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Learning online

Brian Corrigan | May 14, 2009
It isn't every day that a 17-year-old student gets to have a face to face conversation with the chief executive of a $US60 billion enterprise.

It isn't every day that a 17-year-old student gets to have a face to face conversation with the chief executive of a $US60 billion enterprise. But technology is changing education and making such opportunities a reality.

At nine schools across the Australian state of New South Wales (NSW) this week, year 11 and 12 business students tuned in for a video-conference call with Michael Dell, founder and chief executive of the world's second largest computer maker.

Australian-born astronaut Andy Thomas has also taken part in a video conference with NSW students from NASA headquarters.

The knowledge, and inspiration, that these sessions provide extend beyond the students that take place in the live event because they are recorded and made available to others across the state when it suits them.

Dialling in from Texas, Mr Dell gave a brief talk focused on the effects of the global financial crisis and then took questions. I'm sure these would have been approved by the teachers before he ever heard them but it was nevertheless a rare opportunity for kids to engage with a very senior business leader.

They asked about his thoughts on government stimulus packages, how he was changing strategies in light of current economic conditions, and how Dell seeks to differentiate from competitors in its marketing strategies.

The content of the answers was in many ways a distant second to the opportunity itself. While some students will have found nuggets of information they can use in their Higher School Certificate (HSC), you have to think that all would have left the session inspired by possibilities.

Michael Dell was 19 years old when he started making computers during his college days and just eight years later became the youngest ever chief executive to make the Fortune 500.

When asked by one student for the best piece of advice he could offer, he said "never be afraid of making mistakes but don't ever make the same one twice". That's good counsel for anybody looking to make their way in the world of business.

Dell has made a few of its own along the way, and is currently struggling to reinvent itself after the online-only model that once made it so strong began to falter, but credit to its founder for taking time out to engage Australian business students.

Brian Corrigan is the editor of MIS Australia.

 

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