“The Best class I’ve taken”

“The Best class I’ve taken”

Kim Pichot, an entrepreneurship professor at Andrews University, watched a keenly intelligent student become disillusioned, before her eyes.

Kim Pichot
Assistant Professor of Marketing, Andrews University 

She’d taught him during his first year when he was eager to learn, quickly grasped complex topics, and had a perfect GPA. By the time Kim saw him again his senior year, everything had changed.

His demeanor had changed, he’d lost interest in learning, and he was on a quest to leave school, at one point asking her:

“What can I do to graduate? I just need out of here.”

Coincidentally, Kim had wanted to adopt a more experiential approach to her entrepreneurship class, so she decided to try the Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum (ExEC). Her disillusioned student reluctantly started working with ExEC’s structured, real-world experiences, and the result was nothing short of a Dead Poets Society moment:

Why Kim Adopted ExEC

Kim worked for the SBDC and SBI for over 20 years, helping guide and mentor over 300 founders and business owners. Along the way, she founded a consulting business. She brought that experience to entrepreneurship courses at Andrews University, where she was using a textbook, giving a midterm and a final exam, and using the Business Model Canvas, a strategic marketing plan and a business plan.

Kim knew the material wasn’t engaging her students. She wanted to improve her students’ takeaways, so she needed to update her course. Kim wanted to keep the Business Model Canvas and go much deeper with that kind of tool and approach. She doesn’t see the value in exams; they spread out the grading curve a bit, but she doesn’t believe they represent real learning. To her, experiential learning is the only effective method of education.

Kim met the TeachingEntrepreneurship.org team at the annual USASBE conference. She tried a few exercises with her students, and her classroom came alive! When she dug deeper into our award-winning curriculum, Kim thought to herself:

“I can have the type of classroom I really want without killing myself preparing for it.”

Kim was so happy with the experience she wanted to try the full ExEC curriculum on an elective course before using it in the university’s Interdisciplinary Innovation & Entrepreneurship Certificate (4 courses and a capstone ending with a demo day and real money). Next semester Kim will use ExEC in her elective course and in the Certificate!

This semester was Kim’s first using ExEC. She prepped before each class, barely staying ahead of the students. Her semester was a process of evaluating and responding based on how the students reacted to the curriculum, and the value they are getting from it. She saw students engaged in learning, developing personally meaningful concepts. At the end of each module, she thought “WOW!”

How Students Transformed

The class is a junior and senior elective, so Kim’s students are mostly taking a business minor, management major, or marketing major. The students took the course because they thought it would be an easy grade; as Kim related:

“The hardest part of this entrepreneurship class is that students are not coming in with a desire to start a business. It’s an elective.”

Students did not expect to spend time outside class working as a group, interviewing actual people, building real value. They expected the typical listen – learn – reflect/regurgitate routine. The students were in for a shock!

As Kim walked students through ExEC one step at a time, they understood the progression, the benefit they were gaining, and the skill set they were developing. Kim’s classroom became a hub of high energy every time they gathered. Music played, ideas flew around, experiments developed, feedback exchanged . . . the learning was real!

When the class got to the point of designing a landing page through the 60 Minute MVP exercise, students didn’t think they could do that in one class period. Yet at the end of the class, they all launched landing pages!

Students didn’t believe in themselves going in, and emerged having accomplished something amazing – building and launching an MVP in 60 minutes, with no technical expertise.

One group got 500 sign-ups for their concept. Another group made $300 the last week of class with a digital marketing consulting idea.

Another transformation related to financials. Kim’s previous students felt the financial lessons weren’t realistic. With ExEC, the students realized they could design pessimistic and optimistic projections based on fairly accurate assumptions. They saw how they could scale a product line or a business. Students understood how the number of clients or subscribers impacted real financial projections, and how to calculate the number of purchases necessary to cover costs given a certain percent margin.

The numbers became real! And now with our Financial Projection Simulator, we give professor’s a robust financial modeling tool that leads students through an experimentation process to find a financially sustainable business model.

Kim related that her students see how they can apply the set of entrepreneurial skills they developed in different situations. The physical therapy students commented that they can see pieces of ExEC they can use to introduce something new in the practice that will employ them. Overall, as Kim said:

“The students walk away with a much better, much deeper learning experience.”

How Kim Transformed

Kim began her journey with ExEC as an experiment. Compared to previous classes, Kim’s students using ExEC were more engaged. The business concepts her students developed were more complete, more accurately developed, and more powerfully presented. Her students walked away with more positive takeaways than previous semesters: a valuable skill set, a positive learning experience, an engaging class, and confidence in their abilities. Using ExEC, Kim provided a completely different learning experience to her students, and received a mountain of feedback about this being the best course ever!

“It’s exactly what I wanted this semester to be. I wanted it to be a higher engagement for the traditional student.”

Nothing is ever perfect, and Kim also encountered struggles. She adopted the curriculum at the last minute, so she did not have the luxury of planning in advance. (pssssst, now is the time to start planning for the fall – don’t wait, sign up now!) Many days, Kim arrived at work hours before class and used the time to familiarize herself with the lesson plan and concepts she delivered later that day. The structure of the lesson plans helped her prepare efficiently to deliver an engaging learning experience to her students:

“The way everything was laid out made it very easy for me to pick up and go.”

As with any good professor, Kim thought this group of students had endless potential. During the semester, she realized some were struggling to see the value of some experiences. To tackle this challenge, Kim began spending time each class session intentionally relating each assignment and activity to students’ career paths. This opened students to the possibility of the skills helping them create value in their specific career path, even if that path didn’t include entrepreneurship. As Kim related, students realized they mastered a lot of tools and skills they can use in their future to stand out.

“I don’t think there is a single student walking out of that classroom feeling like they wasted their time.”

Which brings us back to Kim’s intelligent, disillusioned student, and her Dead Poets moment.

When she adopted ExEC, Kim saw him perk up and get excited about learning again. At the end of the semester, she asked for written feedback, and this student asked Kim if he could provide his feedback orally (btw, tons teachers dream of a student doing this – we are all totally jealous!) He stood in front of the class and said:

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

The rest of the class chimed in agreeing with the sentiment. Our goal is to ignite classrooms around the world with the same excitement and joy of learning!

If you have problems with students

  • Not engaging, just going through the motions of another class
  • Not understanding financial projections
  • Not believing in their potential to learn applicable skills

request a preview of our ExEC curriculum here.

teaching entrepreneurship

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:

  • Textbooks Don’t Work. Textbooks are not an effective way to teach entrepreneurship. Experiences are. Students don’t want to read. They want to do. Engage students with the Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum.
  • Teaching Finance in Entrepreneurship. Finance is a difficult subject to teach in entrepreneurship. Our financial projection simulator is the best way to teach financial projections without overwhelming students.
  • Student Engagement Workshop. In this hour-long session, you will learn 4 techniques to engage all your students – those who are there to learn, and those who are there to pass!

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