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Entrepreneurship educator Doan Winkel brings an experiential approach to all his ideas for how to disrupt education and provide a more engaging student experience
Online Entrepreneurship Syllabus

Online Entrepreneurship Syllabus

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.

Online Entrepreneurship Syllabus Structure

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.

Skills-Based

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.

Experiential

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.

Online Entrepreneurship Syllabus Structure
Get the Sample Syllabus

It’s free for any/all entrepreneurship teachers, so you’re welcome to share it.


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!

engaging students online teaching entrepreneurship virtual conference workshop

USASBE 3E Winner: Lottery Ticket Dilemma

USASBE 3E Winner: Lottery Ticket Dilemma

It is our pleasure to share with you the lesson plan that won the prestigious Experiential Entrepreneurship Exercises (3E) competition at USASBE this past January!
Entrepreneurship Education

If your students focus more on their products than their customers’ problems, this lesson plan is for you.!

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 learn:

  • Why the majority of businesses that start end in failure, & how to avoid those failures
  • Customer decisions are driven by their emotions
  • To create products customers want to buy, we need to understand the emotional journey they want to take

Here’s how the lesson plan works…

Step 1: Set Context in Your Class

Use this exercise when students are beginning to think of ideas to develop – see the High Quality Idea Generation module in the Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum (ExEC) for explicit instructions to guide students to develop high quality ideas they are uniquely qualified to pursue.

Let students know there is a specific perspective that can help them develop powerful ideas that they will enjoy working on, and that today they will learn that perspective.

Step 2: Why Businesses Fail

Ask students to describe what they think the difference is between an inventor and an entrepreneur.

Inventors vs. Entrepreneurs

Walk students through the two comparisons to highlight this difference:

  • Segway vs. Razor scooters. Explain that Segway is an incredible invention, estimated to have a value of $2.5 billion, and that it was a colossal failure that reached only 1% of its market valuation. Then explain that Razor scooters (and now Bird and Lime electric scooters) are similar, but these far less “innovative” transportation options have generated far more market value – nearly $15 billion market. Point out that the Segway creator is an inventor because he focused on his emotional needs (building something technologically innovative, whereas the creator of the Razor scooter are entrepreneurs because they focused on creating products people actually decide to buy and use.
  • Google Glass vs. Warby Paker. Explain that Google Glass, like Segway, was invented as a revolutionary technology, but ended up being the butt of many jokes. Warby Parker, on the other hand, sells glasses that actually solve a problem for customers, so customers want to buy and use them.

Step 3: Setting Up the Game

Tell your students that to understand what people decide to buy, they must first understand how people make decisions. Explain they will play a game to figure that out, and the team that wins a game will get to pick their prize.

Explain that to play the game, your students will:

  • Form teams of two
  • Listen to a recording
  • Answer one question about the recording
  • The team that answers the question the best gets the prize

Let students know they will pick between a real lottery ticket worth up to $40 million, or a dime. Be sure to emphasize the potential value of the lottery ticket (e.g., a chance at $40 million) as opposed to simply describing it as a lottery ticket. Even if the jackpot is more than $40 million, tell them it’s worth $40 million to keep the math consistent for this exercise.

Tell your students that, based on the odds of winning the lottery, and the taxes they’d have to pay on any winnings, the dime is, strictly speaking, more valuable than the lottery ticket. Students should talk in their dyads and decided which prize they want.

Step 4: Lottery Ticket vs. Dime

Ask students to raise their hand if they want the dime. Then ask them to raise their hand if they want to lottery ticket.

The majority will pick the lottery ticket. Ask them

Why do you want a prize that is objectively worth less?

Probe them with questions that highlight any emotions associated with your students’ choices as you begin to hand out copies of the Emotional Palette Canvas

NOTE: Some students will indicate they want the dime instead of the lottery ticket. Be sure to dive in to understand why they want the dime. Ultimately, their preference for the dime will have an emotional component as well, even if it appears to be based entirely on logic (e.g. they want to feel confident, smart, etc.).

Step 5: Emotional Palette Canvas

Explain that this canvas is a tool to help them visualize and compare the intensity of different emotions.

Emotional Palette Canvas - Federico Mammano

Ask students to find the emotions they would feel if they won the lottery ticket. Scores should be in the +3 or +4 range. Ask your students to discuss in their dyad the following question:

Using the Emotional Palette Canvas, how can you explain why most people prefer the shot at $40 million, as opposed to an objectively more valuable dime.

NOTE: The correct answer is that while the objective value of the dime is higher than the lottery ticket, the emotional value (e.g. hope, excitement, fun, etc.) of the ticket is much higher than the dime. Teams should use the Emotional Palette Canvas to illustrate that the lottery ticket emotions “score” higher than the dime emotions.

Step 6: The Man Who Couldn’t Feel

Switch now to the questions that will determine the winning dyad. Tell students to listen carefully to the podcast you will play and think about this question:

What role do emotions play in decision making?

Play this podcast listed in the lesson plan.

Step 7: How Humans Make Decisions

After the podcast, have students answer the following to determine the prize winner:

  • They must link all of the concepts covered today:
    • The difference between inventors and entrepreneurs
    • The majority of the class wants the objectively less valuable, but emotionally more valuable, lottery ticket as a prize
    • What you learned from the podcast
  • To describe:
    • What role do emotions play in decision making?
    • Why did we, like most entrepreneurs, failed in our first experiment?
    • What we should do different next time to avoid repeating our mistakes?

For a sample answer, download the lesson plan!

It may take a few attempts for teams to get all the elements of this answer correct. After a team guesses, provide them feedback and then let another team answer. Continue until all of the elements above have been spoken to.

NOTE: So many people, including the majority of our students, think our decisions are based on logic, reason, and rational thinking. This is an opportunity to highlight that’s not the case. Drive this point home, especially if you’re teaching a large number of logically-oriented students, like engineers or scientists.

Step 8: Recap

This is your chance to drive home the main points of this lesson.

  • There’s no such thing as a human making a purely logical decision. Without emotions, we can’t make decisions.
  • Emotions influence every decision we make including what products are successful and who gets what jobs.
  • Whether one become an entrepreneur, or get a job, how much money one makes depends on how well they understand and fulfill other people’s emotional needs.

Get the “Lottery Ticket Dilemma” Lesson Plan

We’ve created a detailed “Lottery Ticket Dilemma” lesson plan. This exercise walks you, and your students, through the process, step-by-step.

Get the Lesson Plan

 

It’s free for any/all entrepreneurship teachers, so you’re welcome to share it.

This lesson is part of our fully experiential curriculum. If you’d like to see the entire curriculum, click to learn more.

 

Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum Logo


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Missed Our Recent Articles?

Whether you are new to our community of entrepreneurship educators, or you’ve been contributing for years, we wanted to give you a list of the posts our community finds most valuable:

  • “The best class I’ve taken!”  We all want a Dead Poets Society moment in our entrepreneurship class. One professor using the Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum got hers!
  • Improving Student Idea Generation. Help students build ideas around the customers they are most passionate about helping, and the problems they are most excited to help them resolve.
  • Teachers Need Tools.  Our curriculum makes prepping your entrepreneurship classes a breeze, and makes teaching the classes a powerful experience for students.
Teaching Entrepreneurship Online: 5 Common Mistakes (and how to Avoid Them)

Teaching Entrepreneurship Online: 5 Common Mistakes (and how to Avoid Them)

Successful Online Classes

As many of us transition our classes online, growing pains will abound. We wanted to provide a quick summary of the most common pitfalls you’re likely to run into so you know how to avoid them.

5 Online Teaching Mistakes to Avoid


Mistake #1: Weekly assignments

If you have weekly assignments, in other words just one touchpoint per week where students are expected to turn something in, you’re inviting time management challenges for your students. This can be especially true if students are new to taking online classes; they’re not used to planning out their weekly schedule around finishing assignments. Couple that with other work and class commitments and in all likelihood, they will wait until the last minute to get their work finished.

Solution: Multiple touch points each week.

When transitioning our own in-person curriculum online, we’ve found it helps set our students up for success by having at least 2 touchpoints per week. For example, we have assignments due on Tuesday and Thursday. Alternatively, you can set up your course so that assignments are due Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Whatever you decide, break up the assignments into smaller chunks to help avoid any time management problems your students may have. This will help keep them on track and reduce their tendency to cram.


Mistake #2: Not Using Groups

We often hear from professors who teach online that they don’t feel as connected to their students, or they worry their students don’t feel connected to them. Additionally, we’ve heard from students that they don’t feel connected to other students when taking an online class. 

If you’re avoiding group work because you’re teaching online, you’re missing an effective tool for fostering a connection between your students. 

Group work can seem daunting to set up, assess and grade online, but it doesn’t have to be. And since group work is a powerful tool to combat disconnection in an online classroom, it’s worth the effort. Here are a few of our proven methods for creating a successful group.

1) Reflection Groups

Reflection Groups are small groups of students (3-4), who meet up “face-to-face” online via Zoom, Skype, Facetime, etc. to reflect on individual experiences they’ve had during the class. This provides an explicit opportunity to reflect, and take notes about their reflections, with peers from the class, helps drive student thinking deeper. It also helps them connect with other people in their class and fosters a more profound connection since it provides space for them to share their reflections of their experience, rather than simply sharing right/wrong answers.

For example, in our classes students meet with their reflection groups to discuss:

  • Their fears and curiosities about life after graduation
  • The biggest failures they’ve encountered in their lives so far, and what they’ve learned from them
  • Successes and struggles they’ve had with individual assignments

Creating groups isn’t difficult. All Learning Management Systems (e.g. Canvas, Blackboard, Moodle, Brightspace, etc.) have functionality for creating student. While technology like Zoom, WhatsApp, Facetime, and Skype make it really easy for students to meetup. This makes it simple to leverage group work and increase your student’s feeling of connection.

What can feel a little more daunting about online groups is grading/assessment. Here’s how to tackle that: 

2) Team Work + Individual (Video) Reflections

Have the students complete their exercises together, but have them turn in individual reflections. 

In our classes, we encourage students to work together but require each student to submit their own video-based reflections on the work they’ve done. These videos (which we limit to 1 – 3 minutes), speed up the assessment process, cutting down on overall assessment time while ensuring each student is developing their own skills.


Mistake #3: Not Using Webcams

Webcams establish an instant face-to-face connection which is incredibly helpful in establishing a connection with your students. We recommend, whenever possible, using your own webcam, and to encourage your students to use webcams themselves. 

When we ask for student submissions, we have them use a tool called Loom, which is an easy-to-use browser extension which allows students to simply record their screen and capture their webcam at the same time. We’ve used Loom thousands of students and have had great results.

Loom lets you see your students (establishing a connection) and gives you a real insight into what they’ve been working on. We’ve found this is an invaluable tool in discovering how well they understand the concepts being taught in class. It also leads to a deeper level of understanding of the material because students will need to be able to write about the subject as well as talk about it concisely. We do recommend setting time guidelines for the videos. For example, we have students make videos 2-3 minutes long. This reduces the amount of time needed to go through the videos.


Mistake #4: “Read and Regurgitate” Discussion Boards

Typically, discussion boards are used as a way to ensure students complete some reading by asking students to reflect on what they’ve read, and possibly comment on another student’s post. Most of the time, this leads to students simply summarizing what they read and writing similar comments on fellow students’ posts. Unfortunately, this doesn’t lead to a lot of in-depth discussion or reflection. 

Discussion boards are optimal when people are presenting diverse viewpoints as opposed to all reflecting similar ideas. 

We recommend using discussion boards for personal reflections. For example, instead of asking students to go through an experience and describe what the experience was, have them talk about their personal challenges that came up with the experience. Ask what they learned most as a result of the experience. How are they going to apply that skill going forward?

Making personal comments creates a connected feeling in the class as students read other people’s responses. They get to know each other better and you get a sense of if they’re really understanding what you want them to take away from the material.

Discussion boards can also be used for students to pitch business ideas. You can even have students form teams around pitch ideas. Any experience you can create where students are leveraging different ideas is a great place to use discussion boards.


Mistake #5: “Class-Based” Thinking

It’s hard enough to create an engaging classroom in-person. Going online can feel even more daunting because we don’t have the opportunity for real-time interaction with students.

That said, there’s a little-known benefit to teaching online that can be used to create extremely engaging experiences.

When teaching in-person classes, it’s normal to have your thinking centered on “classes.” Whether a 75-minute class, 90-minute class, etc., we know that we have X-amount of things we want to cover in that amount of time. However, an online class doesn’t have the same time constraints.

We have found that it’s helpful to shift from a “class” structure to focus on creating “ah-ha” experiences for our students. Start by thinking about the ah-ha moments you have in your in-person classes and write out all of the interactions you have with your students that lead up to that moment. Then start translating each of those interactions online. Once you start thinking on an “interaction” level, as opposed to a “class” level, it’s much easier to… 

Structure your course around creating “ah-ha” experiences.

As we created the online version of our in-person curriculum, we’ve had to tease out the interactive moments between instructor and students and rethink the time frame of these interactions. For example, in an in-person class, the professor can provide a prompt and the students respond in real-time and the entire lesson may only take 30 minutes. Online, this same lesson may span two weeks as the professor provides a prompt, awaits student responses, provides counter-discussion or reflection, etc. While this takes longer calendar-wise, we have found it is possible to create just as engaging of an experience for online students as we have in-person, by focusing primarily on these interactions.

For example, in the first class of our curriculum, we have students write out on post-it notes their fears and curiosities after they graduate. We then have them share their fears and curiosities with someone sitting next to them. We then create post-it note clouds around common themes they share. Then our instructors take those common challenges and map them into their syllabus. Some common fears are:

  • How am I going to find a job?
  • Is my job going to pay enough?
  • Am I going to like my job?

Professors then take these common problems or themes and point towards the places in the syllabus that will help address them. Students then realize, “Oh, even if I don’t want to be an entrepreneur, here’s what I’m going to get out of this class or entrepreneurial skills.” This whole process takes roughly 30 minutes in-person. 

The online version, on the other hand, is more drawn out. First students fill out a survey that says “here are my fears and curiosities.” Then they utilize the aforementioned reflection groups where they’ll talk about their challenges. Then the instructor takes the survey results and makes a video response connecting the dots between their students’ challenges, and their syllabus. So, the interaction takes longer in terms of calendar time but creates the same “ah-ha” moment as students realize the value entrepreneurship skills can have on their lives, even if they don’t see themselves becoming entrepreneurs. 

Takeaways

Transitioning to teaching online can be challenging, but it can also be extremely effective. If you want to make sure your students:

  • Avoid cramming
  • Feel connected to you and your other students
  • Engage fully in your class

We recommend:

  1. Having multiple touch points per week
  2. Group assignments w/ individual reflections
  3. Everyone record videos with webcams
  4. Use discussion boards for personal reflections
  5. Replicate your interactions, not your classes, online

If you’d like more tips on running successful online classes, subscribe here to get the next one in your inbox.

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If you have any suggestions to fix the mistakes above or want to recommend any mistakes we missed, please let us know!

In the meantime… 

We Need Your Questions!

During this time of uncertainty, we want to hear what challenges you’re running into, and questions you have. We’re eager to experiment with ways to serve the teaching community, but like good innovators, we want to make sure we’re solving real problems.

What's Your Biggest Teaching Challenge?

In my role as USASBE President-elect, I’m hosting a USASBE Virtual Town Hall on March 25th, where we’ll discuss your challenges in detail. Answering the question above, or clicking the image below, will register you for the discussion, and make sure you get the recording afterward.

United States Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship Town Hall Discussion of Entrepreneurship Education

Register Here for the USASBE Town Hall

Our Curriculum

If you’re looking for a structured, comprehensive, and engaging experiential entrepreneurship curriculum you can run with your students in person, or online, check out the Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum.

Used at more than 80 colleges and universities, ExEC helps students feel connected with you, and one another, while they learn practical entrepreneurial skills regardless of their career path.

Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum Logo

 

Countdown to USASBE 2020

Countdown to USASBE 2020

See You In New Orleans!

Our team is busy getting ready for the USASBE conference in New Orleans, Louisiana. The conference gives space for entrepreneurship educators to come together to share innovative research and experiential ideas for teaching entrepreneurship.

USASBE Entrepreneurship Exercises

Eat & Drink with Us

Teaching Entrepreneurship USASBE
  • Enjoy great food and drink
  • Connect with like-minded professionals
  • Get inspired with thought-provoking conversation
Behind the Scenes of our Last Happy Hour

See Our Lesson Plans in Action

We’re leading 6 talks this year during the conference:

Sunday Sessions

Normalizing Failing through the Wish Game (Sunday @ 9:30 am in Chamber III)

This exercise was borrowed from faculty at Stanford University and developed into the foundation of an MBA Entrepreneurship course to teach entrepreneurship skills by classmates iteratively delivering wishes for each other. This exercise is a powerful path to students learning entrepreneurial skills like ideation, customer interviewing, prototyping, selling, and mobilizing resources, all in the context of creating memorable experiences for their fellow classmates.

60 Minute MVP (Sunday @ 9:30 am in Conti)

The 60 Minute MVP is an intense and exciting exercise that teaches critical aspects of the entrepreneurial mindset and lean start-up methodology, namely the iterative process of hypothesis testing through the creation of minimum viable products (MVPs). In 60 minutes, with no prior technical expertise, students work in teams to design a landing page, create an explainer video, and set up a way to measure pre-launch demand from prospective customers by accepting pre-orders or email addresses. 

What Happens When (Female) Students Dare to Dream? (Sunday @ 3:15 pm in Lafitte)

There are not enough female students in entrepreneurship and innovation programs and career paths. This expose will introduce a proven program that successfully addresses this inequity: a series of college-student driven events targeting the entrepreneurial confidence, vulnerability, and action of high school students (particularly female students). Participants will learn the framework for how these high-impact events can be developed and delivered in any university setting and scaled to a city-wide event, and to intensive summer camps and overnight retreats.

Monday Sessions

Customer Interviewing: Learning the Basics Through Gamification (Monday @ 9:30 am in Bienville)

This is a fun, interactive exercise will demonstrate to students: What their problem interviewing goals should be and should not be, and based on those goals; What questions they should and should not ask during customer interviews; Educators follow up the card game by giving students an interview script template they can use as the basis for their problem discovery interviews. After students experience this exercise, they will have a robust customer interview script they can use to increase the quality of their interviews, and their confidence in conducting them. 

Entrepreneurs vs Inventors: The Lottery Ticket Dilemma (Monday @ 9:30 am in Bienville)

This exercise provides a fun, experiential way for students to conceptualize customer behavior, and identify business opportunities, by demonstrating it’s not actually customer problems that drive behavior, it’s customer emotions. After this game-based activity, students understand why some products are successful even if they don’t solve an obvious problem, and how to leverage that fact to identify non-problem based opportunities. Attendees to this session will get to experience the lesson themselves, and leave with a lesson plan they can use to integrate this exercise in their classes.

Fears & Curiosities: Engaging ALL Students on Day 1 (Monday @ 1:45 pm in Chamber III)

This exercise helps students understand the value of their entrepreneurship classes, even if they never envision themselves becoming an entrepreneur, helping them engage with the class from the first day. The exercise starts with students sharing their fears and curiosities about life after college in a fun and engaging way. After this exercise, students will understand the value of what they are about to learn in their entrepreneurship course, regardless of their relationship to entrepreneurship.

We hope to see you at one of our sessions or join us for a drink and dinner. Invite a friend! The more the merrier.

Federico, Doan & Justin

Teaching Entrepreneurship

Students Don’t See the Value of a Textbook: Dr. Samantha Fairclough

Students Don’t See the Value of a Textbook: Dr. Samantha Fairclough

    It’s a struggle for every professor to keep their class engaged.

In an over-stimulated culture, we are at a disadvantage to create an environment where students aren’t constantly looking at their laptops or phones. To keep their eyes up and maintain their interest can sometimes seem like lofty goals.

Kim Pichot - Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum Professor

Dr. Samantha Fairclough understands that struggle. As an Assistant Professor of Practice at University of Nebraska-Lincoln & the Associate Director of the UNL Center for Entrepreneurship, she feels personal and professional pressure to make sure she maintains a high level of student engagement.

As she prepared to teach her Managing Growth and Change class recently, she realized she had to make a change.

    She knew the way she previously taught “isn’t working for me. The students hate it. I hate it. I don’t enjoy the book.”

Entrepreneurship Alternative to Textbook Learning

She decided to ditch all textbooks and was searching for readings and articles she could use instead when she found the Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum (ExEC).

https://youtu.be/DTMcROFzKkc

After using the ExEC 60 minute MVP lesson from the TeachingEntrepreneurship.org website in her current creativity class as a pilot for using the entire ExEC curriculum, she was pleased by the great buzz of energy and student engagement. 

    Dr. Fairclough describes being blown away with the kinds of things her students came up with.
Teaching Entrepreneurship Curriculum

Fully Adopting the ExEC Entrepreneurship Curriculum 

From websites to explainer videos, the lesson was such a great moment and garnered such positive results, she decided she was ready to adopt the full ExEC curriculum with her next group of students.

The timing also seemed right for change because she felt she had the right group of students to try something new. Instead of pushing her class of entrepreneurially minded students into a lecture-based system, Dr. Fairclough fully embraced the ExEC curriculum and found that the tools and techniques worked from day 1.

https://youtu.be/lhPB0gDMYWs

Making it Real Lesson Plan

Using the Making it Real lesson plan, Samantha got the students together in the downtown Lincoln area. She gave each group $5 (in singles) and told them to make as much money as possible in 30 minutes. The winning group would split the winnings. This lesson proved to be a great kick-off for introducing the ExEC philosophy. 

    “One of the joys of this class is, it’s so interactive, there’s a lot of engagement.”

Students returned to class filled with energy and excitement. One group took a temporary job to make money, while another sold shares in their future winnings. The creativity of the ideas combined with the feedback from her students made it obvious to Samantha that the kids loved the exercise.  Coverage of their experience on social media gained some great exposure on campus too. Word of the positive experience continued to spread, even reaching the Dean’s office.

Similar to other entrepreneurship professors, Samantha wants her students to enjoy learning. She found that having a great rapport with her students starts with the material that lays a foundation for a solid experience and exchange of ideas.

Pressure from Above

“As an entrepreneurship professor, I strive to be the best and receive the highest evaluation scores from students,” Samantha shared. “Across the board, those of us who teach entrepreneurship are expected to have interactive, experiential classes. This creates a pressure to continuously find new and effective ways to do that in a way students enjoy but isn’t cumbersome for us as educators.”

Additionally, professors feel added pressure from their institution to remain on the cutting edge of teaching methods. The unspoken thought being if the professor does not create an interactive class that elicits great feedback, they’re not teaching effectively.

Ditch the Textbook: Start Engaging

ExEC was designed to help you engage all of your students without requiring significant prep time.

If you’re, like Dr. Fairclough, looking for a curriculum that

  • Engages every student
  • Provides structured, skill-building, real-world experiences
  • Has comprehensive support for easy adoption

request a preview of our ExEC curriculum here.

Teaching Entrepreneurship Lesson Plans

Samantha Isn’t Alone! Read More Case Studies of ExEC Instructors

Related Articles

We’re committed to providing content that will help our community of entrepreneurship educators remain on the forefront of the field. Here is a list of some recent posts we think you’ll find valuable for your next class:

  • Textbooks Don’t Work. More and more professors are finding textbooks are not an effective way to teach entrepreneurship. Experiences are. Engage your students with the Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum.
  • Idea Generation vs. Problem Generation. Idea generation is one of the most difficult aspects of teaching entrepreneurship. We share an alternative to idea generation that will quickly help your students generate ideas.
  • How to Teach MVP’s. In this exercise, students will design their first MVP by identifying their riskiest business model assumption. They’ll then design the simplest experiment they can to test that riskiest assumption. 

Ready to Take Student Engagement to the Next Level?

We email new experiential entrepreneurship lesson plans regularly.

Subscribe here to get our next lesson plan in your inbox!

We engage students in practicing skills, actively. Class time should be spent learning by doing, with professors guiding students through an experience where they can see the material come to life in a way that is meaningful for them. We built that experience for you and for your students.

Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum
Engage Students This Spring

Engage Students This Spring

This spring you can have:

  • More engagement
  • More structure
  • More impact

We practice what we preach, and apply entrepreneurial principles to how to teach entrepreneurship. The Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum (ExEC) combines all of the best practices of entrepreneurship education, and after just 2 years is now used at almost 100 universities!

If you want more engagement, more structure, and more impact, now is your chance with ExEC!

Universities using Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum

Why People Love ExEC

Each semester, our founders continuously interview faculty and staff to improve the user experience, and create more meaningful moments.

Kim Pichot - Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum Professor

One student of Kim Pichot, from Andrews University, shared:

“This one is by far the best class I’ve ever taken at this University!”

Maureen Cumpstone from Ursinus College said:

“Students understood the focus on skill-building rather than going through the motions of creating something that we all know is pretend.”

Students also share the impact of learning experientially:

“This course teaches more practical skills which are not available in other courses during college.” – Student, Georgia State University

“I enjoyed the interactive class. It gets everyone involved and awake and gets the juices flowing in your brain. Class was more enjoyable rather than something I had to attend.” – Student, Rowan University

What’s New In ExEC?

Faster Assessment

We redesigned what students turn in, dramatically reducing assessment time, while keeping the curriculum robust and the grading transparent.

Assessments used in Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum

We also simplified and updated our rubrics, so you can more efficiently and effectively provide constructive feedback to your students.

Updated rubrics in Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum

Updated Modules

The Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum has expanded to include the core topics that are essential to successful entrepreneurs:

Idea Generation. This module helps students identify ideas they are uniquely qualified to pursue. The experience will teach students:

  • A repeatable process for generating business ideas.
  • Brainstorming problems to solve generates more good business ideas than brainstorming products to build.
  • Which customers they are uniquely suited to serve.
  • How to identify “backup ideas” if their primary business idea falters.

Idea Generation Exercise in Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum

Financial Projection Simulator. This module helps students determine if a business model will be financially sustainable. The experience will teach students how to:

  • Estimate costs for their venture.
  • Project their revenue from a “bottom-up” perspective.
  • Update their business model hypotheses to ensure they are on a path to achieve their business goals.

Customer Interviewing. Our updated method of teaching customer interviews use’s ExEC Customer Interviewing Playing Cards with an online collaborative quiz game to show students:

  • What their problem interviewing goals should and should not be, and
  • What questions they should and should not ask

Customer Interviewing Script used in Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum

The curriculum now enables professors to easily shift from the ineffective sage-on-the-stage model of education to the guide-on-the-side model, because the real teacher with the ExEC curriculum is the students’ experience.

AOM Review of ExEC!

We were fortunate that two of our rock-star colleagues (Dr. Emma Fleck from Susquehanna University and Dr. Atul Teckchandani from California State University Fullerton) shared their thoughts about our curriculum in Academy of Management Learning & Education, the leading journal on the study of management learning and education.

Learn more about our curriculum from this review in Academy of Management Learning & Education.

Academy of Management Learning & Education review of Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum

Improved LMS Integration

For Fall 2019, we we updated our integration of ExEC with the four major learning management systems (LMS): Canvas, D2L, Moodle and Blackboard. This offers our professors the capability of uploading all our content neatly into their respective LMS, which greatly reduces the setup time, and provides a more comfortable learning process for the students.

From hundreds of professor and student interviews, we built a brand new professor platform for our entrepreneurship curriculum. After a few well-managed hiccups rolled it out with overall great success.

The ExEC experience contains over 30 detailed lesson plans, each containing seven core elements designed to enable easy navigation and execution for our professors:

Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum Overview

  1. The lesson’s goals and objectives.
  2. A quick overview of where each lesson fits into the scheme of the overall curriculum.
  3. An engaging overview video explaining the lesson.
  4. Detailed Google Slides for classroom use.

Video and slides in every lesson plan in the Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum

  1. Instructions to prepare before class, including all necessary resources.
  2. An exhaustive minute-by-minute outline for delivering the lesson.
  3. Instructions for what students could and should do after class.

Lesson plan instructions in Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum

From the first moment of planning a lesson to returning graded assignments, we frame the entire learning experience in detailed, practical terms that are mapped onto the Business Model Canvas to highlight what lessons are applicable for particular boxes on the Canvas.

Award-Winning Curriculum!

Our founding team are entrepreneurs. We’ve spent years interviewing entrepreneurship faculty and students. This combined knowledge led us to build a skill-based award-winning entrepreneurship curriculum that probes critical entrepreneurship topics in-depth.

Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum wins first place at USASBE

ExEC Online?

We’ve had a ton of interest in using ExEC for online classes, so this semester we’ll be alpha testing a fully online-enabled version of ExEC.

We have been hard at work creating engaging videos and online experiences for students, and will kick the tires on this new experience before rolling it out nationally in Fall 2020.

In Spring 2020, our co-founders will teach the first fully online semester-long ExEC course at John Carroll University!
Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum co-founders

Engage Your Class

We engage students in practicing skills, actively. Class time should be spent learning by doing, with professors guiding students through an experience where they can see the material come to life in a way that is meaningful for them. We built that experience for you and for your students.

Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum professor Georgann Jouflas

Georgann Jouflas wanted to teach her students to discover their passion and solve problems

Her students needed to deeply engage with understanding the power of hidden assumptions, and how to prototype. She found her solution with ExEC!

 Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum

ExEC provides the entire learning experience, giving students meaningful content and the tools to turn that content into action.

Don’t worry about covering every topic in a particular niche of entrepreneurship hoping they will get it. Invite students into an experience that facilitates learning and understanding. They will thank you. However, we don’t expect you to take our word for it.

Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum Chris Welter

Dr. Chris Welter, who uses ExEC with undergrads and MBAs, says:

“It’s the software I’ve been looking for for 3 or 4 years . . . I really appreciate the ability for students to get their hands dirty.”

Try ExEC This Spring

There’s a community of more than 70 entrepreneurial professors like you, and they’re using ExEC to bring entrepreneurship to life for their students.

Request a preview of ExEC today and make this Spring the most engaging semester of entrepreneurship yet! Our curriculum is full of experiential exercises that will make your students’ learning come alive.

Missed Our Recent Articles?

Whether you are new to our community of entrepreneurship educators, or you’ve been contributing for years, we wanted to give you a list of the posts our community finds most valuable:

  • “The best class I’ve taken!”  We all want a Dead Poets Society moment in our entrepreneurship class. One professor using the Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum got hers!
  • Improving Student Idea Generation. Help students build ideas around the customers they are most passionate about helping, and the problems they are most excited to help them resolve.
  • Teachers Need Tools.  Our curriculum makes prepping your entrepreneurship classes a breeze, and makes teaching the classes a powerful experience for students.
Differentiated Learning in Entrepreneurship

Differentiated Learning in Entrepreneurship

If your students are anxious about their grade, or about making appropriate progress in terms of learning and mindset, this lesson plan is for you.

With this lesson plan, you will calm your students’ anxiety, and effectively prepare them for their final presentation.

One of the biggest reasons students disengage in experiential entrepreneurship classes is that different teams progress at different speeds.

  • Teams who fall behind can get discouraged when the class progresses to topics that are not yet relevant to them.
  • Teams who quickly validate an assumption can get bored if the content of the class stalls their progress.

One of the most successful remedies we’ve seen to this problem is to provide students with differentiated learning experiences, via individual team coaching sessions.

Every coaching session should be a moment where students can measure the skills they’ve built so far in order to learn what to do next.

What is a Coaching Stand-Up?

First, what they are not:

  • They are not a formal presentation where everyone in the class is presenting the same material
  • They are not a graded performance based on the progress the team has made on their startup idea.

A coaching stand-up is a graded performance based on the process the team has navigated for their startup idea.

The best way to think about Coaching Stand-ups, is to imagine your class more like a startup accelerator, where you are managing a portfolio of companies. Regardless of where they are in the process, it’s your job to help each company take the next right step for them.

With this perspective in mind, you see how Coaching Stand-Ups turn into:

A chance for you to provide individualized feedback to student teams, specific to the challenges they are facing.

Coaching Stand-Ups 101

Coaching stand-ups should happen frequently during the course. There are two options for how to run a Coaching stand-up, or you can blend the two:

  • Student teams conduct a final presentation simulation in front of their peers
  • Student teams meet w/ the instructor one-on-one (either in class or outside of class)

We found great success in conducting these Coaching Stand-Ups after students have gone through customer interviewing, problem validation, and begun their solution ideation.

Let’s look at the pros and cons of each session so you can decide which best suits your class and students.

Class presentation by students

Coaching Through Simulation

Coaching students through a presentation simulation provides the following benefits:

  • A more structured format can be helpful in preparing students for the final (graded) presentation.
  • The pressure of looking good in front of peers can motivate students to put together higher quality work.
  • Creates a classroom culture where peers are providing valuable feedback to one another.

This strategy, however, does have its drawbacks. This approach can create an environment where teams are competing with one another rather than focusing on their own progress. Additionally, peers can get bored listening to other presentations and feel that the time would be better spent if they could work on their own projects.

Team Private Coaching

Alternatively, you can provide coaching by teams meeting with you, either during a class session or outside of class. Providing your students feedback using this method provides the following benefits:

  • The meetings can be more idiosyncratic, based on the needs of each team.
  • Teams are less likely to compare their progress to one another.
  • Instructors can be more candid and hands-on with each team.
  • Students appreciate the individualized instruction.
  • Teams who are not presenting can continue with their work.

We recommend conducting private coaching stand-ups for the reasons stated above.

Help Students Prepare For Coaching

In preparation for a Coaching Stand-Up session, ask your students to prepare a presentation using the guidelines below.

We strongly encourage you to give students autonomy and flexibility in how they prepare for these sessions to allow them to rise to the challenge or fail to do so, and learn how to do better in the future.

Assessing a Stand-up

Assessing a stand-up is based off the process the students are going through and how well they understand and reflect upon the process. It’s not about their progress and how far they have gone, but instead is about the questions they are raising and the reflection process. It is critical to make this clear to students ahead of time as the focus on process not progress will be new to many students.

Prior to the Coaching Stand-Up, give students the following format to follow in their presentation, whether they will be in front of the class, or just with you. These meetings should last approximately 5 minutes for each team.

Why We Call It a Stand-Up

We refer to this as a stand-up because students should stand up during the entire meeting to keep it short and efficient, much like the daily stand-up approach to scrum meetings.

Set the Context (30 seconds)

Share what the team is trying to do. What challenge is the team trying to address?

Previous Feedback & Actions Taken (1 minute)

Summarize the team’s progress to-date. Encourage teams to start with what has gone well (i.e., the positive) before discussing the things that did not go as expected. Be sure to discuss any previous feedback they received from the instructor or other students, judges, or potential customers, and what actions have been taken to address this feedback.

Discoveries (2 minutes each)

Share the discoveries of any research/experiments conducted. Each experiment should be discussed separately, using the format below:

  1. What assumptions were we making that need to be validated?
  2. What experiment did we conduct? (e.g. customer interviews, publish the landing page, solution interviews, etc.)
  3. What have we discovered? Share the main lessons learned.
  4. Why this discovery important for our team? How does it change our Business Model Canvas?

Students should also bring additional data and information to ensure they are prepared to answer questions that the instructor and/or audience might ask about their experiments and conclusions.

Question (30 seconds)

Conclude the presentation by sharing a question for the audience. The question should seek the audience’s input on the most important things that the team should work on next.

Teams should not ask the audience a question that can be answered by saying yes or no (e.g., Is this product a good idea?).

We want our students to move away from looking for a single right answer and instead have a mindset of continuously building, measuring and learning.

As such, instructors should evaluate the students on the question they pose and their reflection process. If appropriate, the audience should share their thoughts on the question posed by the team. Then ask the presenters to share their thoughts on this question. Last, so you do not influence others, share your thoughts.

If the Coaching Stand-Up is conducted in front of peers, encourage their peers to try to help the presenter by providing feedback.

General Coaching Stand-Up Tips:

Specify for your students whether all team members must present during a Coaching Stand-Up or if teams are free to choose which team members will present.

Encourage students to explain things simply and clearly so that everyone will be able to understand it. Remind them of the Albert Einstein quote: “If you can’t explain it to a 6-year old, you don’t know it yourself.”

You should document the feedback provided to each team so that changes between successive coaching stand-up sessions can be tracked. You can create a formalized feedback document to share with the students or to document the feedback for internal purposes only. A feedback template is provided in the lesson plan.

The big challenge of a stand-up is that they can take too long. This is, again, why we make students stand up during the presentations. We recommend everything is strictly timed, which will help students communicate their ideas more efficiently and help ensure you are not spending too much time talking with individual teams.

When to Run Coaching Stand-Ups

  • We found conducting stand-ups at the following points during the course are most effective:
  • Before customer interviews. Make sure their interviewing strategy is right and they are talking to the right customer.
  • During customer interviews. After the first round of customer interviews, check in to make sure students are on the right path.
  • After customer interviews. Make sure your students know how to analyze customer interviews.
  • Before running an experiment. Make sure the experiment will test what the students want to test.
  • After the first experiment. Help students understand how to analyze their results.

Reducing Student Anxiety

The type of individualized instruction you provide during a coaching stand-up reduces student anxiety. You are speaking directly to them, very clearly and succinctly, about a very specific task or skill, so students receive very clear feedback on a very specific point.

Coaching Stand-Ups are one option to provide your students clear feedback as they progress through their learning journey. This lesson plan provides you one method to accomplish the following goals:

  • Move students away from searching for a single right answer and instead focus them on asking the right questions.
  • Encourage learning. Don’t focus on the grade.
  • Give guidance and feedback to help them prepare for the final presentation (e.g., what to change and where to focus on).

teaching entrepreneurship

Lecture Less & Coach More With the Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum

Want to create the most engaging team experiences for your students? Check out the award-winning ExEC curriculum for your Spring courses.

Or learn more about the methodology behind and exercises in our curriculum at the USASBE Conference in New Orleans in January (drinks are on us!)


Request a preview of ExEC today and make this Spring the most engaging semester of entrepreneurship yet! Our curriculum is full of experiential exercises that will make your students’ learning come alive.


Get the “How to Coach Your Students” Lesson Plan

We’ve created a detailed “How to Coach Your Students” lesson plan. This exercise walks you, and your students, through the process, step-by-step.

Get the Lesson Plan

 

It’s free for any/all entrepreneurship teachers, so you’re welcome to share it.

 


Get our Next Free Lesson Plan

We email new experiential entrepreneurship lesson plans regularly.

Subscribe here to get our next lesson plan in your inbox!

Join 8,000+ instructors and get new lesson plans via email!


Missed Our Recent Articles?

Whether you are new to our community of entrepreneurship educators, or you’ve been contributing for years, we wanted to give you a list of the posts our community finds most valuable:

Drinks are on us at USASBE2020!

Drinks are on us at USASBE2020!

3 reasons you should attend the USASBE conference in New Orleans in January:

  1. Free drinks!
  2. Learn about new methods and tools to engage your students (we are leading 5 sessions)
  3. Attend the Innovator’s Dinner and meet thought leaders

This annual conference is an incredible few days where entrepreneurship educators, scholars, and practitioners plan entrepreneurship programs and share their bold teaching, scholarship, and practice work and ideas.

If you’re going, we’ll see you there!

Happy Hour Is On Us!

Let’s get the important stuff out of the way first. We will be hosting our third-annual happy hour party. Like last year’s engaging event, we will be paying for drinks for the first 100 people who register!

 

 

Innovator’s Dinner – Meet Thought Leaders

This year, we are experimenting with an “Innovator’s Dinner” on Friday night. This will be a special gathering for 20 innovators where you can connect with like-minded, innovative entrepreneurship educators in an intimate setting. We will be

  • Sharing best practices!
  • Connecting with innovators and possible collaborators
  • Learning ways to better engage our students

We are offering a limited number of Innovator’s Dinner tickets for $75, which includes a full Creole dinner, free drinks, inspiring conversations, and a couple group activities we have in mind 😉

5 Talks + A Competition

We will lead a handful of sessions during the conference:

60 Minute MVP 2.0

This is an intense and exciting exercise that teaches critical aspects of the entrepreneurial mindset and lean start-up methodology, namely the iterative process of hypothesis testing through the creation of minimum viable products (MVPs). In 60 minutes, with no prior technical expertise, students work in teams to design a landing page, create an explainer video, and set up a way to measure pre-launch demand from prospective customers by accepting pre-orders or email addresses. USASBE attendees will get to experience creating an MVP themselves, and will leave with a detailed lesson plan they can use to run this exercise back in their classes.

Customer Interviewing:
Learning the Basics Through Gamification

This is a fun, interactive exercise where educators use a combination of Customer Interviewing Playing Cards which they can print out, and an online collaborative quiz game (Kahoot) to teach core customer interviewing skills. Specifically, it will demonstrate to students:

  • What their problem interviewing goals should be and should not be
  • Based on their interviewing goals, they will learn what questions they should and should not ask during customer interviews

USASBE attendees will leave the session with a PDF of the interview playing cards they can print out when they return to school, access to the interviewing quiz game, a copy of a recommended interview script template and a detailed lesson plan on how to use the interviewing cards, game and script in class.

Entrepreneurs vs. Inventors:
The Lottery Ticket Dilemma

This exercise provides a fun, experiential way for students to conceptualize customer behavior, and identify business opportunities, by demonstrating it’s not actually customer problems that drive behavior, but customer emotions. After this game-based activity, students understand why some products are successful even if they don’t solve an obvious problem, and how to leverage that fact to identify non-problem based opportunities. Attendees to this session will get to experience the lesson themselves, and leave with a lesson plan they can use to integrate this exercise in their classes.

Fears and Curiosities:
Engaging ALL Students on Day 1

Not all of our entrepreneurship students want to start companies. Fortunately, entrepreneurship education isn’t about starting companies; it’s about developing skills and a mindset that will serve our students whether they start a company now, later, or never. This exercise helps students understand the value of their entrepreneurship classes, even if they never envision themselves becoming an entrepreneur, which helps them to engage in the class from the first day. USASBE attendees experience the exercise themselves and then leave with a detailed lesson plan so they can use this exercise in their class.

Normalizing Failing Through the Wish Game

This exercise was borrowed from faculty at Stanford University and developed into the foundation of an MBA Entrepreneurship course to teach entrepreneurship skills by having classmates iteratively deliver wishes for each other. In this exercise, students write down big, specific wishes, such as being able to meet a celebrity, or visiting a certain place. The professor chooses one person to be the wish grantee, and the rest of the class works for a period of time to deliver that wish at a future date of the professor’s choosing.
This exercise is about hyper-collaboration, so all students benefit by working together under considerable constraints. This exercise is a powerful path for students to learn entrepreneurial skills like ideation, customer interviewing, prototyping, selling, and mobilizing resources, all in the context of creating memorable experiences for their fellow classmates.

Defending Our Title!

We are excited to defend our title as the reigning Excellence in Experiential Exercises (3E) champion from USASBE2019. We were honored to receive this recognition for our “A Better Toothbrush: Testing Assumptions via Customer Observations” exercise, which is a vital part of our award-winning Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum. That recognition motivated us to design more engaging exercises for you and your students.

 

 

 

 

We hope to see you there!

Justin, Doan and Federico

 

 

Missed Our Recent Articles?

Whether you are new to our community of entrepreneurship educators, or you’ve been contributing for years, we wanted to give you a list of the posts our community finds most valuable:

  • Improve Student Idea Generation. This lesson plan enables your students to build ideas around the customers they are most passionate about helping, and the problems they are most excited to help them resolve.
  • Improve Your Students’ Customer Interviews. This lesson plan helps your students conduct higher quality interviews with customers by learning exactly what to ask during a customer interview, and how to ask it.
  • “The best class I’ve taken!”  We all want a Dead Poets Society moment in our entrepreneurship class. One professor using the Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum got hers!

Join 70+ Universities Using the Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum!

teaching entrepreneurship

Request a preview of the Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum (ExEC) today and make this Spring the most engaging semester of entrepreneurship yet! Our curriculum is full of experiential exercises that will make your students’ learning come alive.

Improve Your Students’ Customer Interviews

Improve Your Students’ Customer Interviews

If your students are struggling conducting high-quality interviews with customers, or you’re not sure how to get them started, this lesson plan is for you.

With this lesson plan, your students will learn exactly what to ask during a customer interview, and how to ask it.

When students first see they will be interviewing customers, they feel nervous, overwhelmed, and worried. Why?

  • They’re nervous about talking to strangers.
  • They don’t learn this technique somewhere else.
  • They’ve never seen or heard sample interviews.
  • It feels like too much work.
  • They’re worried about looking and feeling stupid.

In this lesson plan, students will practice customer interviewing with their classmates to expose to interviewing techniques, and to deepen connections between them.

Specifically, in this lesson plan, students will learn:

  • Basics of customer interviewing techniques
  • What questions to ask during customer interviews
  • How to create rapport with interviewees
  • What it’s like to be interviewed
  • Differences between interviewing and surveying customers

Customer interviewing scriptBefore Class

Print out at least one Interview Script Template, for each student. Generate a B2C script where the:

  • Interview Type = B2C
  • Role = student
  • Problem = having too much work to do and too little time
  • Context = during midterms

During Class

Use this exercise when students are preparing to start validating their first Business Model Canvas assumptions. They will validate these assumptions by interviewing Early Adopters – see the Finding your Early Adopters module in the Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum (ExEC) for explicit instructions to prepare students to interview their Early Adopters.

teaching entrepreneurship

Let students know there are techniques that can help them interview customers in a way that helps them test their assumptions, but it takes some practice to get good at, and comfortable with, these techniques.

Let them know it’s normal to feel awkward or nervous interviewing at first, everyone does, but that after a while, it becomes as natural as having a conversation with a close friend.

Tell them they’re going to get their first chance to interview today, and they’re going to start off, by interviewing their teammate(s).

Step 1

Tell students their one and only goal with customer interviewing is to understand the problems their customer is actively trying to solve.

Show students this intro video on interviewing customers to give them a broad sense of the objectives:

 Step 2: Warm Up

Start out with a few warm-up, rapport-building questions. These are questions that make your students and their interviewees feel comfortable so that your students can get into a flow of conversation before diving into problems or difficulties.

What to ask warmup questions

Here are some examples:

  • Ask about the weather – students might even do a quick web search to find out what it’s been like where they are: “How’ve you been faring with all the rain recently?”
  • Comment on sports – again, a web search is helpful: “49ers are the team no one wants to play again this year.”
  • Simply ask how their week has been.

Step 3: Understand the Role

B2B (business-to-business) Script: Your students want to understand the challenges their early adopters are facing, so they should focus on that person’s role, be it a student, or a hiring manager, etc. They want to focus on how that person defines their role, what success looks like for them, and, ultimately, the challenges they face in achieving that success.

By focusing on their role, as opposed to the entire company, you students have a much more sincere and open conversation.

With that in mind, your first question here is:

How would you describe your role as a __________?

what to ask: role definition

This is a nice, easy first question to get the person starting to talk about the ins and outs of their job. Let the interviewee describe in their own words what it’s like to have her job.

It is really important that your students understand how this person views their roles and responsibilities. They will be referring to their words over and over during the rest of the conversation. This will also help them to create a mental framework of what their job is like.

As the interviewee responds, be sure to write down the words and jargon they use.

If it’s the first time your students have heard the word or something described in a specific way, they need to ask about it. Don’t be shy! This is their chance to hear the definition of a term directly from their customer – it’s also a chance for their customer to demonstrate their expertise (a good thing).

Going forward, the best way to build rapport is to…

Use their words to talk about their job and problems.

Using their words and phrasings will help your students build trust as they get into the more vulnerable part of the conversation around problems and difficulties.

Step 4: Define Success

Now that your students understand their potential early adopter’s job description, the next step is to understand how they define success. The question here is

What does success look like for you?

This question is meant to be aspirational. What are they looking to achieve? How does their performance get measured? What expectations does this person’s boss have of them? What expectations do their customers have? What expectations do they have of themselves?

what to ask: define success

The answer to this question will help guide your students’ conversation. At the end of the day, they will be helping your students solve their problems so, ultimately, they can achieve the success that they have just named for your students!

Their success is your students’ success.

Your students will be successful when they help their customer be successful – this question will help them figure out how to do that.

One tip is to circle here, saying something like, “If I understand you correctly, if we were to solve this problem, we can help you achieve [your success].”

Reflecting back their success will also help build rapport. It’s a way for your students to remind them that they are here to help them solve a problem and achieve their goals.

Step 5: Identify the Problem

Your students now dive into the problems their interviewee is facing.

what to ask: b2b problem

For B2B interviewees, by asking about their customer’s role and goals, your students have created a sufficiently safe context to ask about their challenges:

What is the hardest part about achieving that success?

what to ask: b2c problem

For B2C interviewees, this is your students’ starting point. Their customer doesn’t have a job description or larger company vision, so they can start with the personal challenges. After their initial warm up questions, ask:

What is the biggest challenge you are facing as a [customer role]?

Both: In this question, your students are listening for the challenges that are preventing the customer from achieving their success or living their life as they would like.

Again, students should listen for the words they use to describe their difficulties. Ask a lot of questions to clarify and fully understand what they are telling them.

The answer to this question will get to the heart of what their customer is looking for.

Below this question your students will notice there are 3 columns. That’s because parts of this script are designed to be repeated so they can discover all of the problems your customer is trying to solve. More on that below.

Empathize, empathize, empathize.

At this point in the script is a reminder that your students should be empathizing with their interviewee throughout the conversation. They don’t need to go into their own stories, but do acknowledge if they’ve experienced a similar difficulty or if they can understand where they are coming from.

Phrases such as the following can be helpful for students letting someone know they’re on their team.

  • I’ve been there.
  • That makes complete sense.
  • I can see how that would be frustrating.

When empathizing, be genuine. If your students can’t put themselves in their shoes, ask for more information. They want to understand their customer as thoroughly as possible.

Many of us are used to putting forth a front of having “it all figured out”.

If someone is sharing their problems, they are taking a risk to be vulnerable.

This is especially true for B2B, where your students are asking someone to admit that they are having difficulties in their role with the company. Validating their experience will help them feel safe and comfortable so they will continue to open up.

Step 6: The Last Time

Your students now want to know whether their customer is actively “paying” to solve the problem they just mentioned. To do that, they should ask

When was the last time you tried to solve this problem?

what to ask: last time

This question is key.

The answer will tell your students if they are an Early Adopter or an Early Majority. They are looking for Early Adopters – customers who are already “paying” to solve the problem.

For B2B, listen for evidence they’ve “paid” to solve the problem within the last 12 months – the typical business budget cycle.

For B2C, listen for evidence they’ve “paid” to solve this problem within the last 6 months.

The answer is easy to interpret:

If they’ve “paid” to solve this problem recently, with a currency that will lead to your students’ victory, they’re an Early Adopter for a solution. If they haven’t, they’re not.

If they’re an Early Adopter, continue with the questions below. If they are not, start again from the previous question:

“What else is hard about achieving your success?” for B2B

or

“What else is challenging about [customer role]?” for B2C.

This is why there are multiple columns for notes under this question. Most of the time your students will have to go through the series of questions a few times before striking gold. Use the second and third columns of the script to dive into alternative problems.

Step 7: Specific Problem Scenario

Once your students know they have an Early Adopter, they can start to gather information specifically about their customer’s attempts at solutions. Ask:

Can you tell me about the last time that problem occurred?

what to ask: problem scenario

Here, your students are looking for a more detailed description of the actual problem. They are hoping to get beyond generalizations or broad descriptions of their customer’s struggles, and dial down into a specific instance where they had this problem and tried to find a solution.

This strategy is important for both B2B and B2C.

Why is this important? In this response, your students are listening for more specific words, jargon and emotions that help to understand the problem. This will help them understand how their customers describe the heart of the issue.

Again, ask a lot of questions. There are no stupid questions – the more information your students can get, the better.

Take special note of the words they use, the jargon they use, and the emotions they describe. This will form the foundation of the marketing strategy.

The scenario the customer describes can also serve as a case study later on. If they give your students a very concrete example, they can use it to help develop a solution when they’re back inside the building, brainstorming.

Step 8: Marketing Copy

This question will answer all of your students’ marketing copy questions for both B2B and B2C. Ask:

Why is it a problem for you?

Warning: this question may feel awkward to ask – but your students must ask it.

what to ask: marketing copy

It will probably feel obvious why it is a problem and your students will be tempted to skip this question. However, the way they describe why it’s a problem is likely to be different than how your students would describe it.

Your students are not psychic, so they shouldn’t pretend to be. Let the customers speak for themselves.

Above all else, your students want to know the words their customer uses to describe their experience, and the emotions they feel when encountering this problem.

In the marketing copy, when your students can use a customer’s exact phrasings and identify the exact emotions they are feeling when faced with a problem, they will resonate with the customer on a profound level.

The better your students understand their customer, without making any assumptions of their own, the better they will be able to serve them, and the better – and more successful – your students’ solution will be.

If your students don’t hear any emotions mentioned the first time they ask this question, keep trying. Say something like, “Interesting. And why is that a problem?”

Keep going, asking why up to five times, until they get to the emotional core of their customer’s experience of the problem.

Step 9: Current Solutions

Now it’s time to for your students to figure out where they should do their marketing. To do that, ask:

How did you find your current solution?

what to ask: current solution

The answer to this question is key because it will help your students figure out how to find more people like the interviewee, with similar problems. This is just as true for B2B as B2C.

Eventually, the answers your students collect to this question will drive their marketing channel definitions. If one customer has gone there to find a solution, it’s likely others have gone there as well.

Step 10: What Isn’t Ideal About Their Solution?

Presumably, the current solution for this customer isn’t working – that’s why they mentioned it as a problem earlier in the interview. At this point, your students are in a perfect position to ask:

What’s not ideal about this solution?

what to ask: what is wrong with the solution

Here, your students will discover how they’re going to differentiate their solution from their competition.

Your student’s solution will be superior, because their understanding of the problem is superior.

The information your students gather from this question will feed into their solution ideation process – ensuring they solve the problem better than their competitors.

Step 11: Rinse and Repeat

Even if your students hit on something good the first time around, there may be more value available in this interview. At this point, your students should go back to the Hardest Part question to find out what other problems are at the top of the customer’s list.

Remember: use the additional columns of the script to take notes for additional question iterations.

After that, validate they are an Early Adopter for the new problem they mention by asking when was the last time they tried to solve it. If they are, continue with the rest of the interview questions, including a possible third iteration.

Alternate Questions

If your students make it through the second round of questions and there’s still no mention of the problem they’ve hypothesized, here is another question they can ask to both businesses and consumers:

What is the biggest challenge you’re facing as a [customer’s role] with respect to [problem scenario]?

what to ask: alternate questions

In this question, your students will spoon feed the customer a situation where they are likely to experience the problem that they’ve hypothesized. This will focus your students in on the specific area of their customer’s job or life context that aligns with their own interests.

From there, circle back to the “when was the last time you tried to solve this problem?” question and continue the exercise as before. In this scenario, your students need to pay extra close attention to their interviewee’s answer.

Important: If your students spoon feed their customers a scenario where they are confident they will feel the problem your students hypothesize and either they don’t cite the problem you hypothesized or they aren’t actively looking for a solution – they aren’t Early Adopters!

If this happens, it’s clear something has to change:

  • If this happens just a few times, no big deal. Not everyone in your students’ interview channels is going to be an Early Adopter.
  • If this is happening frequently, but your students are discovering a different problem the customers are Early Adopters for, no big deal – they can pivot to solve the new problem they’re reporting.
  • If it’s happening frequently, and your students are not discovering problems customers are Early Adopters for, no big deal – they can pivot their interviewing channels or their entire target customer segment (refer to your the ExEC curriculum for exercises for alternative segments to interview.)

Step 12: Wrap It Up

When your students wrap up an interview, they want to be sure they are leaving the door open for future conversations, even if this person is not an Early Adopter. To do that, say:

I’m actively exploring a solution to [their problem]. Can I contact you if I find a viable solution?

what to ask - wrap it up

Regardless of your students’ hypothesized problem, they should use their customer’s words to describe their problem in this closing…even if it’s not the problem your students are currently focused on solving!

Use their words to describe a problem your students hope to solve.

It is true your students may not pursue a solution to their problem now, but if enough other customers present the same difficulties, they’ve discovered a viable place to pivot. In fact, their interview may end up being one of the data points that convinces your students to pivot!

By your students asking them if they can contact them if they discover a solution to their problem, they’ve left the door open for further communication should they fall into their Early Adopter category now, or ever.

what to ask: wrapping it up

For B2B, your students will also want to ask:

If we wanted to put a solution to this problem into place, who else would we need buy-in from?

In a B2B situation, there are often multiple stakeholders in the adoption of a new solution. This question will prime your students’ interviewee to give them permission, and an intro, or just let them know who else they would need to contact to get buy-in for a solution.

Step 13: Ask for Other Interviewees

So your students can quickly talk to other similar customers, ask the interviewee if they know other people trying to solve this problem. Say something like:

I’m trying to understand this problem from a wide range of perspectives. Do you know one or two other people within your organization who are struggling with [the problem they are actively trying to solve in their words]?

what to ask: Wrap it up

This will help your students knock out their interviews even faster, and from a group of highly related customers!

Step 14: Say Thank You!

Finally, no matter who your students are interviewing, they should thank them for their generosity and their time. Tell them that the interview has been helpful – because, I guarantee, it will have been. Your students may also share that their will bring their information back to their team to help inform the development of their solution.

People enjoy being helpful. Make sure you let them know they have been!

Congratulations, your students now know exactly what to ask during their customer interviews – and what to listen for!


Get the “How to Interview Customers” Lesson Plan

We’ve created a detailed “How to Interview Customers” lesson plan. This exercise walks you, and your students, through the process, step-by-step.

Get the Lesson Plan

 

It’s free for any/all entrepreneurship teachers, so you’re welcome to share it.

 


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High Functioning Innovation Teams in 10 Steps

High Functioning Innovation Teams in 10 Steps

Student teams formed randomly erode the student (and professor!) experience through internal conflict and apathy.

This lesson plan will help your students form high-performing innovation teams by creating more alignment around interests, and more diversity of skills.

Successful entrepreneurship teams have aligned goals and diverse skills. Students looking to gain entrepreneurial skills need to practice teamwork and collaboration around common goals. 

To help students mitigate some of the biggest drawbacks of group work, during this exercise they form the entrepreneurial teams based on the other people in the class whose goals and motivations most align with theirs. 

Help students execute better, and conflict less, by empowering them to successfully assemble their own teams.

For this post we will be using the Aligned Goals + Diverse Skills worksheet from the Lesson Plan below.

Aligned Goals and Diverse Skills WorksheetThis exercise will enable students to:

  1. Identify their goals for the course.
  2. Self-form teams based on shared goals.

In an entrepreneurship course, students spend time asking people for interviews, conducting interviews, analyzing the interviews, building MVPs, and pitching their solution. They will need to work with teammates to tackle this tremendous workload.

By the time they’re done with this exercise, they will be in teams that give them a greater likelihood of enjoying the course while developing ideas that are meaningful to them.

Aligned Goals

You want to optimize the positive aspects of teamwork for your students, while mitigating the negative aspects. To accomplish this, don’t assign students to teams. Instead, teach them the keys to creating a successful team and let them practice those skills to interview and choose teammates.

The first key is aligned goals. Successful innovation teams, or founder teams, need to be aligned in terms of revenue and impact goals, as well as a number of other criteria (culture, company size, etc.) Ask students to brainstorm some goals that might be helpful for members of their course team to be aligned on. They might mention:

  • Grades
  • Business outcomes (start a company, pass the class, etc)
  • Customers to serve

Let students know this exercise will enable them to identify classmates that align with them along these three goals.

Diverse Skills

The second key to creating a successful team is the diversity of team member skill sets. Imagine a sports team where all the players are excellent at one component, for instance, soccer players all being excellent goalies. This team will fail in their ultimate goal of winning because they are all good at one small portion of the larger plan.

Entrepreneurship team members also need diverse experiences. These teams are smarter at analyzing facts, which applies directly to the students’ need to analyze interview and experiment data.

The Exercise

Step 1Aligned Goals and Diverse Skills Step 1: Minimum successful grade

Students should first write down the lowest grade they could get in the class and still consider their performance in the class a success. Stress to students this is not about their ideal grade.

Step 2

Aligned Goals and Diverse Skills Step 2: minimum successful business outcomeYour students will choose the option that they most want to achieve during this course. If appropriate, they can check multiple boxes.

Steps 3 and 4

Aligned goals and diverse skills worksheet: Step 3, customer uniquely suited to servePrior to this exercise, students should have worked to identify customer segments who they either are a part of or have been a part of in the past. From this list, students choose the top two they want to pursue.

aligned goals and diverse skills step 4: student's majorStudent next fill in their academic major.

Step 5

aligned goals and diverse skills step 5: student kills and experienceStudents will brainstorm the skills and experience they possess that could be helpful in serving customers and/or validating a business model. Here are some ideas to help your students think of their skills:

  • They are a member of the customer segment
  • Any relevant job experience
  • Know someone who is influential within their customer segments
  • Have a large reach within this customer segment (e.g. large social media following, know a bunch of them, etc.)
  • They an artist, designer, software developer, good with tech, good with numbers, good writer, good at creating videos, etc.
  • Experience leading teams before
  • Previous entrepreneurial experience
  • Bi-lingual (i.e. can speak the customers’ native language)

Leave the room so your students feel comfortable sharing their minimum successful grades. Instruct students to form groups based on their minimum successful grades, and within groups, to share their minimum successful business outcomes, the customers they are uniquely suited to serve, their major, and the skills and experiences they have. Read this example:

“Hi, my name is Jennifer. My minimum successful business outcome is to try starting one. I can uniquely serve roboticists and florists. My major is Computer Engineering and I have skills and experience building websites, and launching an app in the Apple App store.”

Step 6

aligned goals and diverse skills worksheet step 6: potential teammate notesStudents now turn to finding teammates by finding students with similar goals, and different skills.

As students interview each other, they take notes of who seems like a good fit with them, and why.

Steps 7 – 8

aligned goals and diverse skills worksheet step 7: team name and team minimum successful grade

Students will next imagine a team name (encourage them to be creative and develop a name that reflects what value they are trying to create, and for whom). They should agree on the minimum successful grade for the general team.

Step 9

Aligned goals and diverse skills step 9: minimum successful business outcomeEach student will bring their own dreams to the group. Give students ~5 minutes to identify shared business outcomes and jot those dow.

Step 10

The last step is for all students, in their individual teams, to narrow down the customers they are uniquely suited to serve, either because they were members of that group, are members of that group or have an intentional purpose to work with that group.

Summary

Your students just identified the customers they are most passionate about helping, and the problems/emotions they’re most excited to help them resolve. In doing so, your students identified several potential paths that could lead them toward creating a profitable business. By focusing on the people and using them as inspiration for business ideas, your students have an infinite source of potentially successful businesses to choose from now, or in the future.


Get the “Aligned Goals + Diverse Skills” Lesson Plan

We’ve created a detailed “Aligned Goals + Diverse Skills” lesson plan. This exercise walks you, and your students, through the process, step-by-step.

Get the Lesson Plan

 

It’s free for any/all entrepreneurship teachers, so you’re welcome to share it.

 


Get our Next Free Lesson Plan

We email new experiential entrepreneurship lesson plans regularly.

Subscribe here to get our next lesson plan in your inbox!

Join 8,000+ instructors and get new lesson plans via email!


Missed Our Recent Articles?

Whether you are new to our community of entrepreneurship educators, or you’ve been contributing for years, we wanted to give you a list of the posts our community finds most valuable: