014) an undeveloped business model (Dellarocas and Van Alstyne, 2013) MOOCs their value has been questioned. However the production of and enrolment on MOOCs is rising and MOOCs can become a high value component of education. They can be developed and updated quickly and can incorporate rapidly developing changing and developing topics. This paper explores these dilemmas and asks - can MOOCs make education more relevant to entrepreneurship in the digital era ?
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEDULEARN17 Proceedings
PublisherInternational Academy of Technology, Education and Development
ISBN (Print)9788469737774
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jul 2017


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