UCSC's popular GetVirtual internship program expands its impact and outreach with newly launched Coursera course – news.ucsc.edu


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November 28, 2022
By Dan White
This Zoom image of a GetVirtual team meeting was taken two years ago, shortly after the class launched. From left to right: Toby Corey, Nada Miljković, Yuliya Monastyrska, Nikhila Cherukuthota, Anagha Vijay, Smeet Mehta, Arin Spanner, Aaron Huang, Ananya Misra, Stryker Buffington, and Gideon Fox.
Two years ago, the online entrepreneurship course Crown 95: GetVirtual Business Assistance launched at UC Santa Cruz, sponsored by Crown College to pair students with local businesses struggling to pivot from foot traffic to online orders and sales.  
In this successful and popular course, the students serve as mentors and consultants to participating businesses, helping to redesign their websites for e-commerce, listing product catalogs in virtual marketplaces, and offering other invaluable technical assistance.
The arrangement benefits local businesses while connecting the university with its surrounding community in a meaningful way. Now, with the support of UCSC Online Education, GetVirtual has expanded its scope and impact by adding a  brand-new Coursera version, which launched on Monday, November 28, and is now live, opening this non-credit class to students from other UC campuses. 
The Coursera course is open to everyone around the world with an internet connection, regardless of academic affiliation. For learners outside the UC system it’s free, unless they want a certificate.
“All along, GetVirtual has had the goal of sharing our process and resources with the world as a way of empowerment,” said GetVirtual’s co-founder Nada Miljković, a continuing lecturer at UCSC who has been teaching most of the offerings of Crown 95 and has since become project manager for the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurial Development (CIED). 
“Now, with the launching of the Coursera course, our dream is coming true,” said Miljković, who is also a broadcaster, entrepreneur and multimedia artist.  
“Students can be anyone from those about to graduate to young professionals wanting to go out on their own to retirees wanting to continue having a purpose in life,” she said. 
Miljković emphasized that the Coursera version will be held in addition to the GetVirtual course, which will continue on campus as usual. 
Miljković co-founded GetVirtual two years ago with entrepreneur Toby Corey. They launched the course with the help of nine highly motivated UCSC students who became GetVirtual’s first student board of directors. Crown 95 has been offered every quarter since the spring of 2020, including summer.
“The GetVirtual program is doing so well that we are at capacity with the students that are taking the class,” Miljković said. “Coursera gives us the ability to train outside of class with no additional resources.”
The organization GetVirtual has also been extremely successful, completing more than 150 client projects with 70% of those businesses residing in the city of Santa Cruz, all at no cost to the clients. 
Santa Cruz Works, a non-profit organization that aims to connect industry professionals and grow the number of locally founded startups, honored Miljković as one of its 2022 Titans of Tech for contributing to the growth of the local tech and entrepreneurial community. 
An empowering program 
The four-week Coursera/GetVirtual course has a unique structure and format. Students lead the discussions. The course also includes assignments, quizzes, self-assessments, templates, and many videos. 
“The first part of the course is about self-discovery of skills and values, learning about the entrepreneurial mindset and leadership styles,” Miljković said. “The second part takes what you learned about yourself to build an ‘about me’ page.
 The third part is learning the GetVirtual process. Students learn how to project manage, while learning the essentials of starting a company. “They learn the mechanics of it, figuring out what business structure they need,” Miljković said.  
The structure and format makes this course “enormously empowering” for students, Miljković said. The main difference between the old GetVirtual course and the new Coursera version is student independence. There is no designated instructor.
In the original GetVirtual class, students are paired with local businesses to help redesign their websites for e-commerce, product delivery services, curbside pickup, and other features that can help them stay afloat.
In the Coursera version, rather than partnering with businesses, students are their own clients by going through the process of discovery. They build a website for themselves. This version of the course is more like an ideas laboratory and intensive training seminar to prepare students for their entrepreneurial consulting roles, while going through the process of establishing a business step by step.
That flexible format allows the students to pursue their interests, challenge one another, and develop business savvy as they learn from their peers. There is an element of role playing, as students develop their business plans.
A lot of the website creation curriculum comes directly from Wix, the no-code website building platform and GetVirtual partner from its inception.  
“This GetVirtual/Coursera course is a good example of how our educational programs are becoming available to broader audiences,” said Manel Camps, UCSC Professor of Microbiology and Environmental Toxicology, Crown College Provost, and faculty director of the Center of Innovation and Entrepreneurial Development (CIED)
Camps noted that the Coursera format can also provide necessary training and structure for educators interested in setting up an organization similar to GetVirtual or a chapter of GetVirtual.
GetVirtual has already expanded onto four other campuses and established partnerships with the city of Santa Cruz and with Santa Cruz’s Small Business Development Center. 
The GetVirtual team is now working on a Spanish version of the course, Miljković said. 
“Eventually, I want to see it translated to Serbo-Croatian, the language of the country where I’m from, as well as Portuguese, Punjabi, you name it,” she said. “I want it to be available all over the world.”
Cid Pearlman, who is stewarding Online Education’s open access offerings, praised Miljković’s work on the GetVirtual Coursera project. 
“Nada has created a number of successful online courses with UCSC Online Education, bringing a wealth of experience as an educator and entrepreneur to everything she does,” Pearlman said. “This open access version of GetVirtual gives learners across the globe the privilege to access this information and launch their own virtual businesses. We look forward to following the accomplishments of the Coursera students.”
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Last modified: November 28, 2022