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IEE Brief No. 31, November 2007

When the Virtual Becomes Real:
Student Learning in the Virtual Enterprises Program

Katherine L. Hughes and Joanne Wang Golann


Virtual Enterprises International is a high school program that teaches students about business by having them create and operate their own virtual firms. The program enables students to learn about careers, develop interpersonal and organizational skills, and use technology.

The use of virtual firms as an instructional tool is well-established in Europe, and in 1994, a group of New York City high school superintendents visited Vienna, Austria, to observe the virtual firms in its secondary schools. Two years later, the New York City Department of Education implemented the Virtual Enterprises (VE) program in seven New York City high schools, the first program of its kind in the United States. By 2006-07, the VE program was operating in 53 New York City schools and in over 450 institutions across the country.

The New York City VE Central Office invited the Institute on Education and the Economy (IEE) at Teachers College, Columbia University, to conduct the first external study of the program. This Brief presents a description of the Virtual Enterprises (VE) program, a summary of IEE’s findings, and recommendations to enhance the program’s effectiveness.

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Institute on Education and the Economy, Teachers College, Columbia University
525 West 120th Street, Box 174, New York, NY 10027
Phone: (212) 678-3091 | Fax: (212) 678-3699 | iee@columbia.edu