If you end your entrepreneurship class by having students pitch their companies, you may have seen:
A handful of pitches are great, but most are…meh.
We’ve had luck improving the overall quality of pitches for all students by updating what we want students to pitch.
Pitching the Process
When we shift away from a Shark Tank-style idea pitch to a process pitch, students walk through the iterations of their business model canvases throughout the course, telling the story of:
What assumptions they made along the way
How they tested those assumptions
What they changed in their business model as a result
What assumptions they want to test next
The goal of this Process Pitch is for students to show they have learned a process for finding successful business models. This approach:
Emphasizes skill development
Values testing business models “outside the building”
Engages all students in the process
In process pitches, students demonstrate:
They understand the business model validation process
They applied that process and evolved their business model based on experimentation
The entire process was led by their customers’ emotional needs/problems
The reason this approach is so engaging is because it focuses students on skill acquisition: business modeling, testing business model assumptions, customer interviews, etc. Because you assess students on their process, they are incentivized to test their business model and report accurate results. The emphasis is on the students’ journey, not their outcome; the goal is not success or failure but what they learned during the process.
We recently held a Process Pitch competition for the thousands of students using the Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum, and students from Cal Poly won with their idea Spruce.ly. Out of many great entries, this amazing team stood out because they:
Demonstrated they learned skills (proven by the number of assumptions they invalidated)
Conducted customer interviews in a way that changed their business model
Ran several experiments including multiple ads campaigns, and user click-mapping on their MVP
Set Your Students Up For Success This Spring
Similar to how we redesigned the antiquated Shark Tank pitches, we created the Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum (ExEC) as an engaging experience that accommodates in-person, online, and hybrid classes anywhere from 8 to 15 weeks long.
We weave a cohesive thread throughout the curriculum, with a combination of personally relevant exercises that cohesively teach a set of real-world entrepreneurial skills. Professors at more than 120 colleges and universities find their students highly engaged from the first exercise where students discover their passions to the last experience where they pitch their process.
We created course shells for all of the major learning management systems, so it takes less than 5 minutes to get your new course imported.
When more than one instructor is teaching an intro course, different teaching approaches can lead to different class outcomes:
Students need a consistent experience regardless of their instructor.
Of course, each instructor also needs flexibility to leverage their areas of expertise.
ExEC Big Intro balances these needs by providing a well-documented, structured set of exercises,that each instructor can customize.
This approach provides a common course foundation (and an easy way to onboard new adjuncts) while enabling each instructor to play to their own strengths.
Passion + Experiences = Engagement
ExEC Big Intro’s first exercise helps students, especially those that don’t identify as entrepreneurs, discover their passions:
Students engage when they work on something they’re passionate about.
Once students know their passions, every subsequent exercise leverages them to make lessons relevant. For example, “entrepreneurial finance”, a topic that often shuts students down becomes an experience to answer the question:
“How do you finance your passion?“
Now, regardless of their major, students can see the relevance of entrepreneurial skills – even if they don’t identify as entrepreneurs (yet ;).
Assessment is always challenging but for large classes, it can be overwhelming.
One solution is more multiple-choice tests because they’re so easy to grade. Unfortunately, multiple-choice tests assess “reading and regurgitation” skills more than they do entrepreneurial skills.
On the other hand, reflective writing assignments can assess entrepreneurial skills, but aren’t feasible with hundreds of assignments to grade each term.
What we need is the best of both worlds: reflections that are easy to grade. With that goal in mind…
ExEC Big Intro has a new type of assignment: Reflective Quizzes.
Reflective Quizzes have three components:
An interactive experience
An open-ended reflection question
Automated support tools that challenge students to reflect deeply, and make it easy for instructors to assign full, partial and no credit
Here’s a demo of the Reflective Quizzes:
In addition to the student-side checks demonstrated above, the system can also give instructors assessment suggestions (e.g. full, partial, no credit) based on the content of the answer to make grading extremely fast.
With ExEC Big Intro…
Reflective assignments can replace multiple-choice quizzes, even in large classes.
Lowering Costs for Students
We all know how important it is to reduce textbook costs for students.
With the goal of providing experiential learning at a price that’s lower than traditional textbooks, ExEC Big Intro has a new pricing model that aims to make:
Experiential entrepreneurship accessible to all students.
Quizzes have no place in an entrepreneurship class. Video assignments do!
Entrepreneurship is about developing a mindset and a set of skills; quizzes cannot assess either of those. Instead, the recommended tools for assessing entrepreneurship students are reflective assignments.
Of course, quizzes are faster to grade than traditional written reflections, so quizzes are still common. Fortunately, there’s a better way. There’s a way for students to quickly reflect on the experiences they’ve had in class, multiple times throughout the course, that will take you minutes, not hours to grade.
Structured video reflections: a fast, and rigorous way to assess entrepreneurship students.
Video Reflections Take Less Time
Traditional written reflections take a long time to grade because they require you to read lengthy responses from every student in your class, and then grade what you’ve read.
Video reflections take less of your time because:
Students are required to keep them short. Typically 1 – 3 minutes
You can play them back at double-speed
You can grade while you’re watching
You can literally…
Grade video reflections in 30 – 90 seconds.
Example Reflection Video & Rubric
Enter your teaching email address below to see:
A sample video reflection
Rubric for grading one
Demo of what it looks like to grade in your LMS
Keys for successful video reflections
The Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum we produce uses video reflections extensively to help students document the evolution of their business models. For example, in the first iteration of their business model canvas, they hypothesize their:
Value proposition and
They also demonstrate how they developed those hypotheses, and reflect on why they are important entrepreneurial steps to take. Below is a sample video reflection submission.
Demo of Grading in Canvas
Below you can see how efficient it is to grade a submission in Canvas. With just a few clicks you are already providing feedback, both quantitative and qualitative. Our professors appreciate how quickly they can digest and assess students’ work. Students appreciate getting feedback quickly, so they can move forward before they lose momentum.
Tips for Successful Reflection Videos
Video reflections will save you a lot of time in the long run, but they require some prep work upfront:
Provide a lot of structure. You’ll want to tell students exactly the questions you want them to answer in their reflections, and how much time you’d recommend they spend answering each question. Here’s an example of some of the guidance we give to ExEC students on the submission above:
“You have a time limit of 2 minutes for this video presentation.
It is recommended that you use your time roughly as follows:
About 15 seconds to summarize your Customer Segment and Problem (i.e. Value Proposition) hypotheses.
About 45 seconds (or less) to describe how you believe your Early Adopters behave and the Channels where you assume you can find them. You can present using this mental model:
“I think our Early Adopters (describe their behaviors), and as a result, I should be able to see them (describe their Externally Observable Behaviors), so I assume I can find and interview them (describe your channels).”
About 30 seconds to share your thoughts and learnings about the entrepreneurial steps you’ve taken so far.
About 30 seconds to explain why an entrepreneur would/should take the following steps.”
Provide examples. Your students likely won’t have done this kind of assignment before so you’ll want to show them an example video of precisely what they should be shooting for.
Teach them how to use Loom. Loom is an amazing tool, a Google Chrome extension that is super simple to use. Thousands of ExEC students have used it on Mac and PC to present their process, and hundreds of faculty use it to quickly provide feedback to those students (because it allows you to play videos back at double speed!). Loom offers an expanded educational version that allows for longer feedback videos for those times when you want to go really deep with your feedback.
Keep them short. As mentioned before, you want to keep them short (1 – 3 minutes). Short videos require students to practice presenting concisely (an extremely important skill for entrepreneurs), and it means you’ll spend less time grading.
Create an objective rubric. Let students know ahead of time exactly how you will grade them. If you provide students a subjective rubric, it causes anxiety because they don’t know what you expect, and aren’t sure they are delivering the “right” elements or answers. Instead, provide an objective rubric so students know what you expect and focus on the details that will help them make progress in their process. Click here for an example rubric like the one below:
Allow students to share additional materials. When students submit a video reflection, they should include a link to any written work that provides more details on their experiences. For instance, as they are iterating on their business model canvas, they provide a link to slides of their multiple canvases in addition to their video link.
Video Reflection Bonuses
In addition to the time savings, there are several added benefits to using video reflections:
Students generally prefer them. Students naturally consume and create video content and we often get comments from students asking why they can’t do this in all of their classes. Offering them the opportunity to explain their process by talking to their phone will result in happier (i.e., more engaged) students.
Students get to practice speaking concisely. Communicating efficiently is an incredibly important skill, no matter whether students become entrepreneurs or not. These 1 -3 minute videos help students develop more effective communication skills.
Students can’t get a “free-ride” on video assignments. Students share quiz questions and written assignments can be “inspired” by other students, but it’s nearly impossible for a student to fake their way through a video recording. Just the act of speaking their reflections out loud helps them internalize their experiences and lesson learned along the way.
“This approach to learning is just what students need.” – Eric Liguori, Rowan University
From enabling students to discover ideas that are meaningful to them to improving customer interviews, we design lesson plans to enhance engagement and improve skill-building. The following are our 5 most popular lesson plans from 2019 to transform your students’ experience as they practice generating ideas, interviewing customers, identifying early adopters, and validating assumptions.
5. Increase the Quality of Your Student’s Ideas
One of the biggest challenges entrepreneurship professors tell us is inspiring students to come up with ideas that are impactful or solution-centered.
How do you get your students to focus on problems, not products?
So often, students are attracted to low-impact products without a clear idea of who their customer is, much less why they would want to buy into the idea. We want them to understand that customers don’t buy products, they buy solutions to their problems.
The Student Idea Generation lesson plan sparks your student’s idea generation so they can identify what problems they want to solve.
Rather than leading a brainstorming session in which students develop business ideas on their own (which can result in unactionable ideas), the Student Idea Generation lesson plan:
Instructs students how to pinpoint the customers they’re passionate about helping
Leads the students to identify the biggest challenges or problems they want to solve for these groups
In this lesson plan, students first discover the customers they are passionate about helping and the problems/emotions they want to help them with. Students then determine solutions they can use to create a successful business.
After this lesson, your students’ ideas will be:
More focused because they’ve identified the specific group they want to help
More practical because they’ll be solution-focused
More innovative because they’re inspired to solve problems
Nothing can make some students more uncomfortable than not knowing what to ask during customer interviews.
A number of factors make a student wary of conducting customer interviews, including:
Talking to strangers gives them anxiety
They’re nervous because they’ve never conducted an interview and want to get it right
They don’t understand the benefit of interviews in the first place
Because customer interviewing is so critical to building solutions people want, customer interviews are an integral part of the entrepreneurship curriculum. We designed the Customer Interview lesson plan to eliminate the barriers students have around performing customer interviews.
This comprehensive lesson plan includes materials to prep before class, and step-by-step instructions for leading the lesson. After the lesson, students will walk away understanding:
Their role in the interview
What makes a successful interview
Preparation for real customer interviews
Specific interview questions
The benefits of this lesson plan are two-fold:
Takes the guesswork out of customer interviews for the students
3. Experiential Exercise for Teaching About Early Adopters
Another problem professors shared is teaching students how to identify early adopters. Early adopters are vital for the success of any product or service, but students often struggle in understanding the concept of an early adopter.
Students understand the definition of Early Adopters easier if they’re led through this experiential exercise.
The Finding Early Adopters lesson plan features a mechanical pencil challenge that introduces the concept of an early adopter and contrasts it with early majority and late majority customers. This exercise also demonstrates where and how to find early adopters.
This exercise was a finalist in the prestigious 2019 USASBE 3E Competition, which recognizes the best experiential entrepreneurship exercises at the USASBE Annual Conference.
After this lesson plan, students will be able to answer:
Who is the target for customer interviews?
How and where to find the best prospects for customer interviews?
While valuable, team projects can be a source of great anxiety for students. Many students working in teams:
Worry about their final grade
Fall behind with the coursework or understanding of the content
Are bored because their team has surpassed other teams’ progress
Team projects can be problematic for professors to successfully meet students’ diverse needs. The How to Coach Your Students lesson plan provides a differentiated learning experience using individual team coaching sessions that provides a positive and productive team experience for all students.
Individual coaching sessions allow students to quantify the skills they’ve built and identify next steps.
Similar to a daily stand-up approach to scrum meetings, this lesson walks you step-by-step through a process to perform a Stand-Up Coaching session in 1 of 2 ways and discusses the pros and cons of each technique:
Coaching through simulation
Private team coaching
After this lesson, students will:
Shift from searching for the right answer to asking the right questions
Focus on learning rather than earning a specific grade
Feel better equipped to prepare for their final presentation
The 60 Minute MVP remains one of our most popular lesson plans. During this hour-long experience, students launch an MVP website, with an animated video and a way to take pre-orders, without any prior coding experience.
“One student described it as like a Navy Seal mental training exercise. Not sure it was that intense, but they were amazed and proud that they got it done.” – ExEC Curriculum Professor
This class is the ultimate combination of engagement and skill-building as the students navigate each task. On the lesson plan page, you can view an example of a video students created based on actual customer problems in about 20 minutes.
After this class, your students will understand:
The true meaning of Minimum Viable Product (MVP)
It’s easier to launch a product than they assume
Launching a product lays the foundation for their entire business
In addition to teaching customer interviewing techniques, we developed a Teaching Customer Observations lesson plan because it helps solidify the student’s understanding of the importance of understanding their customer’s problems. In this lesson plan, students experience first-hand the value of seeing how their customers experience problems rather than just imagining certain scenarios.
The goal of this lesson is to teach students to have a clear picture of their customer’s problems before they try to come up with a solution.
After this class, students will understand
The value of observing customer behavior rather than trying to predict it
How to listen with their eyes to improve empathy for what their customers value and care about
In addition to the positive feedback we’ve received from the community using this exercise,
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.
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.”
Dr. Fairclough describes being blown away with the kinds of things her students came up with.
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.
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
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.
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!
Why People Love ExEC
Each semester, our founders continuously interview faculty and staff to improve the user experience, and create more meaningful moments.
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?
We redesigned what students turn in, dramatically reducing assessment time, while keeping the curriculum robust and the grading transparent.
We also simplified and updated our rubrics, so you can more efficiently and effectively provide constructive feedback to your students.
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.
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
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.
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:
The lesson’s goals and objectives.
A quick overview of where each lesson fits into the scheme of the overall curriculum.
An engaging overview video explaining the lesson.
Detailed Google Slides for classroom use.
Instructions to prepare before class, including all necessary resources.
An exhaustive minute-by-minute outline for delivering the lesson.
Instructions for what students could and should do after class.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
This conference is an incredible few days of entrepreneurship educators and folks planning entrepreneurship programs sharing their work and ideas.
If you’re going, we’ll see you there!
Friday Night Party
Let’s get the important stuff out of the way first. We’re hoping to host our second-annual happy hour party Friday night after the conference activities. We’ve got room for 100 USASBE Conference attendees to join us, so register here if you’d like to attend.
3 Talks + A Competition
We’ll be leading a handful of sessions during the conference:
Mechanical Pencil Challenge: Defining “Early Adopters” And Where To Find Them (Fri. @9:30 am in the Banyan room & again Sun. @9:30 am in Blue Heron).
This exercise uses mechanical pencils, and a 10-minute competition between attendees, to introduce Early Adopters. We contrast them with Early Majority and Late Majority customers, and demonstrate where and how to find a business model’s Early Adopters.
A Better Toothbrush: Testing Assumptions Via Customer Observations (Fri. @9:30 am in the Banyan room & again Sun. @ 9:30 am in Blue Heron).
This fun and high energy exercise utilizes children’s toothbrushes to help attendees see how easily they can make hidden assumptions that hinder the success of a project. We introduce attendees to customer observations, a tool to mitigate the consequences of hidden assumptions. Overall, this is an engaging Design Thinking exercise that encourages attendees to assume less, and observe more.
Rigorously Assessing Experiential Courses: Transparent Grading Using Check-Ins, Mini-Cases, And Reflections (Sat. @ 9:30 am in Snowy Egret).
During this session, attendees feel how frustrating it is to be evaluated by vague/subjective criteria. Attendees learn five tools for transparently evaluating experiential courses and then brainstorm ways they can incorporate these techniques in their course. Attendees leave with session with a set of detailed sample rubrics that will enable them to both teach more experientially and assess more objectively.
The Mechanical Pencil Challenge and the Better Toothbrush exercise
…are finalists for the 3E Experiential Entrepreneurial Exercises Competition!
Come cheer us on at 9:30am on Friday in Banyan!
Hope to see you there!
Justin, Doan and Federico
Want 30+ more engaging exercises?
The Updated Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum (ExEC)
At least that’s what we’re trying to do. The feedback from our pilot professors tells us we are doing pretty well. There have been hiccups, and learning moments, but our agile team and processes have allowed us to respond promptly and create an engaging user experience for both professors and students.
Now in Over 40 Universities
At this point last year, our the Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum (ExEC) was in roughly 20 schools. Strong demand for a structured, experiential, 15-week entrepreneurship curriculum has doubled the number of universities we’re in.
Of course, being a new venture determined to help students learn how to create new ventures, we’re adamant that we…
Practice what we preach!
We gather feedback from professors and students after each lesson. Through this, we focus on how they felt teaching the lesson (professors) or completing the lesson (students):
We interview professors multiple times during the semester. Our team invites students to talk with us so we can learn more about how they feel living the curriculum, what we are missing, and what we are doing well.
We work tremendously hard to gather, analyze, and constantly make updates for next semester, not “next revisions” like traditional textbooks. The ExEC you see today is a result of our vision and assumptions, continuously tested with students and professors around the world.
While we gather a ton of feedback from our professors, but perhaps the best way to sum up their perspective is what Dr. Chris Welter had to say:
“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”
New Professor Platform
After practicing what we preach and talking extensively with our professors, it was clear we needed to make some changes to our Professor Portal. We practice what we preach in building our product.
Our original professor-facing version was Google Docs, Slides, and PDFs:
It worked as an MVP and allowed us to test a variety of our assumptions, but ultimately our professors told us Google Docs was too cumbersome to use, and to print from.
So we built a brand new professor platform for our entrepreneurship curriculum! We are currently beta-testing this platform and will roll it out in Fall 2019:
We deliver each of our 31 lessons in a standard format, that includes six core elements for easy navigation and execution for our professors:
1. The Goals and objectives of that lesson. We frame each lesson in practical terms for our professors so they quickly understand why the lesson is important, and what their students will learn.
2. An overview showing where that lesson fits into the scheme and flow of the overall curriculum. We understand it is useful to always understand the big picture – where we’ve been, where we are, and where we are going. We also map our entrepreneurship curriculum flow onto the Business Model Canvas to highlight what lessons are applicable for particular boxes on the Canvas.
3. An overview video explaining the lesson, and Google Slides for classroom use. Our goal is for our professors to succeed, and that means providing information and tools. Some use slides and some do not, but we offer them just in case. We know some prefer videos to long text, so we offer both, just in case.
4. Instructions for how to prepare before class, including all the necessary resources. Experiential education is really difficult to execute. We provide our professors with a ton of direction to prepare for each lesson. We want them to succeed, and we want their students to remember each and every learning experience throughout the entrepreneurship curriculum.
5. A minute-by-minute exhaustive outline for delivering the lesson during class. What can we say, we are a but obsessive at times. But we figured more detail was better than less detail.
6. Instructions for what students could and should be doing after class. Let’s be honest – what happens after the class is just as important to a student’s learning experience as what happens within the confines of the particular class period.
While testing our first version, one need we heard consistently from professors was guidance on how to assess their students. They loved the experiential nature of the exercises, but they were not always clear on how they could help students understand their progression through the understanding and application of that content. So we built an Assessment Guide into our updated entrepreneurship curriculum to help our professors provide quality feedback to students throughout the process.
During the semester, students progress through 5 Validation Check-Ins. These are basically progressive pitches that act as the main opportunity for assessment. We give our professors rubrics and detailed guidance on how to assess the students’ documents and pitches.
Our goal with assessment is not just to help professors provide a grade, but to help professors provide meaningful and timely feedback to students.
One of the other pieces of feedback we got early on was that professors wanted to use us as the sole resource for their class. To do that though, we needed to add some breadth, in addition to our depth.
We feel confident we cover idea generation, customer interviewing, business modeling, and prototyping comprehensively, but what about finance, legal issues, branding, etc.?
So we conducted an extensive analysis of entrepreneurship curriculum, textbooks and syllabi, and interviewed dozens of the most respected entrepreneurship professors and entrepreneurs. Our goal was to understand what information would be most useful for students beyond our core offering. From that research, we developed an extensive Resource Guide that currently includes 17 modules.
These modules are by no means an complete exploration of the particular topic. Instead we offer an overview of the topic, a deep dive into some of the basics and the critical components of the topic, and then recommend an extensive list of curated resources and readings of that particular topic.
We want our professors to feel comfortable knowing if they recommend their students go through one of our Resource Guides, they will emerge with a solid understanding of the topic and how to apply that content to their context.
We are not the experts all of these topics, but have done considerable research to better inform our professors around these topics of interest. What we offer within each resource guide is an evolving list of additional resources (articles, books, videos, etc.) for students to continue their learning of a particular topic, or for professors to use as additional resources.
This Resource Guide is an evolving offering. As we hear from professors using our ExEC curriculum, or the community of 3,200+ professors reading our blog, that a certain topic is critical in entrepreneurship education, we will build a Resource Guide ourselves, or invite subject-matter experts to help us build one.
Our last major update is integrating with Canvas, D2L, Moodle and Blackboard. In our first version, students and professors had to download and upload documents, assignments, slides, and other materials. We heard loud and clear that this was not a great user experience.
We now offer the capability of uploading all our content neatly into the four learning management systems mentioned above. This will greatly reduce the setup time for our professors, and will provide a more comfortable learning process for the students.
As you can see, we have been hard at work learning what works and what doesn’t with ExEC. We constantly gather feedback from students and from professors. With this feedback, we strive to provide the ultimate experiential learning opportunity to entrepreneurship educators.
Now’s Your Chance!
We’ve been updating our curriculum and platform based on feedback from hundreds of professors and thousands of students. If you are looking for a fully structured, experiential entrepreneurship curriculum, with 15 weeks of lesson plans that students love, an in-depth complementary Resource Guide, and a comprehensive Assessment Guide, you should check out ExEC.
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With the new academic year upon us, we wanted to share our strategies in time for you to incorporate them.
ExEC’s Assessment Philosophy
Assess Process. Not Progress.
What that Means
Ensuring students understand how to create businesses that fulfill customers’ emotional needs (e.g. solve problems, achieve desires, etc.) via an iterative process consisting of devising and executing experiments to validate assumptions.
As teachers, we have very limited time with students – one, maybe two terms. The businesses they build during their time in school are not going to be their best/last chance at success. Students’ time with us is best spent developing a mindset that prepares them for creating future ventures.
Why We Believe it
A focus on process encourages:
Skill development (not syllabus gaming)
Meaningful learning about the market, customers, problems, etc. (not inflating/falsifying numbers/results)
An experimental entrepreneurial/intrapreneurial mindset they can leverage regardless of where their career takes them
How We Achieve it
Evaluating students’ understanding and implementation of the business model validation process through:
Small-group meetings with instructors
What Not To Assess:
Achieving “Product-Market Fit” or “Problem Validation.” Often times the best outcomes for business model experiments is determining the model isn’t worth pursuing in its current design. Students should be rewarded, not penalized, for invalidating their assumptions, even if it means they don’t validate a problem during their interviews, or generate revenue during their demand tests.
Number of interviews conducted. While students conducting very few interviews (e.g. < 5) aren’t demonstrating an understanding of the business model validation process, a high number of interviews doesn’t correlate to high comprehension of the process. In fact, in many cases, not being able to find customers to interview is a great way to invalidate assumptions. Avoid assessing students on the number of interviews they conduct, and instead, focus on the process they used to try to acquire their interviews, what they learned during their interviews, and how that informed their future hypotheses.
Number of paying customers or revenue generated. Putting emphasis here will incentivize students to alter the results of their experiments. Instead, we want to encourage students to run objective experiments, and report out on their actual results, even, and especially, if that means their experiments “fail.” Emphasizing their process, over their progress, will decrease students’ fear of failure, and encourage a more risk-tolerant and innovative mindset.
The originality or innovativeness of the idea. Assessing originality and innovativeness can be extremely subjective. Moreover, the focus of ExEC is to show students a process they can use to create successful businesses that solve problems. The solutions do not necessarily have to be original or innovative to solve a problem or teach students a process.
What To Assess:
Student’s ability to:
Effectively recruit prospective customers for business model validation experiments.
Design and execute business model validation experiments like demand testing, customer interviewing, etc.
Conduct interviews to understand the emotional perspective of their customers.
Use information from business validation experiments to devise and iterate possible solutions to their customer’s problems.
Assess the financial viability of their solution.
Describe their validation journey and understanding of the process.
An overview on how we implement our philosophy is below.
Assignments and Rubrics Assessment
There are four steps to the ExEC assessment model, all of which are graded on the following scale:
Full Credit: means the student demonstrates a consistent and complete understanding of, and ability to apply, the validation principles underlying the assignment.
Partial Credit: is given when students demonstrate an incomplete or inaccurate understanding of the underlying principles, or difficulty applying the principles.
No Credit: is given when students demonstrate a lack of willingness to learn, or apply, the underlying principles of the exercise.
Instructors are given the freedom to implement this scale as they see fit (e.g. a points system, A-F grades, etc.). Details on the specific steps of ExEC’s assessment model below:
Step 1: Exercises
Written assignments students complete outside of class that help them design and execute their business model validation experiments.
There are 29 exercises students do outside of class during a typical 15-week ExEC course. So as to not overwhelm our instructors, we recommend they assess most exercises with a simple complete/incomplete scale, based on good faith effort. We do however call out four exercises that are worth assessing thoroughly:
Business Plans vs Business Experiments: A written, or recorded, reflection on their Tower Building Challenge, where students educate a fictitious friend about the dangers of hidden assumptions and the power of experimentation and iteration. Why we grade this thoroughly:
The first exercise of the class.
Demonstrates students’ understanding of the pros and cons of business planning versus business model validation.
Underscores the importance of experimentation, which they will be assessed on repeatedly throughout the class.
Your Early Adopters: This exercise demonstrates the difference between Early Adopters, Early Majority, et al., and helps students identify who they should conduct problem interviews to increase the efficacy of their outreach. Why grade this thoroughly:
The basis for student interviews. If they don’t get this right, much of the rest of their exercises will falter.
Will highlight the importance of empathizing with customers, which they will be assessed over and over throughout the course.
Key principles of entrepreneurship.
Customer Interview Analysis & Interview Transcripts: In these exercises, students record and transcribe (via automated transcription tools) each of their customer interviews, and build affinity maps to highlight the patterns in their qualitative data. Why we grade this thoroughly:
Demonstrates students’ ability to conduct customer interviews.
Demonstrates students’ ability to empathize with customers.
Demonstrates students’ ability to do qualitative analysis.
Will determine future experiments.
Experiment Design Template: This exercise asks students to design an experiment to test their Business Model’s riskiest assumption, including how they’ll execute the experiment, how long it will take to execute, what the success and failure metrics are, and what their next steps are based on the potential outcomes of the experiment. Why we grade this thoroughly:
Demonstrates students’ ability to identify the riskiest assumptions of their business model.
Demonstrates students’ understanding of effective success metric definition.
Demonstrates students’ ability to design and execute experiments that test falsifiable hypotheses.
Step 2: Validation Check-Ins
Short, 10 minute meetings between our instructors and individual teams where instructors assess a team’s understanding and application of the validation process and help them overcome specific challenges they’re facing designing/executing their experiments.
Each check-in’s assessment focuses on four elements:
Preparedness: students completed and brought all the required materials.
Empathy: students were able to understand the emotions driving their customers’ pains/gains, and utilize that understanding to effectively resolve their customers’ needs.
Experimentation: students effectively hypothesized falsifiable assumption and design, and implement experiments to test those assumptions.
Overall Process Execution: students effectively demonstrates an awareness of why they are taking a given step in the validation process, understand how it will lead to their next validation step, and execute those steps effectively
Step 3: Business Model Journal
A collection of Business Model Canvas iterations, and written reflections, detailing each student’s business model assumptions, experiments, and learnings throughout the course.
Unlike courses that produce a single Business Model Canvas at the end, ExEC students iterate their canvas upwards of 10 times throughout a course based on the experiments they run. Each iteration of their canvas is accompanied by a short reflection describing:
What hypothesis the students tested this week
The experiment they ran to test the hypothesis
The results of that experiment
How those results influence the experiment they’ll run next
Instructors can use this written history of each student’s validation journey, to assess how well the student understands and applies the validation process individually – independently of the contributions of their teammates.
Step 4: Process Pitch
A presentation of each team’s validation journey during the course, including all of their (in)validated assumptions, emphasizing their ability to execute the validation process, more than the final outcome of the business.
Students wrap up the ExEC course with a pitch, but not a traditional product-centric, Shark Tank-style pitch; this pitch is process-centric.
More important than the outcome of any single experiment, or grade on any one assignment, is helping students learn an entrepreneurial mindset – a process they can use to repeatedly use to solve problems of the people they want to serve.
This pitch not only helps instructors assess how well students understand the validation process, it will reinforcement one more time, the most important principles of that process:
Exams and Assessment
ExEC does not include any exams, choosing instead to focus student efforts on out-of-class projects. ExEC is however compatible with exams when appropriate or required by an institution.
For midterm or final exams, we recommend presenting students with a scenario and asking them to describe what should be done next. For example:
Illustrate the focal venture’s business model using the BMC. Students can also be asked to create different version of the BMC based on changes in a key aspect of the business model (e.g., customer segment).
Creating an interview guide (who to interview, where to find them, what to ask)
Identify the riskiest assumption of the focal venture’s business model and design an experiment to test it (what assumption to test, specifics of the experiment design, metric to track success)
For possible scenarios/cases that can be used for an exam, consider the following:
An episode of the podcast “The Pitch.” In each episode of this podcast, real entrepreneurs are pitching their ventures to real investors.
A news article about a newly-opened venture started by a local entrepreneur. (As an illustration, here is an article about an entrepreneur who started a shoe cleaning service). The business page of the local newspaper is a great source for possible scenarios.
That is the overview of the ExEC experiential assessment model. If you have any feedback, or suggestions on how to improve it, we’re all ears. Please leave a comment below.
We’d love to hear how you structure assessment in your experiential class.
On the other hand, if you…
Want Structured Assessment in your Class?
If you like engaging the power of experiential teaching and are looking for a structured approach to assessment, request your preview of ExEC today.
It only takes a couple of days to get a feel for the material and get your course set up to use it. If you’d like to try ExEC for your upcoming term, take a look today.