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Financial Modeling Showdown: A Game to Teach the Basics of Entrepreneurial Finance

Financial Modeling Showdown: A Game to Teach the Basics of Entrepreneurial Finance

If your students get bored (or anxious) when you start talking about finance, you know what’s waiting for you:

Disappointing and unrealistic financial projections.

Financial modeling is incredibly difficult to teach in an engaging way.  That’s why, in addition to our Financial Projection Simulator, we’ve developed a new game to play with your students that makes finance fun and memorable:

The game works in two phases:

  1. Theory: Introduce a lightly competitive game that teaches students the core elements of a robust financial model
  2. Practice: Using the same concepts they learned in the game, students create a financial spreadsheet for their own business model

Check out this quick demo / summary video of the Financial Modeling Showdown:


The first step in the Financial Modeling Showdown is to divide your class into two teams. Before revealing what choices students have for their teams, you’ll want to make big deal out of the fact that these two teams are mortal enemies and “disagree on just about everything” with the implication that the teams may be political in nature or represent major cultural differences.

Then you’ll tell your students to pick which team they morally align with most:

  • Team Pineapple: People who believe pineapple is a perfectly reasonable pizza topping
  • Team No Pineapple: People who believe pineapple has no business on pizza

Tell your students you’re going to play a game to determine if pizza topping preference is a predictor of entrepreneurial success.

This lighthearted way to create teams is quick, evenly distributes students, and sets a fun tone which is especially helpful for financial modeling exercises.


Tell your students they can put their pizza toppings preferences aside for now because they are all now inventors of a new product:

They’ve created a solar-powered cell phone charging case and their goal is to bring it to market in a way that will result in the most profitable financial model possible.

Students will then answer financial questions about their new product via a Google Forms survey (e.g. “How much will you charge for your product?”, “What do you want your salary to be?”, etc.).


As your students answer the financial questions, behind the scenes, the survey is automatically averaging the responses by team.

That means, as an instructor you’ll get a report that says (for example) on average:

  • Team Pineapple members want to charge $29.42
  • Team No Pineapple members want to charge $42.10

…and this is where the competition begins!

“It looks like Team No-Pineapple wants to charge more for their product. Of course, the more you charge, the more revenue you can make, so I’d say say they’re winning at this point. Next, let’s explore what effect conversion rates have on revenue, and we’ll see if Team No-Pineapple is still ahead.”

And just like that, you’re using financial vocabulary in a way that keeps students engaged because you’re using simple examples and leveraging a competitive game mechanic.

You’ll go through each of the major elements of a financial model this way, covering topics like:

  • Customer Lifetime Value
  • Customer Acquisition Costs
  • Salary, Taxes, and Benefits
  • Real Estate Costs
  • Unit economics
  • Etc.

And at the end, you’ll get to declare a “Winner.”

Or rather, you’ll get to demonstrate to students how hard entrepreneurship is to win. While one team will technical “do better” than their other team, it’s most likely that neither team will be profitable:

The game ends this way because we want to show students that:

Designing a financially sustainable business model takes iteration and experimentation.

Like everything in a business model, our initial assumptions are often wrong…and that’s why we do financial modeling!

Financial modeling is a tool to help them understand what assumptions they’re making about their business model that might set them up for failure.

If they begin modeling the finances for their own company, they’ll be able to see if they’re on the path to riches, or the path to ruin.

And this is the perfect segue for students to…


To apply the principles they learned playing the game, each student gets their own spreadsheet to model their business’s finances:

The results are financial models that are more realistic because students actually understand the concepts they’re based upon.


If your students get overwhelmed by financial modeling, this exercise will help. Combining a competitive game with real-world financial modeling tools, students learn the core elements of a financial model in a way that keeps them engaged and results in realistic financial projections.

Get the Financial Modeling Showdown Lesson Plan

We’ve created a detailed lesson plan for the “Financial Modeling Showdown” exercise to walk you and your students through the process step-by-step.

Get the Lesson Plan


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

What’s Next?

In an upcoming post, we will share exercises shared with our community by Business Model Canvas creator Dr. Alexander Osterwalder!

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Missed Our Recent Articles?

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

  • Improving Your (Inherited) Course. Inheriting an entrepreneurship course presents many challenges. Re-design the course and provide engaging experiences with this curriculum.
  • How to Improve Student Outcomes & Evaluations. Journaling can transform your students’ experience in your classroom. And can be a great way to get quality feedback on whether you’re an effective educator
  • “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!
  • Teaching Customer Interviewing. This card and the online game is a powerful way to teach students the importance of customer interviewing, and the right questions to ask.
Emotionally Intelligent Idea Generation

Emotionally Intelligent Idea Generation

If you’re bored hearing the same student business ideas every term, this exercise is the first step to helping your students…

Ideate unique business models that are based on the real emotional needs of customers.

Developing unique, needs-based ideas is difficult for students.

Their lack of exposure to different customer segments often means we as educators hear the same business ideas over and over. Plus, like most first-time entrepreneurs, students tend to focus more on their own product ideas than the emotional needs of their customers. As a result, student business models are often repetitive, infeasible, or low impact.

This “Emotionally Intelligent Idea Generation” exercise, which we featured at the 2021 Summer Summit, starts students’ ideation efforts off by helping them hypothesize:

  1. The groups of people they want to serve
  2. The emotional needs of those people (i.e. problems they want to solve)

With this needs-based approach, we’ve seen a significant reduction in the number of students working on product-driven businesses (e.g. “alcohol delivery”, “t-shirt design”, “coffee shops”, etc.) and an increase in needs-based business (e.g. “decreasing the carbon footprint of the ‘fast fashion’ industry”, “reducing sexual harassment and assault in ride-sharing services”, “increasing access to outdoor recreation among lower SES communities”, etc.).

It’s worth noting, this exercise does not cover the entire idea generation process. Instead, this exercise is the first step in an opportunity assessment process that’s designed to ensure the business models students validate are built upon real customer needs. After this exercise, you’ll be ready to introduce your students to a range of opportunity identification and validation exercises (e.g. market-sizing, competitive analysis, customer interviews, etc.) to continue the idea assessment process.

Full Lesson Plan

Click here to skip to the full lesson plan, otherwise, you can get a summary of each of the steps below.

STEPS 1 & 2

First, to helps students explore the needs of a range of customers besides themselves, the exercise starts by asking students to simply list out who their closest friends and family members are:

Emotional intelligence ideation

STEPS 3 – 5

Students pick the 5 closest family members and friends they’d be excited to help solve a problem for. This step helps students find groups of people they’re excited to understand the needs of, which results in business ideas that are less about a product, and more about real-world customer desires.

Next, instructors invite their students to send a text message to those 5 people (during class) asking them what their biggest challenges are. This step is powerful because:

  1. It’s fun and engaging for students. Students are never encouraged to text their friends during class. This invitation to talk to friends during class is surprising and novel.
  2. It models the customer discovery process students will eventually do, helping students get more comfortable talking to people about their pains and gains.
  3. Focuses their idea generation on the needs of the people students want to serve (and away from a product students might want to build).

Finally, as their friends and family respond, students record the challenges they learn about in box #5:

Emotional intelligence ideation

STEPS 6 & 7

Students are invited to reflect on groups of people they personally belong to, or they are passionate about helping. This helps make the upcoming emotional needs hypothesis process (Step 8) more personal and relevant. For instance, a student could include sports teams, or school clubs, or community organizations. They could also include hobbies they have – maybe they play chess, or they knit or they love putt-putt.

Emotional intelligence ideation


In this step, students first pick the three groups they’d be most interested in resolving emotional needs for from all the groups of people they listed in steps in the previous steps.

The results are often something like, “people like my mom”, “students with ADHD”, “electric bike riders”, etc. which are all concrete groups of people students can start hypothesizing needs for.

To help with that process, students are prompted to explore the emotional needs of each segment by hypothesizing their:

  • Fears
  • Frustrations
  • Stresses
  • Loves
  • Etc.

We’ve found this step helps ensure student ideas are both more unique, and needs-based. By shifting students’ attention towards emotional needs (and away from products), the ideas tend to be more novel and less repetitive. And, by focusing on the emotional experience of the people they want to serve, the ideas students ultimately generate tend to be more grounded in customer needs.

Customer's life


Students then identify:

  • 2 of the emotional needs from Step 8 that they hypothesize are most emotionally intense for the members of that segment and
  • 2 of the emotional needs from Step 8 that they are most excited to resolve for the segment members.

Students then use a combination of back-of-the-napkin estimates of the market size, intensity of the emotional needs, and their personal passion for resolving those needs to prioritize the segments and needs they want to assess further.

Opportunity assessment


For the last step, students fill in the blanks to define two customers segment hypotheses they want to start a more in-depth assessment process on:

  • A primary segment hypothesis they think has the most potential
  • A backup segment they can pivot to if their primary hypothesis gets invalidated

Emotional intelligence summary

This emotionally intelligent framework for defining customer segments helps students shift their customer segment descriptions away from generic demographics (e.g. “women 18 – 24”) towards more useful, needs-based descriptions (e.g. “people with low self-esteem due to persistent acne”).


After this exercise, you’ll have laid the groundwork to walk students through a wide range of assessment and validation processes for their hypotheses including:

  • Market-sizing
  • Competitive analysis
  • Customer discovery/interviews
  • Business model validation experiments

The result of which will be unique, and needs-based business models!

Get the Full “Emotionally Intelligent Idea Generation” Lesson Plan

We’ve created a free lesson plan for the “Emotionally Intelligent Idea Generation” exercise to walk you and your students through the process step-by-step.

Get the Lesson Plan


Or Get the Lesson Plan, Slides, and a Video Walk-Through

We launched this exercise at the Summer 2021 Teaching Entrepreneurship Summit.  If you’d like the slides and recording where we launch:

  1. This lesson (Emotionally Intelligent Idea Generation)
  2. Making Finance Fun
  3. Improving Student Pitches

Click here to purchase the slides, recordings, and lesson plans for all three!

Lessons in your Inbox

In an upcoming post, we will share more lesson plans from our Summer Summit!

Join 15,000+ instructors. Get new exercises via email!

Journaling: How to Improve Student Outcomes & Evaluations

Journaling: How to Improve Student Outcomes & Evaluations

There’s a simple tool you can use to potentially improve your student evaluations while simultaneously…
Improving student outcomes.

Jay Markiewicz, Executive Director of Entrepreneurship Programs at Virginia Commonwealth University, shared the tool he’s using to do just that:

Reflective student journaling.

Jay uses journaling not only to help students process the experiences he leads them through, he uses it to model customer interviewing and understand his effectiveness as an instructor, “I’m teaching entrepreneurship, so I might as well act like one. So I do customer interviews through journaling.”

Introducing Journaling

Jay requires students to purchase a journal of their choosing. He requires the journal to be paper-based – no electronic versions on a phone, iPad, computer, etc. Jay urges students to find a journal they like, that speaks to them because they need to have a relationship with it.

On the 1st or 2nd day of class, Jay spends 15 minutes explaining the concept of journaling and talking about why journaling (reflective thinking & learning) is important. He recommends sharing the following:

  • Students will journal 3 times each week outside of class for 15 minutes each time.
  • Students will journal during class time with 2-3 minutes at the beginning of class, and if time allows also a couple minutes at the end of class.
  • Jay will never, ever look at a journal; whatever the students write in it is a private relationship between them and their journal.
  • Jay will never ask students what is in their journals. Instead, he will ask students to volunteer what they are journaling about.
  • When journaling, if instead of class materials, students want to journal about something that’s really on their mind (an argument with a friend, an exam they performed poorly on, something happening in the world, etc.) they should feel free to journal about that.

Integrating Journaling into Class

Jay starts each class session by asking one or two students to share something that happened over the weekend. This quick minute allows students to feel ownership over the classroom.

Jay then integrates journaling into the class with a 2 or 3-minute reflection session. During this time, Jay asks questions that are good for students to process the information they’ve learned recently (and are good customer interviewing questions for him).

At the beginning of his course, Jay will often ask students to journal their answers to a question like:

  • “In your own words, what are some key points you learned in last class / last week.” It is critical to stress the “in your own words” part of that prompt. What you don’t want students to do is to grab their notes and regurgitate what you told them in previous classes. Jay recommends using this question early in the semester to get students feeling comfortable with journaling.

After a month of classes, Jay recommends asking more reflective questions about applied learning, such as:

  • “How has [specific content] showed up for you outside the classroom?” This allows Jay to understand how students are thinking about the content when outside the class. He hears things from students like “I noticed this commercial the other day, and noticed the framework of how they created the commercial and told the story” or “I read this article about this startup and was curious what kind of experiments they were running.”

Hearing this feedback shows Jay the knowledge is sinking in for students because they are applying it beyond the classroom.

  • Another great question to ask is “What is an insight you have about recent classes that you don’t think anyone else in the room has thought of.” Instead of Jay revisiting key insights or past content, students illustrate for each other how they’re understanding the content.

This peer sharing is a way for students to set aspirations for one another as they aspire to think of novel applications of the class concepts.

  • Another great question to ask is “How have you acted differently recently because of what we are learning in this class?” This question gets Jay’s students thinking about turning the content from the class into action during their daily life.

After the quick journaling session, Jay debriefs by asking “Who wants to tell me what they journaled about?” Ask for volunteers instead of calling on students, and guide the ensuing discussion around how students can apply what they are learning.

Journaling on Quizzes

Another way Jay uses journaling is as part of an exam, or you could use it as a stand-alone pop quiz. Jay asks students “what are four things you’ve learned in this class about anything” on an exam, and urges students “please raise the bar of your insights. In other words, what have been four insights you have had. Don’t answer this question with some basic facts like ‘I learned the steps of design thinking’.”

All students get full credit on that particular question. Jay told us:

This is a great way to understand what is resonating with my students and what are those impactful “SQUIRREL!” moments (i.e. tangents) that are happening that I want to repeat in subsequent semesters.

What Happens When Students Resist?

Jay has not had any verbal pushback from his students on journaling. In fact, his student feedback is that they find it a refreshing way to begin each class.

Some students will be resistant to journaling. Jay reported that sometimes on a “what are 4 things you learned” type question, he gets some version of “I can’t believe it, but the journaling has been really valuable.”

Journaling might be jarring to a student because it can be a very different classroom experience for them. Students are not just sitting there passively taking notes and texting friends, but are being invited to engage, participate, and be present in the experience.

Adapting Your Course Based On Journaling Learning

Jay uses the information he hears from students sharing their journaling to make real-time adjustments during the semester. If critical content isn’t sinking in with students, Jay takes the time to revisit it, but with a new spin to avoid sharing the same information, with the same examples.

If a student shares something after journaling that is a misunderstanding of critical material, that is a great outcome, because you can have a conversation right on the spot. Jay recommends inviting other students to respond if they have the same misunderstanding, and for those who do not, asking them to share their differing opinion so that the students are teaching one another and he’s their facilitator.

Your job is to guide the conversation as a peer-peer conversation so they are teaching each other and learning together. As Jay shared:

“Yes it takes class time, yes it can disrupt the timing of the day, but it is valuable to validate what students are learning and to correct misunderstandings.”

On the other end of the feedback spectrum, Jay reported that sometimes students will say something in journaling report-out that is absolutely brilliant. When that happens, Jay will grab the quote from the student and, when applicable, add it to his slides. Jay pulls up the actual slide and gets the student’s permission to type the quote in live, so students see it, and says to the student “Thank you for allowing me to use that, you are now part of this course going forward!” In that way, again…

Jay’s students (i.e. customers) shape his course.

Finally, Jay recommends keeping a document titled “Changes to make next semester.” Based on journaling & exam journaling questions, he adds notes to this document so when he is planning his course next semester, he can tweak where there are gaps in understanding.

The Results

The benefits of journaling have become clear to Jay, with students frequently writing in their course evaluations notes like:

  • “I would always get excited when we were asked to pull out our journals.”
  • “My favorite resource required was that I needed a journal for this class.”
  • “[I value] the act of journaling…it gives us the opportunity to reflect and share our personal thoughts in a private way that we only have to share about if we feel comfortable.”
  • “I really appreciated how you opened the course so that we all were the teachers and leaders in the course.”

In addition, Jay’s course evaluations have been 12% above norms due at least in part to his use of journaling.

Should you Try Journaling?

That depends on your goals. If student feedback isn’t valued by your institution or you don’t have the bandwidth to iterate your course, journaling won’t have much impact.

If, however, you:

  • Practice what you preach and always want to improve your course
  • Want to model customer-centric behavior for your students
  • Want to improve your student evaluations

Journaling is a simple, low-cost way to accomplish the above that can be applied in virtually any class.

If you give it a shot, please let us, and Jay, know!

What’s Next?

In an upcoming post, we will share new lesson plans from our Summer Summit!

Subscribe here to be the first to get these kind of resources in your inbox.

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Improving Your (Inherited) Course

Improving Your (Inherited) Course

Inheriting someone else’s entrepreneurship course often comes with challenges:

  • Topics are out of date and based on traditional long-form business plans, product-centric (as opposed to problems-centric) idea generation, and barely common topics today like Design Thinking, Business Models, Customer Interviews.
  • Not experiential instead relying on textbooks and lectures.
  • Based on quizzes and tests which can’t effectively assess skill development.

So how do you make it better? The two most common approaches:

  1. Iterate what’s already there
  2. Start fresh with a modern approach

Iterating a Course

If the bones are strong and the course is just slightly out of date, it’s relatively easy to:

  1. Identify the least engaging/most out-of-date lessons
  2. Replace those lessons with updated experiences
  3. Convert quizzes to reflections

The first step is to identify the weaknesses of the current course schedule (i.e. lessons that are the least engaging or most out of date). In particular, look for lessons on:

  • Business plan writing
  • Legal structure, IP, etc.
  • Product-centric (as opposed to problem-centric) idea generation
  • Finance (old versions of these lessons are often overwhelming and confusing for students)

While all of the above can be valuable, if your goal is to help your students develop entrepreneurial skills that will be applicable regardless of their career path, you can likely replace those lessons with more engaging experiences like:

  1. 60 Minute MVP. This exercise is engaging, fun, and fully immersive, teaching critical aspects of the entrepreneurial mindset while students build, and launch, a company in 60 minutes…with no technical expertise!
  2. Problem Generation vs Idea Generation. Through this exercise, students develop “better” ideas, meaning ideas that are creative, impactful, and feasible.
  3. Why Business Plans Don’t Work. This game helps students understand why business plans have fallen out of favor, and what data-driven entrepreneurs do instead, allowing you to introduce business model canvas and minimum viable products in a fun, gamified experience.
  4. Customer observations. During this exercise, students learn a technique to gain insight into the small details of a customer’s interaction with their environment that a customer may not think to express in interviews, thus understanding what a customer truly values.
  5. Financial Modeling Showdown. This exercise leads students through an experimentation process where they make different assumptions about their financial model, making entrepreneurial finance more accessible to all students through a game-like experience.

After injecting some energy into your class with new exercises, you can update your assessment strategy to assess skill development. Here we have two suggestions:

  1. Swap tests/quizzes for reflection assignments. Entrepreneurship students work developing a mindset and a set of skills. Quizzes cannot effectively assess either of those. Instead, the recommended tools for assessing entrepreneurship students are reflective assignments. Video reflections provide a fast, and rigorous way to assess entrepreneurship students, so we provide a demo of our video reflection and a rubric to assess video reflection submissions.
  2. Update the final class pitch. Too many entrepreneurship courses end with students pitching unrealistic ideas, or pitching ideas they don’t believe in, and a random variety of “judges” predicting the potential of these “bad” ideas. Instead, you can optimize the ineffective pitch day by focusing on skill-building and engaging all students if you shift away from Shark Tank pitches to what we call “process pitches.”

Those tweaks can go a long way if your class has a solid overall structure.

If, however, your course is lacking structure, or you’d like a cohesive, engaging experience for your students, consider a…

Fresh Start with a Modern Curriculum

If you want a structured, engaging entrepreneurship curriculum that focuses on customer interviews, design thinking, and business models:

Check out the Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum.

Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum Logo

Used at over 150 colleges and universities, including…

ExEC makes prepping a structured course easy with:

  • LMS Integration (Canvas, D2L/Brightspace, Blackboard, Moodle, etc.)
  • Online, in-person, and hybrid versions
  • 8, 10, 12, and 15-week schedules
  • Rubrics

If you haven’t already, definitely…

Whether you iterate your course, or start fresh, making your course as experiential and skill-based as possible is the key to keeping your students engaged.

What’s Next?

In an upcoming post, we will share an approach to improving your student evaluations!

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Try ExEC this Fall

Try ExEC this Fall

Compared to last year…

Fall represents a breath of fresh air.

Here are some tips to make the most of it!

#1 Students are Eager to Engage

After a year of isolation and online learning, students are craving interaction.

Students don’t want lectures – they want experiences.

Your students are already be primed to engage. To take advantage, replace your lectures with interactive experiences.

Whether you compile your own exercise or use a cohesive toolset like the Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum (ExEC) you can tap into your students’ excitement using structured activities to build their entrepreneurial skills. For example:

Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum Testimonial

Whether your class is:

  • 8 weeks or 15 weeks
  • Online or in-person
  • Undergraduate or graduate

ExEC’s award-winning exercises can help you engage your students this fall.

Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum Logo

#2 Structure + Consistency

When everything turned upside down last year, it became clear how much structure and consistency help students learn and decrease anxiety. As you look toward fall, consider…

How can you create more structure and consistency to facilitate better outcomes?

Whether it’s through:

  • A cohesive set of topics
  • Well-organized schedule
  • Objective rubrics
  • or LMS integration

Students benefit from having a consistent, structured environment to develop their skills.

To that end, ExEC is fully experiential and extremely well-organized:

Semester Experiential entrepreneurship education schedule

Plus with ExEC’s LMS integration, prepping for your class is easy. With a couple clicks, you upload yourr entire class into your LMS so you have time to dive into the detailed lesson plans.

ExEC Integrates with all LMS

#3 Experiment

Teach your students what real-world experiments look like by modeling them in your class:

  1. Identify something you’d like to improve in your class (e.g. engagement, quality of student ideas, financial modeling acumen, etc.).
  2. Select a metric to assess the element you’d like to improve (e.g. number of students participating in discussions, number of ideas that are needs-based, realism of financial models, etc.).
  3. Let your students know you treat your class like a business – you consistently run experiments to optimize the experience for your customers (i.e. the students).
  4. Change something in your course to move your metric (e.g. try a different curriculum, implement a new exercise, etc.).
  5. Compare the results to a previous class (i.e. did your metric improve?).
  6. Share the results with your students (i.e. let them know what you were trying to improve, what changes you make, and how they impacted the class).

Modeling real-world experiments to your students will encourage them to run their own experiments, and improve the learning experience for students and the quality of their outcomes!

Give Your Students Engagement, Quality, and Structure

ExEC is an award-winning, peer-reviewed, experiential curriculum that engages students in building entrepreneurial skills.

Try ExEC this Fall.

Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum Logo

What’s Next?

In upcoming posts, we will share more engaging resources we are developing for entrepreneurship educators to transform their classrooms!

Subscribe here to be the first to get these resources delivered to your inbox!

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Improve Your Student Evaluations

Improve Your Student Evaluations

Student evaluations are a mixed blessing but there are specific steps you can take to improve them:

  1. Conduct a midterm evaluation
  2. Solicit frequent feedback
  3. Make entrepreneurship relevant
  4. Sweeten the pot
  5. Engage, engage, engage

Midterm Chat

Asking students for feedback during the course allows them to have ownership of their experience, and allows you to make suggested changes, which generally leads to more positive evaluations at the end of the course!

Ask a colleague to run this class session while you stay out of the room – preferably a colleague not in your department so students feel more comfortable being transparent. Your colleague informs students all information is anonymous and confidential, and that only information that is unanimous will be communicated to you. Students discuss the following questions one by one:

  • What is going well this semester?
  • What isn’t going well this semester?
  • What can the students do to improve their [the students’] experience?
  • What can the instructor do to improve their [the students’] experience?

Your colleague summarizes the feedback for you, either verbally or written, including only the suggestions that students unanimously agree upon.

During the next class session, it is critical to discuss what you learned and how you will adjust the course based on the feedback.

The whole experience takes just 15 – 30 minutes and it demonstrates to students that their voice matters (like customers’ voices matter). The combination of you taking action on students’ recommendations, that your students will feel heard, and that they will likely never have experienced something like in another one of their classes makes this approach a reliable way to improve your evaluations.

Frequent Feedback

You can also seek feedback from students more frequently than mid-semester. Every few weeks, incorporate a quick evaluation to take students’ pulse. Assign a five-question evaluation assignment in your LMS, or hand out and collect in class to anonymize it:

  • What is one takeaway you remember from the course so far?
  • How do you feel about your participation in [name an activity, or “discussion”] this week?
  • What works best for you in class?
  • Is there a change that would enhance your learning?
  • Do you have any questions or comments for me?

Use this as a quick temperature check for your students’ experience.

And be willing to adjust!

Look for trends in what’s working and what’s not. Can you incorporate any of their suggestions? Can you redirect the next class session based on the changes they suggest?

During the next class session, share a summarized version of the themes you heard. Quickly explain how you will address suggestions, and ask students to respond to that plan. As with the midterm check-in, this exercise offers students ownership and a voice, which will improve your evaluations at the end of the course. But only if you communicate openly and do not become defensive.

Make Entrepreneurship Relevant

What do you do with the entrepreneurship students who don’t want to be entrepreneurs?

Whether they’re taking your class because it fit in their schedule, someone said it was an “easy A”, or it’s a required course, we all have students who don’t identify as entrepreneurs. Not only can their personal feedback lower your evaluations, but their lack of engagement can hinder the experience (and as a result the evaluations) of other students.

The best way to engage these students is to…

Make entrepreneurial skills relevant, regardless of career path.

Kim Pichot had one of these students. A disillusioned senior so checked out of school that at one point he asked her, “What can I do to graduate? I just need out of here.”

Luckily, that semester Kim had started using the Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum, which starts off with an exercise designed explicitly to engaged this type of student: Fears and Curiosities.

This exercise helps your students express what they are most curious, and fearful, about…which is the recipe you need to make entrepreneurship relevant to all of your students.

  • When students tell you they’re worried about finding a job, you can point out that in this class, they’re going to learn a wide range of marketable skills that employers are actively hiring for: product design, sales, marketing, website development, video editing, social media management, etc.
  • When students say they’re unsure if they’ll be able to make enough money, you can explain to them that the entrepreneurship skills they learn in this class are all about making sure you’ll be able to make enough money to meet your goals. With the finance and budgeting tools they’ll learn in your class, they’ll learn how to both make and manage their money whether they start their own company or not.
  • When students say they’re not even sure what kind of job they’ll be good at, you can make it clear an entrepreneurship class like yours is the perfect place to experiment with different types of jobs (e.g. sales, marketing, CEO, finance, prototyping, etc.).

The great thing about this approach is that entrepreneurial skills are genuinely relevant whether or not students want to be entrepreneurs.

You just need to make entrepreneurship relevant to your students on a personal and emotional level.

That’s what Kim did in her class. By making entrepreneurship relevant and engaging, and with a little help from ExEC, Kim’s disillusioned student left her course ecstatic, saying:

Improve student evaluations

Sweeten the Pot

Share a treat with your students. It might be candy, or cookies, or donuts. Celebrate an occasion like a birthday, or one of your students’ sports accomplishment, or just a sunny day! Something sweet puts a smile on most people’s face.

You’re inviting your students to have fun, and when we have fun, we are more likely to remember that experience fondly.

When a group is eating donuts, for instance, you’ll see smiles, you’ll hear laughter and sounds of delight, you’ll find a playful atmosphere. Incorporate fun food into your course, and your students will remember that come evaluation time. Take the time while sharing fun food to also have fun conversation. Ask students questions about their favorite concert, or about their favorite vacation destination, or any variety of questions that lead them to tell humorous stories about fun memories.

One way to incorporate sweets while teaching entrepreneurship skills is an adaptation of the “Retooling Products to Reach New Markets: The Lindt Candy Dilemma” exercise Dr. Kimberly Eddleston at Northeastern University developed. We adapted it slightly to focus more on the customer interviewing opportunity – find the entire lesson here.

Essentially, in this exercise, you task student teams to retool the Lindt Lindor Chocolate Truffle Balls for a new audience – a young person (ideally a family member of yours – someone you can show a picture of and have access to). Students must deliver a 90 second pitch for one product (that is not any sort of M&M type candy) they develop based on the Lindt Lindor chocolate truffle ball that appeals to the target person. Students include the following in their pitch:

  • Product name & tagline/slogan
  • Product concept/description (user experience, packaging, etc.)
  • Value proposition (the benefits the customer should expect)
  • Drawing of the product/packaging

Organize students into groups of 4 or 5 members and give them 30 minutes to develop their new product offering. Students often spend too much time on the idea generation phase. Walk around the room, reminding them of the time left. This creates some urgency for them to move beyond idea generation and complete all aspects of the assignment.

In my courses, students know they are designing a product for my son. I sidestep questions about my son because I want students to realize they have access to the actual customer. If students ask to talk to my son, I call them and let the team talk to them (if they are available). If they are not available, I answer questions on their behalf as honestly as possible.

Teams will design a wide variety of products, some related to their own memories of being that age, some related to brothers’/sisters’ interests, and some related to guesses about what young people are interested in. Record student pitches and show them to your target person, who will select a winner and explain their justification (record this and show it to the class).

This exercise forces students to reimagine an existing product instead of creating a new product. The key learning is about customer interviewing. I recommend using this exercise after students have been practicing interviewing around new ideas/products. This allows you to show them the value of interviewing in a new context, which reiterates this most important skill to entrepreneurs.

Discussion questions to ask students include:

  • What was the most difficult aspect of retooling the product? Why?
  • Did you think about interviewing my son? Why or why not? If you thought about it, and did not interview him, why not?
  • Did you think about asking my son (or I) for feedback on your prototype? Why or why not? If you thought about it, and did not ask him (or me), why not?
  • What lessons did you learn about new product development?

The main points to reiterate during the debrief:

  • If you know your customer segment, interview them! Don’t guess what they want, ask them what they want.
  • Do not get lost in idea generation. Quickly gather feedback on ideas/prototypes from your customer.
  • Customer wants/needs and jobs-to-be-done will differ drastically between target groups.

Engage, Engage, Engage

All of that said…

The #1 way to improve your evaluations is to engage your students.

Our Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum (ExEC) is an engaging experience, for you and your students. Instead of you talking at students, the exercises invite your students to learn by doing, so they engage themselves. For example, your students can…

  • brainstorm their ideal customers, so they understand the emotional needs of people they are attached to (i.e. people they are passionate about helping), which become the foundation of their business ideas, ensuring students are motivated throughout your course,
  • play a competitive game to learn what questions they should and should not ask during customer interviews, then practice their interview skills with their classmates using our robust interview script.

Improve student evaluations with ExEC

ExEC Will Improve Your Evals

Students love to be engaged, but they also appreciate fair, transparent grading with structured rubrics. How you provide students feedback is critical to keeping them engaged, so we built robust and easy-to-use rubrics into ExEC! Using ExEC, you provide meaningful feedback very quickly, so students get the instant feedback they insist upon.

Improve your Evaluations This Fall

Preview ExEC and watch your student evaluations skyrocket next year!

Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum Logo

LMS Integration

ExEC also integrates with major Learning Management Systems to simplify adoption:

ExEC Integrates with all LMS


Student engagement with ExEC

What’s Next?

In an upcoming post, we have an exciting announcement about Alexander Osterwalder, one of the gurus of the lean startup movement!

Subscribe here to be the first to grab a “seat” at the Summit.

Join 15,000+ instructors. Get new exercises via email!

Summer 2021 Summit Early Bird Last Call

Summer 2021 Summit Early Bird Last Call

Today is the last day to get $100-off a full access ticket to the Teaching Entrepreneurship Summer Summit!

We know budgets are tight right now, so live access to the workshops is free.

If you’d like the session recordings and slides, or simply can’t attend all of the sessions:

Register today for $100 off the recordings of all 3 workshops.


May 25th 1-3 EST: Making Finance Fun

Summer Summit: Making Finance Fun

Financial projections don’t have to overwhelm students!

Get engaging exercises, including a brand new game, for teaching revenue modeling.

June 2nd 1-3 EST: Better Idea Generation

Summer Summit: Better Idea Generation

Exercises and tips to improve the creativity, feasibility and, impact of student business.

Plus: How (and when) to intervene when students “fall in love” with bad ideas.


June 10th 1-3 EST: Improving Student Pitches

Summer Summit: Improving Student Pitches

New tools for tweaking your pitch day format to…

Move students away from “innovation theater” toward rewarding real entrepreneurial skill development.

Hint: Imagine if entrepreneurial skills were at the Olympics.

Early Bird Tickets Available

We know budgets are tight right now so we’re offering a new “Live Access Only” ticket free of charge.

Plus: Full Access tickets, which include recordings and slides, are $100 off – but the Early Bird sale ends today!


What’s Next?

In upcoming posts, we will share lesson plans and approaches to engage your students from the first to the last day of class!

Subscribe here to be the first to learn about our innovative approach.

Join 15,000+ instructors. Get new exercises via email!

Student Engagement This Fall

Student Engagement This Fall

The biggest challenge this year has been student engagement. How do we flip the script and . . .

How do we engage students in the Fall?

Option 1: Update Your Textbook

The most obvious way to increase the energy of a class is to switch up the textbook. Unfortunately, due to their inherent structure, textbooks don’t often:

  • engage students
  • or teach skills.

Not to mention textbooks are expensive, and for the most part, students don’t even read them.

If your goal is engagement, a new textbook may be an incremental improvement but from our experience, it won’t make a dramatic difference.

Option 2: DIY Experiences

Experiential courses engage students far more than any textbook. If you’ve got the time to build a curriculum with your favorite experiences from around the web, you can create have an interactive class.

That said, classes comprised of ad hoc exercises have downsides especially in terms of:

  • Lack of cohesion / structure
  • Time spent re-inventing the wheel

Fortunately, there’s a way to get the best of both worlds…

Option 3: An Experiential Curriculum

Instead of building your own curriculum, tools like the Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum can offer…

  • Engaging classes with the
  • Structure of a textbook.

student engagement with ExEC

Plus, ExEC offers

LMS Integration

In less than 5 minutes you’ll have your course imported into Canvas, Brightspace/D2L, Blackboard or Moodle.

student engagement in any LMS

Rubrics & Syllabi

ExEC integrated rubrics and starter syllabi make both course prep, and grading faster.

student engagement with rubrics & syllabi

Student Engagement Online, In-Person, or Hybrid

No matter what format your class takes this Fall, ExEC has a set of exercises to engage your students:

  • In-person
  • Online synchronous
  • Online asynchronous
  • All of the above!

8 to 16-Week Schedules

ExEC is flexible enough for any schedule including:

  • Accelerated MBA courses
  • Quarter system courses
  • 12-week Canadian semesters
  • 15-week US semesters

For example…

Student engagement with various schedules

Student Engagement Can Happen This Fall

Preview ExEC and see if it can help you and your students next year!

Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum Logo

What’s Next?

In an upcoming post, we will share information about our upcoming Summer Summit where we will share some exciting new exercises!

Subscribe here to be the first to grab a “seat” at the Summit.

Join 15,000+ instructors. Get new exercises via email!

Reflective Quizzes: A Skill-Building Alternative to Multiple Choice

Reflective Quizzes: A Skill-Building Alternative to Multiple Choice

Quizzes are helpful, especially in large classes, because they’re easy to grade and can motivate some students to do their pre-assigned reading.

The problem with quizzes is they assess “reading and regurgitating” skills more than entrepreneurial skills.

Quizzes also create a cat-and-mouse game where students can share answers online, forcing you to constantly update the quiz questions.

On the other hand, reflection assignments are great at assessing skills and mindset development – they just traditionally take longer to grade.

Reflective Quizzes: Build Skills (with less grading)

We’ve been developing a new type of quiz for our ExEC Big Intro curriculum that:

  1. Is as fast to grade as a normal quiz
  2. Incentivizes students to come to class prepared
  3. Uses open-ended questions and reflective prompts to assess student skills and mindset development

Here’s a demo:

Grading Shouldn’t Be Exhausting

Assessments in experiential courses can be as formative for students as the exercises themselves!

So if assessment is one of your least favorite parts of teaching, there are a couple things that may help:

Want Your Students Building Real Skills?

Request a preview of ExEC Big Intro here.

ExEC Intro logo

What’s Next?

In an upcoming post, we will share information about our upcoming Summer Summit where we will share some exciting new exercises!

Subscribe here to be the first to grab a “seat” at the Summit.

Join 15,000+ instructors. Get new exercises via email!

Summer 2021 Summit Invite

Summer 2021 Summit Invite

The Teaching Entrepreneurship Summit is back!

Now with…

3 New Experiential Exercises

The Teaching Entrepreneurship Summit is your chance to not only get the new lesson but see them in action. Plus, they’re…

Free when you join us live!

All sessions will run from 1 – 3pm Eastern but if you can’t join us live, recordings are available for sale.


May 25: Making Finance Fun

Summer Summit: Making Finance Fun

Financial projections don’t have to overwhelm students!

Get engaging exercises, including a brand new game, for teaching revenue modeling.

June 2: Better Idea Generation

Summer Summit: Better Idea Generation

Exercises and tips to improve the creativity, feasibility and, impact of student business.

Plus: How (and when) to intervene when students “fall in love” with bad ideas.

June 10: Improving Student Pitches

Summer Summit: Improving Student Pitches

New tools for tweaking your pitch day format to…

Move students away from “innovation theater” toward rewarding real entrepreneurial skill development.

Hint: Imagine if entrepreneurial skills were at the Olympics.


Early Bird Tickets Available

We know budgets are tight right now so we’re offering a new “Live Access Only” ticket free of charge.

Plus: Full Access tickets, which include recordings and slides, are $100 off before May 11th.


What’s Next?

In an upcoming post, we will share information about our reflective quiz approach to more effective assessment!

Subscribe here to be the first to learn about this innovative approach.

Join 15,000+ instructors. Get new exercises via email!