Teaching an online entrepreneurship class to students who are used to taking classes in-person can be particularly challenging:
- Discussions can be lethargic
- Students are sometimes unmotivated
- You can end up teaching into the “void” with little input or interaction from your students
If you’ve run one of these lectures, you probably didn’t get much out of the experience and neither did your students.
To genuinely engage online students, rethink your course from top-to-bottom. You want to answer questions like, how do you…
- Redesign your interactive exercises to work online?
- Get students to reliably ask and answer questions?
- Connect students to each other, and the material, when they’re socially isolated?
As you start your redesign, we wanted to share our online course syllabus in case it’s helpful.
A Blend of Sync and Async
No one likes teaching to the void (or being in the void).
What is the void? Have you ever used Zoom to teach to a bunch of black boxes? Or were your students’ cameras turned on but you consistently confronted with awkward silences and blank stares? Engagement is very difficult to maintain in an online course. Asynchronous is the most popular way to teach online, but an asynchronous learning environment alone can feel disconnecting to your students.
We wanted to avoid teaching to the void, and the disconnecting feelings it can create, so our syllabus is a combination of asynchronous activities students do individually with:
- Interactive Synchronous Sessions. These experiential learning activities engage students and keep them motivated even when they’re learning remotely.
- Reflection groups. This component of our online entrepreneurship course brings students together at regular intervals to share and process their experiences and processes. In these groups, students can reflect on the processes and the product of their journey through the course, helping them to learn from and teach each other, and also encouraging them to support each other thrive during the journey.
- Check-ins. One of the biggest challenges experiential entrepreneurship classes face is that different teams progress at different speeds. Students who fall behind get discouraged when the class progresses to topics that are not yet relevant to them. Students who find success in making progress get bored if the class content stalls their progress. We also know that students can run into unique challenges in project-based classes, especially when they are online, and that students highly value time with instructors to help them overcome those challenges. One of the most successful remedies to both the problems outlined above is to provide students with differentiated learning experiences, via coaching/check-in sessions with teams. Every coaching session is an opportunity for students to measure the skills they’ve acquired in order to learn what to do next.
An experiential entrepreneurship course, done well, helps students gain transferable skills they can use to create value for anyone or any organization in their professional and personal life. These skills are particularly important during times of uncertainty we are currently living through.
Find a Problem Worth Solving
Our curriculum has two phases of skill-building. The goal of Phase 1 is to find a problem worth solving. These are the skills taught in that phase:
- Growth Mindset. This mindset is the belief a person has that they can learn more or be good at anything if they work hard and persevere. It is important to set the stage with this skill so students believe they can be good at anything, and that skill comes from practice.
- Leveraging Failure. Failure is inevitable in the entrepreneurial process – we want students to build the skill set to take advantage of their failures to
- Idea Generation. We don’t want your students to work on just any idea. Our syllabus highlights exercises and lesson plans that invite them to practice the skills necessary to discover ideas that bring them meaning. Once they have that idea, we guide them through identifying and actually locating their Early Adopters.
- Customer Interviewing. The most critical skill entrepreneurs must learn is interviewing customers. Our exercises guide students through learning what to ask customers, iteratively practicing customer interviews, and analyzing interviews to guide their business model iteration.
- Problem Validation. Students must decide whether they have validated a problem and whether they want to work on solving it or pivot to solve a different problem.
Find a Solution Worth Building
The goal of Phase 2 is to find a solution worth building. These are the skills taught in that phase:
- Creativity & Design Thinking. These exercises enhance students’ brainstorming skills and how to develop solutions based on customers’ problems.
- Financial Modeling. Successful entrepreneurship requires entrepreneurs to effectively monetize solutions. During this stage, students practice pricing and building a viable financial model.
- Prototyping. Here we teach students to build new versions of their product that allows them to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort.
- Experiments. Running business model experiments is your students’ fastest path to success. Students learn to make small bets and test a number of different strategies until they find one that works.
- Storytelling. In our curriculum, students don’t pitch their product/company. Instead, they share the story of the process they went through (in)validating their business model. In this way, they demonstrate they have acquired the entrepreneurial skills to find and test new opportunities.
Your students should experience creating and capturing value, not passively learn about others who have. Experiential learning techniques are critical to any entrepreneurship course because they increase student engagement and excitement as they build knowledge by doing.
Using our new online syllabus gives you a way to engage and excite your students from the first through the last day with our innovative approach to experiential learning. One example of our approach to experiential learning is our award-winning Lottery Ticket Dilemma exercise.
Through this exercise, students will discover how important emotions are in the decision-making process and the importance of understanding and fulfilling other people’s emotional needs.
Specifically, students will experience:
- Why the majority of businesses that start end in failure, & how to avoid those failures, & so students learn how to recognize and avoid those failures
- Customers making decisions driven by their emotions, & so students learn how to uncover and leverage those emotions to create solutions customers want
- Creating products customers want to purchase by understanding the emotional journey they want to take
Get the Online Entrepreneurship Sample Syllabus
We’ve created a detailed Online Entrepreneurship sample syllabus that details the components of a full semester course.
If you haven’t already registered, remember to join us at the:
Engaging Students Online:
A Virtual Conference
Last week we opened registration to a virtual conference dedicated to engaging students online. So far, 350+ entrepreneurship educators have registered. We hope you join us!