MBAX9136 Silicon Valley Study Tour - 2019

Blended, Silicon Valley
Term 3
6 Units of Credit

Offering Selection
This course outline is provided in advance of offering to guide student course selection. Please note that while accurate at time of publication, changes may be required prior to the start of the teaching session. To view other versions, visit the archives .

1. Course Details

Summary of Course

This course is a life-changing experience. Really.

One of the main hubs of entrepreneurship in the world today is Silicon Valley, San Francisco. Australia is certainly a presence in the entrepreneurship and innovation community, but we can learn a lot from what is happening in the hubs, and contrast entrepreneurship and innovation overseas with what we have happening on the ground here.

One of the aims of this course is to compare the 'old' Silicon Valley with the 'new' Silicon Valley, and to project forward as to what entrepreneurship and innovation might look like for the new 'new' in say, 10 years' time. The old Silicon Valley is characterised by firms such as Microsoft, Cisco, Intel and even Apple. The new Silicon Valley is characterised by companies such as Tesla, Uber and Airbnb.

This course combines different in-class/online activities with experiential learning based on firsthand encounters with businesses environments and districts that are culturally, physically and institutionally distant from the typical experiences of managers and entrepreneurs working in Australia.

This course aims to:

  • provide you with insight into the key features of the Silicon Valley ecosystem and to help you identify why and how it has been able to produce high levels of innovation and entrepreneurship over a sustained period of time
  • provide practical experience at providing an early-stage start-up organisation advice about how to best take advantage of the opportunities Silicon Valley provides and pitfalls they should avoid
  • help you identify and reflect on the lessons that can be drawn from Silicon Valley both by governments in other countries and individual organisations that are seeking to foster greater levels of innovation and entrepreneurship
  • help you in continuing to develop your oral communication skills

Teaching Times and Locations

Please note that teaching times and locations are subject to change. Students are strongly advised to refer to the Class Timetable website for the most up-to-date teaching times and locations.

View course timetable

Course Policies & Support

Course Aims and Relationship to Other Courses

This course raises several important questions related to the nature and practice of highly scalable businesses. First, it will allow you to explore the key factors that influence the decisions of businesses about where to operate and where to locate themselves. You will get insight into the range of variables that shape the decisions of business to operate across national boundaries and some of the critical success factors associated with such a move.

A second broad area of focus relates to locational advantages of areas of the international economy and entrepreneurship. Through your research prior to the study tour and through your interactions and observations while there, you will have the opportunity to understand what it is that has made Silicon Valley such a successful industrial district. Broadly speaking, there are two types of arguments for Silicon Valley's success: those that focus on the unique history of the region and those that focus on the synergistic nature of the resources, infrastructure and culture of the organisations and institutions that operate there. While the distinction sounds quite theoretical, it does have quite profound practical implications. If, for example, Silicon Valley is unique, it makes little sense for governments and industries to try to re-create the conditions they find there elsewhere, and there are strong incentives for firms to move to the region to benefit from this ecosystem. If, however, Silicon Valley is one way, but by no means the only way, to encourage and create a strong entrepreneurial and innovation ecosystem, the issue for corporate leaders and policy-makers then becomes identifying the functional equivalents that can be re-created to mirror, and perhaps even exceed, the benefits of Silicon Valley elsewhere in the world economy. This study tour will give you an opportunity to form your own views about this critically important question.

A third, although perhaps less obvious issue, that this course will allow you to explore is the impact of culture and national difference on the conduct of highly scalable businesses. Given the common language and a high degree of assumed knowledge about cultural norms, the cultural differences between an Australian business and the way of doing things in the Valley may seem relatively insignificant. However, we think it is important for you to be attentive to these differences and be able to reflect on whether and how these might be important.

Additonal Course Details

International travel information

For the duration of the trip you will be covered by UNSW Travel Insurance:

Smart Traveller - students should regularly check for any updates regarding travel and visas:

Please note that this course involves group travel arranged by an external travel company. Therefore, independent travel arrangements are not possible for the duration of the tour. All tour package arrangements will be managed by a third-party partner any and participants will be required to comply with the directions of that organisation and their staff at all times.


Stage 1: Pre-work

  • 9 October to 6 December 2019

Stage 2: Study Tour - Company visits in San Francisco and Silicon Valley

  • 15 to 21 December 2019

Stage 3: Post-tour module work

  • 9 January to 28 February 2020

Please note: a more detailed schedule of the field trip and the company visits will be issued immediately prior to the commencement of the field trip to the United States. The schedule is subject to change and adjustment.

All students are expected to attend the study tour and to be available throughout the day and on a number of evenings during the tour. You should also make yourself available to contribute to teamwork in the period between the end of the study tour and the final due date for assessments.

3. Staff Contact Details

Position Name Email Location Phone Consultation Times
Course FacilitatorJeffrey Tobias
0401890071Via appointment

4. Learning and Teaching Activities

Approach to Learning and Teaching in the Course

This course is largely experiential in its approach. Background readings, videos and online discussions leverage students' previous experiences for the field trip to San Francisco/Silicon Valley. On-site discussions and daily debriefing sessions with the facilitators, combined with diary-keeping and the work associated with the preparation of the team assignment, will help students reflect upon their experiences and draw specific lessons that can be applied to their current and future professional practice.

Students must prepare for class and discussion during the tour and be active participants during interactions within the class and with external parties during the field study tour. Preparation involves:

  1. reviewing the assigned readings thoroughly
  2. reviewing the information about the company/organisation before each visit
  3. applying concepts/ideas/research findings to real business situations observed during the field study tour.

Learning Activities and Teaching Strategies

You have four major resources to help you learn:

    1. Preparatory course materials (including readings and videos) will be available in Moodle. It is recommended that you complete all preparatory materials prior to our arrival in Silicon Valley.
    2. Group and individual discussions with the expert facilitators. In this course you will have access to a number of facilitators who have a broad range of academic and professional insight. Their role throughout the study tour will be to help you enhance your understanding, provide context and to encourage debate and discussion with you and your classmates. They will also provide more traditional advice and feedback to you in relation to your assessment tasks.
    3. Your co-participants. Your classmates are an invaluable potential source of learning for you. Their work and life, and industries and their willingness to question and argue with the course materials, the facilitators and your own views, represent a great learning opportunity. AGSM MBA participants bring much valuable insight to the learning experience.
    4. In addition to course-based resources, please also refer to the AGSM Learning Toolkit (available in Moodle) for tutorials and guides that will help you learn more about effective study practices and techniques.

Course Structure

This course is structured in three stages. The first stage is completed locally, before departing for the study tour. The second stage unfolds as part of a highly interactive and profoundly transformative first-hand experience of two distinctive, distant business environments. Stage three, which commences at the end of the study tour, consists of preparing and submitting a group assignment and an individual reflection.

During Stage One, students will prepare for the study tour by working through a series of assigned and recommended readings. They will also have the opportunity to introduce themselves to members of the group to which they have been assigned and do some preliminary work about the nature of the case-study organisation that will be the subject of the major piece of assessment. On request, the faculty will coordinate online discussion to allow participants to explore issues and to share insights.

The second stage will consist of a five-day overseas field study of San Francisco and Silicon Valley. During this field study, students will not only encounter a different business environment, but also will participate in presentations and discussions with local industry leaders and academic experts, and visit several local organisations. They will also have the opportunity to network with local business leaders and Australian expatriates and business people. AGSM faculty will accompany participants on the study tour and be actively involved in facilitating discussions and other learning opportunities.

During Stage Three, participants are expected to make themselves available to participate in group work and will also work on an individual reflection. During this stage, faculty will be available to consult with teams on a one-on-one basis.

6. Course Resources

Other resources

BusinessThink is UNSW's free, online business publication. It is a platform for business research, analysis and opinion. If you would like to subscribe to BusinessThink, and receive the free monthly e-newsletter with the latest in research, opinion and business, go to

7. Course Evaluation & Development

Continual Course Improvement

AGSM courses are revised each time they run, with updated course outlines and assessment tasks developed. Changes relating to any industry developments will also be included. 

Additionally, the AGSM surveys students each time a course is offered. The data collected provides anonymous feedback from students on the quality of course content and materials, class facilitation, student support services and the program in general. This student feedback is considered during all course revisions. 

Student Response

Students offered extensive positive feedback including:

  • Well curated with a lot of varied and interesting businesses
  • The itinerary was well thought out in terms of chronological order and diversity of speakers.
  • Jeffrey Tobias' passion and enthusiasm for the content brought the concepts to life and ensured engagement. The networking and bonding between students and the quality of the speakers and visits outweighed expectations.
  • It was wonderful consolidating these learnings from Stage 1 in a real-world setting.
  • The interaction with the course leaders
  • The effort and amount of work put in by everyone to make the course interesting, insightful and enjoyable!
  • The course leaders went above and beyond what was required, through the Tenderloin tour, the walking tour and other experiences which really provided an all-round experience.
  • The course leaders are passionate and invested in the subject matter which brought a lot of practical experience.

Some comments for change included:

  • The opportunity to experience Silicon Valley a little more and spend more time in the San Jose area 'on the ground'
  • The actual study group could have been more diverse
  • Morning briefings on the bus to save time. More female speakers in companies visited (if possible!)
  • Shorter meeting times which allows for more focused questions and sharper discussion points.
  • Needed feedback on assessments throughout and an indicative itinerary before enrollment

Response to Student Feedback

Feedback throughout the course will now be provided.

The itinerary is very fluid however we will endeavor to provide it as soon as it is locked in.

8. Course Schedule

Week Activity Topic Detail/Engagement Assessment Task
Week 1 Pre-work

Stage 1: Pre-work 9 October to 6 December 2019

Assessment 1 : Online participation
Assessment 1 : Pre-departure work: Getting to know you slide
Assessment 1 : Pre-departure work: Reading Report
Week 2 Study Tour - Company visits

Stage 2: Study Tour - Company visits in San Francisco and Silicon Valley 15 to 21 December 2019

Assessment 2 : Daily Lead facilitators
Assessment 1 : Face to Face participation
Week 3 Post-tour module work

Stage 3: Post-tour module work - 9 January to 28 February 2019

Assessment 3 : Assessment 3a: Opinion Piece
Assessment 3 : Assessment 3b: Self Reflection
Assessment 1 : Online participation
Assessment 4 : Team Assignment

9. Policies and Support

Information about UNSW Business School protocols, University policies, student responsibilities and education quality and support.

Program Learning Outcomes

The Business School places knowledge and capabilities at the core of its curriculum via seven Program Learning Outcomes (PLOs). These PLOs are systematically embedded and developed across the duration of all coursework programs in the Business School.

PLOs embody the knowledge, skills and capabilities that are taught, practised and assessed within each Business School program. They articulate what you should know and be able to do upon successful completion of your degree.

Upon graduation, you should have a high level of specialised business knowledge and capacity for responsible business thinking, underpinned by ethical professional practice. You should be able to harness, manage and communicate business information effectively and work collaboratively with others. You should be an experienced problem-solver and critical thinker, with a global perspective, cultural competence and the potential for innovative leadership.

All UNSW programs and courses are designed to assess the attainment of program and/or course level learning outcomes, as required by the UNSW Assessment Design Procedure. It is important that you become familiar with the Business School PLOs, as they constitute the framework which informs and shapes the components and assessments of the courses within your program of study.

PLO 1: Business knowledge

Students will make informed and effective selection and application of knowledge in a discipline or profession, in the contexts of local and global business.

PLO 2: Problem solving

Students will define and address business problems, and propose effective evidence-based solutions, through the application of rigorous analysis and critical thinking.

PLO 3: Business communication

Students will harness, manage and communicate business information effectively using multiple forms of communication across different channels.

PLO 4: Teamwork

Students will interact and collaborate effectively with others to achieve a common business purpose or fulfil a common business project, and reflect critically on the process and the outcomes.

PLO 5: Responsible business practice

Students will develop and be committed to responsible business thinking and approaches, which are underpinned by ethical professional practice and sustainability considerations.

PLO 6: Global and cultural competence

Students will be aware of business systems in the wider world and actively committed to recognise and respect the cultural norms, beliefs and values of others, and will apply this knowledge to interact, communicate and work effectively in diverse environments.

PLO 7: Leadership development

Students will develop the capacity to take initiative, encourage forward thinking and bring about innovation, while effectively influencing others to achieve desired results.

These PLOs relate to undergraduate and postgraduate coursework programs.  Separate PLOs for honours and postgraduate research programs are included under 'Related Documents'.

Business School course outlines provide detailed information for students on how the course learning outcomes, learning activities, and assessment/s contribute to the development of Program Learning Outcomes.



UNSW Graduate Capabilities

The Business School PLOs also incorporate UNSW graduate capabilities, a set of generic abilities and skills that all students are expected to achieve by graduation. These capabilities articulate the University’s institutional values, as well as future employer expectations.

UNSW Graduate CapabilitiesBusiness School PLOs
Scholars capable of independent and collaborative enquiry, rigorous in their analysis, critique and reflection, and able to innovate by applying their knowledge and skills to the solution of novel as well as routine problems.
  • PLO 1: Business knowledge
  • PLO 2: Problem solving
  • PLO 3: Business communication
  • PLO 4: Teamwork
  • PLO 7: Leadership development

Entrepreneurial leaders capable of initiating and embracing innovation and change, as well as engaging and enabling others to contribute to change
  • PLO 1: Business knowledge
  • PLO 2: Problem solving
  • PLO 3: Business communication
  • PLO 4: Teamwork
  • PLO 6: Global and cultural competence
  • PLO 7: Leadership development

Professionals capable of ethical, self-directed practice and independent lifelong learning
  • PLO 1: Business knowledge
  • PLO 2: Problem solving
  • PLO 3: Business communication
  • PLO 5: Responsible business practice

Global citizens who are culturally adept and capable of respecting diversity and acting in a socially just and responsible way.
  • PLO 1: Business knowledge
  • PLO 2: Problem solving
  • PLO 3: Business communication
  • PLO 4: Teamwork
  • PLO 5: Responsible business practice
  • PLO 6: Global and cultural competence

While our programs are designed to provide coverage of all PLOs and graduate capabilities, they also provide you with a great deal of choice and flexibility.  The Business School strongly advises you to choose a range of courses that assist your development against the seven PLOs and four graduate capabilities, and to keep a record of your achievements as part of your portfolio. You can use a portfolio as evidence in employment applications as well as a reference for work or further study. For support with selecting your courses contact the UNSW Business School Student Centre.

Academic Integrity and Plagiarism

Academic Integrity is honest and responsible scholarship. This form of ethical scholarship is highly valued at UNSW. Terms like Academic Integrity, misconduct, referencing, conventions, plagiarism, academic practices, citations and evidence based learning are all considered basic concepts that successful university students understand. Learning how to communicate original ideas, refer sources, work independently, and report results accurately and honestly are skills that you will be able to carry beyond your studies.

The definition of academic misconduct is broad. It covers practices such as cheating, copying and using another person’s work without appropriate acknowledgement. Incidents of academic misconduct may have serious consequences for students.


UNSW regards plagiarism as a form of academic misconduct. UNSW has very strict rules regarding plagiarism. Plagiarism at UNSW is using the words or ideas of others and passing them off as your own. All Schools in the Business School have a Student Ethics Officer who will investigate incidents of plagiarism and may result in a student’s name being placed on the Plagiarism and Student Misconduct Registers.

Below are examples of plagiarism including self-plagiarism:

Copying: Using the same or very similar words to the original text or idea without acknowledging the source or using quotation marks. This includes copying materials, ideas or concepts from a book, article, report or other written document, presentation, composition, artwork, design, drawing, circuitry, computer program or software, website, internet, other electronic resource, or another person's assignment, without appropriate acknowledgement of authorship.

Inappropriate Paraphrasing: Changing a few words and phrases while mostly retaining the original structure and/or progression of ideas of the original, and information without acknowledgement. This also applies in presentations where someone paraphrases another’s ideas or words without credit and to piecing together quotes and paraphrases into a new whole, without appropriate referencing.

Collusion: Presenting work as independent work when it has been produced in whole or part in collusion with other people. Collusion includes:

  • Students providing their work to another student before the due date, or for the purpose of them plagiarising at any time
  • Paying another person to perform an academic task and passing it off as your own
  • Stealing or acquiring another person’s academic work and copying it
  • Offering to complete another person’s work or seeking payment for completing academic work

Collusion should not be confused with academic collaboration (i.e., shared contribution towards a group task).

Inappropriate Citation: Citing sources which have not been read, without acknowledging the 'secondary' source from which knowledge of them has been obtained.

Self-Plagiarism: ‘Self-plagiarism’ occurs where an author republishes their own previously written work and presents it as new findings without referencing the earlier work, either in its entirety or partially. Self-plagiarism is also referred to as 'recycling', 'duplication', or 'multiple submissions of research findings' without disclosure. In the student context, self-plagiarism includes re-using parts of, or all of, a body of work that has already been submitted for assessment without proper citation.

To see if you understand plagiarism, do this short quiz:


The University also regards cheating as a form of academic misconduct. Cheating is knowingly submitting the work of others as their own and includes contract cheating (work produced by an external agent or third party that is submitted under the pretences of being a student’s original piece of work). Cheating is not acceptable at UNSW.

If you need to revise or clarify any terms associated with academic integrity you should explore the 'Working with Academic Integrity' self-paced lessons available at:

For UNSW policies, penalties, and information to help you avoid plagiarism see: as well as the guidelines in the online ELISE tutorials for all new UNSW students: For information on student conduct see:

For information on how to acknowledge your sources and reference correctly, see: If you are unsure what referencing style to use in this course, you should ask the lecturer in charge.

Student Responsibilities and Conduct

Students are expected to be familiar with and adhere to university policies in relation to class attendance and general conduct and behaviour, including maintaining a safe, respectful environment; and to understand their obligations in relation to workload, assessment and keeping informed.

Information and policies on these topics can be found on the 'Managing your Program' website.


It is expected that you will spend at least ten to twelve hours per week studying for a course except for Summer Term courses which have a minimum weekly workload of twenty to twenty four hours. This time should be made up of reading, research, working on exercises and problems, online activities and attending classes. In periods where you need to complete assignments or prepare for examinations, the workload may be greater. Over-commitment has been a cause of failure for many students. You should take the required workload into account when planning how to balance study with employment and other activities.

We strongly encourage you to connect with your Moodle course websites in the first week of semester. Local and international research indicates that students who engage early and often with their course website are more likely to pass their course.

View more information on expected workload


Your regular and punctual attendance at lectures and seminars or in online learning activities is expected in this course. The Business School reserves the right to refuse final assessment to those students who attend less than 80% of scheduled classes where attendance and participation is required as part of the learning process (e.g., tutorials, flipped classroom sessions, seminars, labs, etc.).

View more information on attendance

General Conduct and Behaviour

You are expected to conduct yourself with consideration and respect for the needs of your fellow students and teaching staff. Conduct which unduly disrupts or interferes with a class, such as ringing or talking on mobile phones, is not acceptable and students may be asked to leave the class.

View more information on student conduct

Health and Safety

UNSW Policy requires each person to work safely and responsibly, in order to avoid personal injury and to protect the safety of others.

View more information on Health and Safety

Keeping Informed

You should take note of all announcements made in lectures, tutorials or on the course web site. From time to time, the University will send important announcements to your university e-mail address without providing you with a paper copy. You will be deemed to have received this information. It is also your responsibility to keep the University informed of all changes to your contact details.

Student Support and Resources

The University and the Business School provide a wide range of support services and resources for students, including:

Business School EQS Consultation Program
The Consultation Program offers academic writing, literacy and numeracy consultations, study skills, exam preparation for Business students. Services include workshops, online resources, individual and group consultations.
Level 1, Room 1035, Quadrangle Building.
02 9385 4508

Business School Student Centre
The Business School Student Centre provides advice and direction on all aspects of admission, enrolment and graduation.
Level 1, Room 1028 in the Quadrangle Building
02 9385 3189

UNSW Learning Centre
The UNSW Learning Centre provides academic skills support services, including workshops and resources, for all UNSW students. See their website for details.
Lower Ground Floor, North Wing Chancellery Building.
02 9385 2060

Educational Support Service
Educational Support Advisors work with all students to promote the development of skills needed to succeed at university, whilst also providing personal support throughout the process. Check their website to request an appointment or to register in the Academic Success Program.
John Goodsell Building, Ground Floor.
02 9385 4734

Library services and facilities for students
The UNSW Library offers a range of collections, services and facilities both on-campus and online.
Main Library, F21.
02 9385 2650

Moodle eLearning Support
Moodle is the University’s learning management system. You should ensure that you log into Moodle regularly.
02 9385 3331

UNSW IT provides support and services for students such as password access, email services, wireless services and technical support.
UNSW Library Annexe (Ground floor).
02 9385 1333

Disability Support Services
UNSW Disability Support Services provides assistance to students who are trying to manage the demands of university as well as a health condition, learning disability or who have personal circumstances that are having an impact on their studies. Disability Advisers can arrange to put in place services and educational adjustments to make things more manageable so that students are able to complete their course requirements. To receive educational adjustments for disability support, students must first register with Disability Services.
Ground Floor, John Goodsell Building.
02 9385 4734

UNSW Counselling and Psychological Services
Provides support and services if you need help with your personal life, getting your academic life back on track or just want to know how to stay safe, including free, confidential counselling.
Level 2, East Wing, Quadrangle Building.
02 9385 5418

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