Institute on Education and the Economy


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

Katherine L. Hughes and Joanne Wang Golann

Virtual Enterprises International (VE) is a high school program that teaches students about business through task-oriented and hands-on coursework. With the assistance of a coordinator and business mentors, VE students create and oversee a virtual firm, conducting business with other virtual firms nationally and internationally. The program enables students to learn about careers, develop interpersonal and organizational skills, and use technology. In some VE firms, students also study an applied economics curriculum, thereby linking the business enterprise to an academic subject required for high school graduation and increasing the academic content of the VE coursework.

Participation in Virtual Enterprises is presumed to benefit students on a range of outcomes, including career preparation, college planning and readiness, and engagement. While the VE Central Office collects its own data on the program, there has been little research conducted externally. Thus, the VE Central Office invited the Institute on Education and the Economy (IEE) at Teachers College, Columbia University, to undertake a one-year, mixed method, multi-site study of the program with a focus on the influence that VE has on students' career and college readiness. The report presented here provides a deep description of the program features and the student and teacher perceptions of VE. It also discusses the relative effectiveness of various aspects of the program, such as technology use, project-based learning, and outside-the-classroom activities. The final section of this report offers recommendations to enhance the effectiveness of the New York City VE program.

Download the Report | Download the Brief




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