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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.


college entrepreneurship

Lecture Less & Coach More With the Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum

Want to create engaging experiences for your entrepreneurship students? Check out the award-winning Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum (ExEC). Request a preview of ExEC today and make next semester the most engaging semester of entrepreneurship yet! Our curriculum is full of experiential exercises that will make your students’ learning come alive.


MBA Entrepreneurship & Innovation Sample Syllabus

MBA Entrepreneurship & Innovation Sample Syllabus

An MBA entrepreneurship & innovation syllabus needs to map out a journey of skill-building, analysis, and experience that prepares students for careers as entrepreneurs, family-business owners, or intrapreneurs in corporate environments.

We built our MBA entrepreneurship & innovation syllabus by scaffolding deliberate practice on top of theory; this experience forces students to test the classroom learning by engaging real customers with real ideas and real solutions.

This sample syllabus lays out a skills-based, experiential journey during which students develop the mindset and skillset to create value as they launch innovative projects at work!

Entrepreneurial Skills at the MBA Level

An MBA entrepreneurship and innovation course, done well, helps students gain transferable skills they can use to create significant value in their workplace! These skills are particularly important as students learn their industry, work their way up the proverbial corporate ladder, and eventually perhaps launch a venture as they develop a network and expertise.

Through experiential exercises focused on leveraging failure and developing a growth mindset, students in classes using our MBA entrepreneurship & innovation syllabus develop resilience. Success on the first attempt is rare, so being able to fall and get back up will serve students well; having the resilience to push through obstacles is more important than developing good ideas. But good ideas count too!

Our syllabus equips students with the skills necessary to discover ideas that bring them meaning. Once they have that idea, we guide them through identifying, locating, and interviewing their Early Adopters. The most critical skill entrepreneurs must learn is interviewing customers. The exercises in our MBA entrepreneurship & innovation syllabus guide students through learning what to ask customers, iteratively practicing customer interviews, and analyzing interviews to guide their business model iteration.

Once students identify a problem they want to solve and potential customers who experience that problem, we turn them to finding a solution worth building. This is where our curriculum really shines for the MBA students! They practice design thinking as they develop solutions based on customers’ problems. Students learn to effectively monetize solutions by building a viable financial model. We then turn their focus to prototyping new versions of their product to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort, and to planning and running effective business model experiments. Overall, this journey provides students with a toolkit of skills that effectively and efficiently prepares students for success in the corporate or startup world.

Experiential Learning Matters

When building our MBA entrepreneurship & innovation syllabus, here are a few key things we learned from surveying our community of nearly 10,000 entrepreneurship educators:

  • MBA students want to know how to apply what they are learning in class; they want to practice skills. In this course, your students will practice skills such as problem-solving, customer interviewing, and prototyping that will help them create value in the organization they have or will found, or in the organization at which they are employed.
  • MBA students are likely to work a full-time job, and many have a variety of other family and community responsibilities beyond that. Take the opportunity right away to show these students that the skills and experiences they will be exposed to can create value in all those roles they juggle in their lives.
  • MBA students want their learning to be real. Make it real by adding “real” voices to your classroom – invite experienced entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs into your classroom as guest speakers and judges.

Get the MBA Entrepreneurship & Innovation Sample Syllabus

We’ve created a detailed MBA Entrepreneurship & Innovation sample syllabus that details the components of a full semester course.

Get the Sample Syllabus

 

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


Want 15 Weeks of Lesson Plans?

If you are looking for a fully structured, experiential entrepreneurship curriculum, with a semesters worth of lesson plans that students love, you don’t need to reinvent the wheel.

We’ve done the work for you. Check out the Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum

New Venture Creation Syllabus

New Venture Creation Syllabus

Starting a new venture is scary. Teaching students the skills necessary to start and grow a successful new venture is even scarier.

Students benefit when focused on a few core skills necessary to feel confident in their ability to start something, no matter how small. Introduce your students to skills like problem-solving, customer interviewing, and prototyping on their path to creating something with our New Venture Creation Syllabus. Using this syllabus, you can relate the skills students are practicing in class to their current life as a student, and show them how to leverage those skills to start a new venture that is meaningful to them. Other professors using our content have reported entrepreneurship student progress and confidence skyrocketed. new venture creation classroom in action Our New Venture Creation syllabus lays out a skills-based, experiential journey during which students develop the mindset and skillset to create value as they launch new ventures!

New Venture Creation Skills

A new venture creation course, done well, helps students learn and apply powerful frameworks and methodologies that are useful for planning and launching new ventures, and for corporate ideation and intrapreneurship. Our new venture creation syllabus is chock full of skill-building experiences to effectively prepare students for either of these paths.

The skills students learn in this course are particularly important as we know most students do not immediately start businesses out of college, but instead go to work for someone else, learn an industry, and eventually launch a venture as they develop a network and expertise. Our new venture creation syllabus has two phases. First is where students find problems worth solving. They do this through a journey of developing a growth mindset, learning to leverage failure, generating ideas they are excited to work on, finding and interviewing potential customers, and ultimately validating that they are working on a problem worth solving.

The second phase of our new venture creation syllabus focuses students on the skillset necessary to find a solution worth building. Specifically, students develop solutions based on customers’ problems, build a viable financial model, iteratively build prototypes of their product to gather validated learning about customers, and design and execute business model experiments. Students develop these skills through a series of award-winning experiences developed using theories, frameworks, and methodologies from a variety of disciplines.

Experiential Learning

Students in a new venture creation course should actively experience the highs and lows of creating and capturing value, not passively learn about others who have. Experiential learning techniques are critical to this course because they increase student engagement and excitement as students build knowledge by doing.


We built our new venture creation syllabus by leveraging the academic and entrepreneurial expertise of our community of nearly 10,000 entrepreneurship professors. Using our new venture creation 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.


Get the New Venture Creation Sample Syllabus

We’ve created a detailed New Venture Creation sample syllabus that details the components of a full semester course.

Get the Sample Syllabus

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


Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum Logo

Don’t Reinvent the Wheel

We’ve spent years testing and iterating a structured set of comprehensive exercises that we know teach entrepreneurial skills in an engaging way – online or in-person.

Why waste your time trying to tie together a set of unrelated exercises you compile from around the web? Use a set of rigorous, cohesive lessons that will engage your students.

Use the “Best Entrepreneurship Curriculum Available”

Check out ExEC, engage your students, and give them access to the best tools available.

Social Entrepreneurship Syllabus

Social Entrepreneurship Syllabus

“A little bit of good can turn into a whole lot of good when fueled by the commitment of a social entrepreneur.” – Jeff Skoll, Founder, Skoll World Forum

Social entrepreneurship is a booming area of entrepreneurship programs around the world. Many students today want to change the world, but they struggle with understanding how to start. Using our social entrepreneurship syllabus, you can position students to address a social need with a mission-driven for-profit or not-for-profit venture.

 

This sample syllabus lays out a skills-based, experiential journey during which students develop the mindset and skillset to create value as they address some of the biggest problems facing our society today.

Social Entrepreneurship Skills

A social entrepreneurship course, done well, helps students gain transferable skills they can use to change the world! These skills are particularly important as students tackle really big social problems like climate change, equality and justice, diversity and inclusion, election security, etc.

These skills revolve around two main goals: finding a problem worth solving and finding a solution worth building. To find a problem worth solving, our social entrepreneurship syllabus guides students through a series of exercises designed to:

  • Develop a growth mindset so students believe they can be good at anything.
  • Leverage failure by experiencing and reflecting on a series of small failures.
  • Generating ideas that bring them meaning.
  • Finding and interviewing the best customers for their ideas. Students learn what to ask customers and how to analyze interviews to guide their business model iteration.

To find a problem worth solving, our social entrepreneurship syllabus guides students through a series of exercises designed to:

  • Enhance students’ brainstorming skills and enable them to develop solutions based on customers’ problems.
  • Monetize solutions using effective pricing and financial modeling strategies.
  • Prototype new versions of their product that allows them to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort.
  • Run business model experiments using small bets and different strategies until they find one that works.

Experiential Learning for the Social Entrepreneur

The skills necessary for success as a social entrepreneur include identifying opportunities, problem-solving, customer interviewing, and prototyping. Students completing a course using our social entrepreneurship syllabus may not build a social business or movement today or tomorrow, but the skills they learn will be valuable for them in any career path once they leave campus.

While they are on campus, students are involved with many organizations in the community and across campus. No matter their position in these organizations, you can show your students how the skills they practice using this social entrepreneurship syllabus will benefit them in all of those organizations.

Students looking to change the world want inspiration and want to know it’s possible.

Show them it is possible by letting them practice the skills necessary to bring change to life. We built our social entrepreneurship syllabus upon a foundation of these skills, guided by the expertise of our community of nearly 10,000 entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship professors.


Get the Social Entrepreneurship Sample Syllabus

We’ve created a detailed Social Entrepreneurship sample syllabus that details the components of a full semester course.

Get the Sample Syllabus

 

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

Introduction to Entrepreneurship Sample Syllabus

Introduction to Entrepreneurship Sample Syllabus

“Why is it useful to understand the theory behind art, why not just go finger paint?” Todd Zenger, the chair of the Department of Entrepreneurship & Strategy at the David Eccles School of Business.

It is important to expose students to entrepreneurship by inviting them to practice entrepreneurial skills. In an introduction to entrepreneurship course, students need to understand what it feels like to think and act entrepreneurially, because that is how they will create value for their future employer, and perhaps by one day launching their own venture. In other words, students need active learning, which is what this Introduction to Entrepreneurship syllabus provides.

We developed our Introduction to Entrepreneurship syllabus with the help of our community of nearly 10,000 entrepreneurship educators so it enables you to create an experience through which students:

  • Practice the skills necessary to launch a create lasting value for any organization they work for, or any venture they launch. In other words, they hone skills that are valuable in any career path!
  • Apply concepts to problems and contexts that matter to them.

Training in entrepreneurship stimulates students’ powers of observation, develops their creative and critical thinking, and instills in them an orientation to disciplined and collaborative action. Our Introduction to Entrepreneurship syllabus provides you a roadmap of experiential skill-building around observation, creativity, and action.

Entrepreneurial Skills

Graduates with well-honed entrepreneurial skills make a valuable contribution in any field: engineering, business, medicine, law, education, counseling, and many other fields. An introduction to entrepreneurship course lays the foundation during which students learn the critical mindset and skillset entrepreneurs use to create value.

Using our introduction to entrepreneurship syllabus, after navigating some small failures, students use their growth mindset to discover ideas that are meaningful to them. If students work on ideas that bring them meaning, the learning is much more effective, so we enable you to guide them through a validated process to get excited about the ideas they work on! The next step is the most critical skill entrepreneurs learn: interviewing customers. We developed award-winning exercises during which students learn what to ask customers, iteratively practice customer interviews, and analyze interviews to guide their business model iteration.

The next phase in our introduction to entrepreneurship syllabus is where students build a solution worth building. In this phase, students develop solutions based on customers’ problems using creative and design thinking. Once they identify a solution their customers want, our exercises walk them through effectively monetizing that solution, prototyping that solution to collect validated learning about customers, and running business model experiments. This course ends with students demonstrating they acquired the entrepreneurial skills to find and test new opportunities by sharing the story of their process through (in)validating their business model.


Get the Introduction to Entrepreneurship Sample Syllabus

We’ve created a detailed Introduction to Entrepreneurship sample syllabus that details the components of a full semester course.

Get the Sample Syllabus

 

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


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


Entrepreneurship Syllabus: Experiential Learning Across the Curriculum

Entrepreneurship Syllabus: Experiential Learning Across the Curriculum

The nerve center of any entrepreneurship course is the syllabus.

The syllabus creates a student’s first impression. It sets a tone for the course, and for the relationship between professor and student. A syllabus conveys information about expectations. It is a contract between professor and student.

We would love to see your syllabus built in an entrepreneurial way. But we know that’s not always possible. We asked our community of over 4,000 entrepreneurship educators to share their syllabi, and based on the common courses we saw, we developed a few syllabus templates you can use. Each syllabus injects experiential learning into your course from the first day until the last.

Your students will be engaged from the first experience in your classroom!

Each sample syllabus outlined below focuses on a variety of readings, examples, discussions, and experiential exercises students can use to explore and apply the principles of entrepreneurship in a variety of courses. 

Creativity & Innovation Sample Syllabus

Creativity is one foundation of successful businesses. Whether in the for-profit, not-for-profit, or public sector, organizations need employees who are creative thinkers and can thrive in an organizational climate that fosters innovation.

DOWNLOAD YOUR SAMPLE SYLLABUS

Introduction to Entrepreneurship Sample Syllabus

Entrepreneurship can be considered a process of economic or social value creation, rather than the single event of opening a business. This course focuses on opportunity recognition, assembly of the financial and human resources needed to develop the idea, and launching the new venture.

DOWNLOAD YOUR SAMPLE SYLLABUS

New Venture Creation Sample Syllabus

Creating a venture is one manifestation of entrepreneurship. Students in this course will have the opportunity to develop an entrepreneurial toolkit that allows them to successfully innovate in whatever professional life they choose to lead. This course focuses on problem identification and solving, customer interviewing, and prototyping.

DOWNLOAD YOUR SAMPLE SYLLABUS

Social Entrepreneurship Sample Syllabus

Social entrepreneurship can be explained as the practice of identifying, starting and growing successful mission-driven for-profit and nonprofit ventures. These organizations strive to advance social change through developing innovative solutions to problems that plague communities, cities, countries, and systems.

Through experiential exercises, guest speakers, and classroom dialogue, students will learn to think and act opportunistically with a socially-conscious business mindset. Topics will include problem identification, customer interviewing, prototyping, financial projections, business modeling, and storytelling.

DOWNLOAD YOUR SAMPLE SYLLABUS

MBA Entrepreneurship & Innovation Sample Syllabus

In this experiential, hands-on course, students will learn the customer-development approach to building products and services. More specifically, students will learn how to systematically identify and test assumptions to make decisions to pivot, proceed, or restart based on customer insights and evidence gathered.

DOWNLOAD YOUR SAMPLE SYLLABUS


What’s Next?

In upcoming posts, we talk about our evolving experiential curriculum, how to teach students about financial projections, and how to enable your students to tell a story people will remember!

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

Join 10,000+ instructors and get new entrepreneurship lesson plans and exercises via email!

Create a Syllabus Students Will Read

Create a Syllabus Students Will Read

We love creating and sharing resources to make classrooms more engaging. We are not alone in that passion. This week, it is our pleasure to collaborate with a kindred spirit, both in terms of teaching experientially, and in sharing resources to help others do the same.

Dr. Colleen Robb is an Assistant Professor of Entrepreneurship and the Associate Director of the Center for Entrepreneurship at California State University, Chico. Check out the fantastic tips, tricks, and lessons she shares on her blog.

The Infographic Syllabus

After reading her post How to Get Your Students to Read Your Syllabus: An Infographic, and given our perspective on co-creating your syllabus, we had to collaborate with Dr. Robb!

In her post, copied below, Dr. Robb shares her journey of turning her syllabus into an infographic so students would read and remember it.


Click to view Dr. Robb’s full syllabus infographic.

I know, we’ve all been there. It’s the end of the semester and students suddenly realize your late work policy, your attendance policy or your quality work policy.  I’ve actually talked to students about this and they cite reasons such as:

  • It’s just like every other syllabus they’ve read
  • It’s too long
  • It doesn’t apply to me
  • I never really look at it until I have a bad grade

Like it or not, our students these days are just as distracted as we are.  They simply do not take the time to read the syllabus.  So, this term, I thought about why that might be.

It turns out, I am just as guilty as they are.  I don’t thoroughly review the credit terms on my credit cards or the terms of agreement when I buy a song from Apple. Why should I?  They all read the same.  It’s blah, blah, blah.

Well, this term, I decided to up my game and get my syllabus up with the times.  I created an Infographic version of my syllabus.  I actually decided to upload that image directly to Blackboard so it is the first thing students see.

Piktochart also offers a “Presentation Mode” for your infographic

I made a list of all the things students seemed to forget about my class (attendance policy, plagiarism policy, late work policy).  I then took all of these frustrations and put them in beautiful, colorful visuals so they would actually look at them.

Piktochart is a free site that allows you to create professional looking infographics for any purpose.  I made an infographic for my Introduction to Entrepreneurship course so the students understand where the course will lead them. It has been the most successful by far. You can see the full infographic here.

Whether this visual tool is used for a class project or an overall class syllabus, the students’ response has been tremendous.  For the first time, I’ve had students send me emails that they are aware of the class policies!


Create your Syllabus with your Students

What appealed to us so much was not just the creativity of Dr. Robb’s approach, but that it very quickly and easily allowed students to understand the structure of her entire course. We love that she saw her syllabus as an opportunity to try something different to better engage her students.

As we’ve talked about in a previous post, your syllabus presents a unique opportunity to listen to your students’ problems and to turn those into a plan of attack together. Co-creating your syllabus with your students is an effective way to begin your semester because many students don’t think entrepreneurship will be relevant to them in their career.

Through this co-creation process, you can understand the problems that are most salient to your students, and then weave those into the syllabus, so they understand which weeks you’ll be solving problems most relevant to them.

Your syllabus is not just a contract between you and your students. It is not just a bunch of words. As Dr. Robb suggests, it can come alive and be a model of how you want your students to think and to act. We so enjoyed learning about Dr. Robb’s approach that we dove into combining her approach of creating an infographic with our approach of co-creating a syllabus.

Here’s a quick video extrapolating how these two approaches combine to create an even more powerful approach to engaging your students from day one.

Co-Create your Syllabus Lesson Plan

We’ve created an experiential, 45-minute lesson plan to help you co-create your entrepreneurship syllabus with your students. It’s free for any/all entrepreneurship teachers. Please feel free to share it. All we ask is that you leave us some feedback on it so we can improve it!

Get the lesson plan


And don’t forget to check out Dr. Robb’s blog for more resources and guidance on making your classroom experience more engaging!


What are you Working On?

If you’re working on an innovative way to impact students in your class and want to share with the 1,500 members of TeachingEntrepreneurship.org, let us know. This is an experimental collaboration, and if it works out, we may do more like it!

What’s Next?

In an upcoming post, we will interview co-founder Justin Wilcox!  Please subscribe here to get that post in your inbox.

Join 10,000+ instructors and get new entrepreneurship lesson plans and exercises via email!

Build your Entrepreneurship Syllabus with your Students

Build your Entrepreneurship Syllabus with your Students

You want your students to be engaged. Your students want you to be engaging.

This exercise will show you how to do both.

Best of all, it will create engagement from the first day of class until the last.

The Syllabus Post-It Cloud

Creating problem Post-It cloudsIn our last post we described the basics of getting your students bought-into your course using the Problem Post-Its Cloud.

Now we’re going to show you the advanced version, where you’ll use the final Problem Post-It cloud to modify your course syllabus in real-time.

Note: if you’ve already read the last post on Problem Post-It clouds, you can skip to Step 4.

Step 1:

Give each student a pack of post-it notes. Ask each student to write down their top 5 problems or fears in each category below – remind them to only write one problem/fear per post-it note.

  • Entrepreneurship
  • Business
  • Career
  • Relationships
  • Money

Don’t give them too long for this step, you want instinctual thoughts here, 2-minutes per subject should be enough.

Step 2:

Ask your students to review their 25 post-it notes and pick out the 5 that are the scariest, most concerning, to them.

With their top 5 problems, ask them all to join you at a wall in your classroom. Tell your students that collectively you’re going to create problem clouds, so you can see the most common problems among your customers students.

When everyone is standing with you at the wall, ask for someone to volunteer one of their problems. They might say:

I don’t know how to build a network.

To which you can reply, “Okay, great, who else has a post-it that says something about building a network?”

Every student who has that problem will raise their hand. Collect all those notes and put them up on your wall together to make a cloud for the “Build a Network” problem.

Repeat Step 2 until you have everyone’s post-it notes on the wall, grouped into problem clouds.

Step 3: Connect the Dots

Look at the wall. You now know your students’ most common problems and fears. Most importantly, you know them in their own words.

Now is your chance to connect the dots for your students between their problems and fears and the skills you’re going to teach them.

If you can paint this picture, your students will engage!

Your opportunity here is to reflect your students’ problems and say, “During this class, we’re going to solve these problems” using your students’ actual words and problems.

You can tell them, “If you’re unsure how to find and talk to people to build a network, you can use the same techniques I’m going to teach you in this class to identify the people you want in your network!”

Encourage them further by saying, “The same techniques you’re going to use to interview customers, you can use to interview potential mentors and bosses – increasing the size and quality of your network. You can build your dream network using the skills you’ll learn in this course!”

Step 4: Beginning a New Syllabus

Now you can take your students’ engagement to a whole new level!

You can begin to update your syllabus on the fly in front of them to match the goals of the class with their problems and fears.

  1. Pull up your syllabus on the screen and scroll to the place where you list your schedule of topics and deliverables by date or class session.
  2. Add a column where you can add their problem / fear that corresponds with the topic.
  3. Pick the two problem clouds with the most post-it notes. Type in those two problems in the new column corresponding to the appropriate course topic.

    For instance, next to the Customer Interviewing topic, in the new column, type “Build a Network.” Reiterate to your students that the techniques they will learn to interview customers will help them build a strong network.
    Or if they’re low on cash, you can describe how the techniques you’ll show them when they generate pre-sales for their product can help them discover a profitable business during this semester.
    If they’re having relationship challenges, you can describe how empathetic interviewing techniques can help them connect with family, friends and significant others.

That’s the great thing about teaching entrepreneurial skills…

Entrepreneurial skills = life skills. Click To Tweet

Virtually any challenge your students face can be aided in some way via the lessons you teach in your experiential entrepreneurship class.

Step 5: Delivering a New Syllabus

engaging students through reflectionOvernight, finish adding the problems and fears from the post-it problem clouds into your syllabus where they match the course content. Take a few minutes at the beginning of the next class to introduce the new syllabus. Point out exactly how and when they will acquire the skills to address their biggest problems and fears during your course.

You have co-created a syllabus with your students!

Takeaways

There are five reasons we love this exercise:

  1. Students have never experienced anything like it…and they love it. They’re having fun, brainstorming, moving around the class, creating big messy Post-It clouds on the wall, making connections with classmates, and they’re getting to talk about their challenges with someone who genuinely cares (you).
  2. Your class will stand out. How many professors take the time to listen to their students, and adapt their course to ensure it’s relevant to the people sitting in the room? You’ll let your students know from the get-go, that this class is going to be special, impactful and helpful.
  3. Increasing engagement. Not on will they love this exercise, you’ll know exactly what to say to engage your students in future exercises. You’ll simply refer to the problems you outlined together and describe how they exercise you’re about to do will help them solve the problems you brainstormed together.
  4. It will change the way you relate to your students. By understanding their challenges, you’ll empathize and connect on a more substantive level than you would otherwise. That connection will magnify your impact.
  5. You’re modeling a problem-oriented approach with your students; the same kind of relationship you want them to have with their customers. They’ll see you practicing what you preach, and how empowering it is for both the “entrepreneur” (you) and the “customers” (them).

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Co-Create your Syllabus Lesson Plan

We’ve created an experiential, 45-minute lesson plan to help you co-create your entrepreneurship syllabus with your syllabus. It encapsulates everything we’ve talked about above, in a handy editable document.

Get the lesson plan


It’s free for any/all entrepreneurship teachers. Please feel free to share it.

All we ask is that you leave us some feedback on it the comments below so we can improve it!


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What’s Next?

In an upcoming post, we will share an exercise that will give your students an opportunity to launch a product in 60 minutes!  Please subscribe here to get that post in your inbox.

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Entrepreneurship Syllabus 101: Start a Conversation

Entrepreneurship Syllabus 101: Start a Conversation

Our students are not engaged. Disengaged students drag down the energy in any class, which makes learning is harder to create. In any class, engagement starts with the syllabus. This article will help you create an engaging entrepreneurship course, starting with an engaging syllabus, which we have a template for (which you can download below).

Students are trained to expect spoon feeding, and professors have been trained to deliver. Look at almost any syllabus – it is filled with boundaries, limitations and administrative legalese. Imagine your syllabus as a promise; what if your syllabus invited students on a journey to discover their passions and path in life? What if your students believed this promise and were excited for every class session?

Many professors spend the majority of the first class reading through the syllabus. This is a student’s first impression of you and your course (other than maybe a perusal through www.ratemyprofessor.com). Think about teaching entrepreneurship – what first impression do you want to give?

Do you want to spoon-feed your students, or do you want to wake them up to the universe-altering, career-accelerating and impact-creating power of entrepreneurship?

Look at your syllabus. Seriously – print a copy and lay out the pages on your desk.

What message does that document send your students? Are you inviting them into a conversation? Does the language encourage students to be curious, to explore, to take risks? Would you be excited to take your course?

Is it really all that shocking that students are not engaged?

Imagine inspiring your students with your syllabus. What if you gave your students permission to leap through the language and tone of your syllabus?

Start With Your Syllabus

My goal is to challenge and enable faculty to create engaging classroom environments. It begins with our syllabus, but can also happen in many other ways (I highlight some of my crazy thoughts in my TEDx talk).

We need to trust our students and invite them to co-create their learning experiences. It begins with our syllabus.  We as professors need to relax our iron-clad grip on our classrooms. Our insecurity, manifested in our need for control, is our students’ greatest enemy. It begins with our syllabus.

As my brilliant colleague Julie-Ann McFann points out:

“Parker Palmer, in his classic book, Courage to Teach, describes a workshop where the faculty were complaining about their unenergetic students. Just then, classes got out and these supposedly lethargic students were full of life, talking and laughing with each other. Michael Wesch, a professor of cultural anthropology at Kansas State, has a terrific TED talk where he compares a photo of students in a very large lecture class looking bored out of their minds with these same students at an American Idol audition (looking anything but bored). The solution is easy:

Stop spoon feeding them and get out of their way so that they can take ownership of their learning.”

Overhaul Your Syllabus

Don’t read your syllabus to your students. As Woody Allen points out, they’ve been doing their own reading since the first grade. While research outstanding professors, Ken Bain discovered an approach to creating a more engaging syllabus. He presented this approach, which he calls a “promising syllabus”, in his phenomenal book “What the Best College Teachers Do”. A promising syllabus

“fundamentally recognizes that people will learn best and most deeply when they have a strong sense of control over their own education rather than feeling manipulated by someone else’s demands.”

The key to engaging entrepreneurship students is to not treat them like students. Instead, engaging entrepreneurship teachers see their students as their customers

If you want to unlock your students’ energy and enthusiasm, realize what you want to teach is irrelevant. The problems your customers can solve with what you’re teaching them is the only thing that matters.

Just like we tell our students, customers don’t buy products, they buy solutions to problems. Your students don’t care about the skills you want to teach them. Those are the products that you shouldn’t be selling them. When you focus solely on selling products, your business (i.e. your class) will fail. 

What your students care about are the problems those skills will solve for them. Just like any business, if you want to engage your customers/students, focus on their problems, not your products.

Imagine your students feeling a sense of control over their own experience in your class. What if your students trusted you? As you are building a syllabus, keep one question in mind. It is the only question that matters in our interactions with students:

What will help them learn?

Make a promise

Tell students what you hope they will discover, gain, and take away from your time together. Present your students with opportunities your course offers them. What questions will your course help them answer? What goals will your course help them achieve? Students want to know what problems they will wrestle with during the quarter or semester, so tell them what those problems are.

The template (which you can download below) I use has the following headings:

  • My Promise To You
  • Your Opportunities
  • Our Conversation

Explain how students can fulfill that promise

Invite students to engage with opportunities to discover, learn and grow (otherwise called activities). Help them believe that learning happens once they commit and engage. Share your expectations about thinking, reading, writing, and doing. Ask for their expectations.

The template (which you can download below) I use has a section titled The Nitty Gritty. Here I share my perspective of the overall goal, deliverables, learning objectives and questions to answer for the course.

I also include a schedule for the entire semester, including General Topics, Suggested Deliverables, and Suggested Worksheets from the FOCUS Framework tool that I suggest they use.

Begin a conversation about students’ learning

One reason many students are not engaged is because the class is not a two-way conversation; faculty do not ask about and students do not feel comfortable sharing their expectations, their skills, and what and how they want to learn.

If you want a more engaged classroom, your students need to believe that you want to hear them, and that you’re willing to adjust to what you hear.

I include the following language in my template (which you can download below):

This is your journey – I encourage you to create it, own it, and execute it.

Your Conversations Starts With Your Syllabus

Your class is a conversation, with each and every student. With a promising syllabus as an introduction, you create a learning paradigm in your classroom. Your role is a facilitator, not an actor. You design and play games with your students instead of delivering information.

Students create their own learning.

You participate by creating a game plan. It all begins with your syllabus.

Students construct knowledge, they don’t receive it. They learn by asking questions and seeking answers through active exploration. Students fail, quickly, and you help them regroup, process, and take aim again.

You become a supporter, a mentor, and a learning partner.

You can give students a new perspective on learning by inviting them into an entrepreneurial experience. It all begins with your syllabus.

Get the Teaching Entrepreneurship Syllabus Template

We’ve created a syllabus template to help you engage your students. It encapsulates everything we’ve talked about above.

syllabus template
Get the syllabus template

Use it as a basis to begin and guide your own conversation with your students.

 

It’s free for any/all entrepreneurship teachers. Please feel free to share it.

All we ask is that you leave us some feedback on it the comments below so we can improve it!


What’s Next?

In an upcoming post, we talk how to create a living, breathing syllabus with your students that solves their real problems!

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