Workshop: Teaching the Business Model Canvas with Alex Osterwalder

Workshop: Teaching the Business Model Canvas with Alex Osterwalder

Alex Osterwalder Teaching Business Model Canvas Workshop August 3rd

Join us Aug. 3rd to learn how to…

Teach the Business Model Canvas (BMC) from the creator himself, Dr. Alex Osterwalder!

TeachingEntrepreneurship.org and Alex are hosting a free workshop on how to use his industry re-defining tools: Business Model Canvas, Value Proposition Canvas, etc.

Join us to get exercises to engage students in :

  1. Business model thinking &
  2. Testing business ideas

The session will start with Osterwalder walking you through a number of Business Model Canvas exercises of varying difficulty and engagement. Then he’ll introduce exercises to teach the mechanics of experimentation.

Register Here

For more on Osterwalder, check out his company Strategyzer and his suite of books being used in entrepreneurship classrooms around the world.

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.

GET YOUR EARLY BIRD DISCOUNT TODAY!


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.


GET YOUR EARLY BIRD DISCOUNT TODAY!


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!

GET YOUR EARLY BIRD DISCOUNT 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.

REGISTER NOW!


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.

REGISTER NOW!


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.

REGISTER NOW!


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!

Top 5 Free Entrepreneurship Lesson Plans

Top 5 Free Entrepreneurship Lesson Plans

“Your posts help me keep my students engaged – they and I thank you!” – ExEC Curriculum Professor

Based on the popularity of our 2018 Top 5 Lesson Plans article, we’ve updated our list based on feedback from our fast-growing community of now 4,600-strong entrepreneurship instructors.

The following are all lesson plans we’ve designed to transform your students’ experience as they learn how to generate ideas, interview customers, prototype and validate solutions.

5. Idea Generation vs. Problem Generation

Many of our students believe an idea is the heart of entrepreneurship. In this lesson, we shatter that assumption and replace it with an appropriate focus on customer problems.

We want your students to develop ideas that are more feasible, impactful, and creative.

This is the toughest challenges entrepreneurship professors face. Student ideas tend to be a repetition of low-impact or infeasible mediocrity. You want more from them. We can help! We focus your students on problems in this lesson because the best business ideas come from problems.entrepreneurship, teaching, problem, solution, idea

After this lesson, your students’ ideas will be:

  • More feasible because they’re focusing on serving people they care about.
  • More impactful because they’re paying more attention to problems than they are products.
  • More creative because they’ll use those problems as inspiration.

View Idea Generation vs. Problem Generation Lesson Plan

4. Personal Business Plan

In this exercise, shared with us by Rebeca Hwang from Stanford University, students create a business plan about themselves. Students approach themselves as a company and apply the tools they learned during their entrepreneurship course to understand how they add value to the world.

Students answer questions about their future vision and about their present plans and passions. One of our professor’s favorite components of this exercise is that students choose who grades their personal business plan (and that our colleagues at Stanford provide a very robust rubric)!

teaching entrepreneurship personal business plan

Through this exercise, students:

  • Learn to see themselves as a company,
  • Learn they must continuously invest in and develop a plan for their future,
  • Embrace the tools and methodologies they learned in the course because they are applying them to their future,
  • Understand learning is meaningful when applied to a personal context

View Why Business Plans Fail Lesson Plan

3. Teaching Customer Interviewing

We consistently hear from faculty that teaching customer interviewing is their biggest challenge. In this lesson plan students use a combination of ExEC Customer Interviewing Playing Cards, with an online collaborative quiz game (Kahoot), to learn:

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

customer interviewing teaching entrepreneurship

Students then get an interview script template they can use as the basis for their problem discovery interviews.

This exercise teaches your students:

  • What objectives they should and should not attempt to accomplish during a problem discovery interview and why,
  • What questions they should and shouldn’t ask during a customer discovery interview and why,
  • What a comprehensive interview script book looks like

View Customer Interviewing Cards Lesson Plan

2. 60 Minute MVP

One of our most popular lesson plans is the 60 Minute MVP. During this class, students launch an MVP website, with an animated video and a way to take pre-orders, in an hour with no prior coding experience. One of our professors told us after running this exercise:

“One student described it as like a Navy Seal mental training exercise. Not sure it was that intense, but they were amazed and proud that they got it done.”

Your students will love this class period; they progress from the anxiety of the challenge confronting them (build a website in 60 minutes) to the elation of their journey (launching a website they built in 60 minutes). This exercise creates tremendous energy in your classroom. Students create something real.

On the lesson plan page you can view an example video students created in about 20 minutes, built around actual customer problem interviews:

You can also view a great example of a website built in just 60 minutes:

Your students will create landing pages like thisUpscale dining at its finest!

Some critical learnings for your students are the true meaning of Minimum Viable Product (MVP), that it’s easier to launch a product than they thought, and that the easiest thing about building a business is launching that product.

View 60 Minute MVP Lesson Plan

1. Teaching Customer Observations

During our years of research on what topics entrepreneurship professors struggle to teach, we heard “customer interviewing” over and over again. Our ExEC curriculum includes a robust method of customer interviewing, but customer observation is another great way to gather customer information. So we developed our Teaching Customer Observations lesson plan to help students learn the value of seeing how their customers experience problems, as opposed to imagining their customers’ problems.

In addition to our community thinking this is a powerful experience in the classroom, this exercise also won first place in the Excellence in Entrepreneurial Exercises Awards at the USASBE 2019 Annual Conference!

This exercise positions your students to observe customers in their natural settings. This allows them to discover new business opportunities and increase their empathy and behavioral analysis skills.

Our goal with this exercise is to teach students to have an empathy picture/analysis that frames the problem they are trying to solve before they jump to a solution. Having this clear picture will allow them to come up with better creative solutions.

During this two-class exercise, your students will experience customer empathy and how to plan and translate an observation experience into ideas for products and services. This will provide the following benefits:

  • Introduce students to a powerful tool to gather information on customer experience in real-life situations. This allows students to avoid predicting customer behavior by actually observing it.
  • Students practice how to listen with their eyes in order to understand what people value and care about, & what they don’t.
  • Provide a common reference experience for expanding on topics later in the course.

View Teaching Customer Observations Lesson Plan

Want 15 Weeks of Lesson Plans?

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

We’ve done the work for you.

Get our Next Free Lesson Plan

We email new experiential entrepreneurship lesson plans regularly.

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

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

 

ExEC Big Intro: Improving “Intro to Entrepreneurship”

ExEC Big Intro: Improving “Intro to Entrepreneurship”

Large “Intro to Entrepreneurship” courses often have a common set of problems:

  1. Lack of Consistency (between different instructors)
  2. Low Engagement
  3. Time-Consuming Assessment
  4. Expensive Textbooks

Improving Large Classes

ExEC Big Intro is our new toolset to help tackle these challenges!

ExEC Intro logo

Consistency and Flexibility

When more than one instructor is teaching an intro course, different teaching approaches can lead to different class outcomes:

Students need a consistent experience regardless of their instructor.

Of course, each instructor also needs flexibility to leverage their areas of expertise.

ExEC Big Intro balances these needs by providing a well-documented, structured set of exercises, that each instructor can customize.

Customizable Lessons can be included within the default structure

This approach provides a common course foundation (and an easy way to onboard new adjuncts) while enabling each instructor to play to their own strengths.

Passion + Experiences = Engagement

ExEC Big Intro’s first exercise helps students, especially those that don’t identify as entrepreneurs, discover their passions:

Students engage when they work on something they’re passionate about.

Venn diagram with interest and skills overlapping on an area called
Screenshot from ExEC Big Intro’s exercise, “Pilot Your Purpose.”

Once students know their passions, every subsequent exercise leverages them to make lessons relevant. For example, “entrepreneurial finance”, a topic that often shuts students down becomes an experience to answer the question:

“How do you finance your passion?

Now, regardless of their major, students can see the relevance of entrepreneurial skills – even if they don’t identify as entrepreneurs (yet ;).

Faster Assessment

Assessment is always challenging but for large classes, it can be overwhelming.

One solution is more multiple-choice tests because they’re so easy to grade. Unfortunately, multiple-choice tests assess “reading and regurgitation” skills more than they do entrepreneurial skills.

On the other hand, reflective writing assignments can assess entrepreneurial skills, but aren’t feasible with hundreds of assignments to grade each term.

What we need is the best of both worlds: reflections that are easy to grade. With that goal in mind…

ExEC Big Intro has a new type of assignment: Reflective Quizzes.

Reflective Quizzes have three components:

  1. An interactive experience
  2. An open-ended reflection question
  3. Automated support tools that challenge students to reflect deeply, and make it easy for instructors to assign full, partial and no credit

Here’s a demo of the Reflective Quizzes:

In addition to the student-side checks demonstrated above, the system can also give instructors assessment suggestions (e.g. full, partial, no credit) based on the content of the answer to make grading extremely fast.

With ExEC Big Intro…

Reflective assignments can replace multiple-choice quizzes, even in large classes.

Lowering Costs for Students

We all know how important it is to reduce textbook costs for students.

With the goal of providing experiential learning at a price that’s lower than traditional textbooks, ExEC Big Intro has a new pricing model that aims to make:

Experiential entrepreneurship accessible to all students.


ExEC Big Intro Preview and Pricing

100+ Intro Students?

Request preview and pricing information for ExEC Big Intro here.

ExEC Intro logo

Fewer Than 100+ Students?

If you’re not teaching a large class, but are looking for an engaging experience for your students check out the Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum.

Used at over 120 colleges & universities, this suite of award-winning experiential exercises will help you structure an engaging skill-based class.


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!

Pitch Days: How to Grow Your Program

Pitch Days: How to Grow Your Program

If you’re looking to increase enrollment for your entrepreneurship program…

Pitch days can be incredible catalysts for growth.

In this article, with the help of Meg Weber, Director of Community Engagement and Lead InstMeg Weber, entrepreneurship educatorructor, Entrepreneurship and Innovation Minor at Western Washington University, we’ll build on our Improving Student Pitches article to talk about how to use pitch day to increase the size of your program.

Increasing Entrepreneurship Enrollment

Just like we teach our students that their businesses need to solve a problem for their customers:

Students are our customers and finding a job is their problem.

With data from thousands of students who’ve completed the Fears and Curiosities exercise, we know students’ biggest concerns about life after school revolve around jobs:

  • Can I find a job?
  • Will I like it?
  • Will I be good at it?
  • Will it pay enough?

If you want to attract new students to your program, the key is to:

Demonstrate that students in your program get great jobs.

Pitch days are fantastic opportunities to advertise the career opportunities your program provides. Below we’ll detail 3 steps to make make the most of yours:

  1. Identify “high value” employers
  2. Invite them to be guest judges
  3. Invite prospective students to pitch day where they can see that students involved with your program get to connect with those employers

1. Identify High Value Employers

“High value” to us means employers that can satisfy the needs of our students in terms of supplying jobs that they’ll be good at, will enjoy doing, and will pay enough. Here are some tips on how to find those employers.

Ask Students Where They Want to Work

Ask students, “What companies would you be excited to work for?”, make a list, and constantly keep these companies top of mind because:

Every person you can introduce students to that works for one of those companies can help you recruit more students.

Students will often tell you they want to work for companies that are associated with brands they love:

  • Apple
  • Amazon
  • Nike
  • Tesla

Whatever your students tell you, search your LinkedIn connections and keep your eyes peeled for any connections you have to those companies.

Bonus Tip: Start Linking-In with all of your students now. Eventually some of them will get jobs at the companies your future students will love and pitch day will be a great opportunity to invite them back!

Talk to your Career Center

Talk to your career center on campus and ask them for lists of employers who visited previous career fairs / job days. Also, take a look at who is hiring on your school’s job board.

Search Job Boards

Look for job postings on:

  • LinkedIn
  • Indeed
  • Glassdoor

Look for companies that are trying to hire students like yours and that can offer high-quality, good-paying jobs.

2. Invite the Employers to Pitch Day

Once you have a list of high value employers, pitch day is the perfect opportunity to create connections between them and not only your current, but your prospective students.

Find the “Right” People

Ideally, the people you invite from the employees are hiring managers: people with some say over who gets invited in for interviews. If you don’t know any, check LinkedIn, ask your career center, alumni office, or use the contact information associated with the job postings you found.

Invite them to Judge

Identify the people who you think students will respond most positively to, and invite them to be judges. Their companies and positions will be part of your marketing material for pitch day, so make the most of these coveted judging positions.

Side Note: Be sure to set judges expectations that you’re teaching a process (not just launching products).

Your judges might be familiar with a more traditional pitch day format, where people are pretending to know their future revenue, sales, growth, etc. You will need to conduct some basic training with your judges so they understand your students are learning a process and not necessarily working on launching investment-ready products or services. They will hear your students sharing what they did, what they learned, and what they’ll do differently next time (as opposed to, “This is a $10B market and if we capture just 1%…”).

Setting expectations ahead of time will be crucial to ensuring your judges (i.e. your students’ prospective employers) think highly of them during pitch day.

Invite Others Employers to Coach

You can only have a few judges, but you can engage more potential employers as coaches for your students. For those interested in coaching, prepare them with a brief summary of some projects that you think will be especially interesting for them. Your students should progress through multiple practice pitches, each of which is an opportunity for a coach to help them (and you!) create more impact:

  • Rough draft idea quick-pitch – students pitch the basics of their idea early in the course
  • Process pitch – a few weeks before pitch day, students practice sharing their journey (not the outcomes)
  • Dress rehearsal – a week before pitch day students practice their final pitch

Invite coaches to your pitch day and acknowledge their contributions. After the event, you and your students should send a follow-up handwritten note to coaches thanking them for investing their time and expertise.

Take every chance to deepen the connection with your students.

Sample Invite Emails

We’ve included some sample email invitations at the end of the article that you can use to recruit coaches and/or judges.

3. Make Pitch Day a School-Wide Event

Open Pitch Day to all Enrolled Students

Pitch Day isn’t just for your current students – it’s an opportunity to recruit your future students!

When prospective students see that your current entrepreneurship students are building close connections with employers they want to work for, they see your program as a way to solve their biggest problems.

Ask your students to present an invitation to student clubs around campus. Start with entrepreneurship-related clubs like:

  • CEO
  • DECA
  • Enactus

and expand to other clubs in which your students are active. On any given campus there are hundreds of student clubs. Be strategic about those that have engaged members and related goals around employability and entrepreneurship. For instance, your students can present to entrepreneurship fraternities like Epsilon Nu Tau and Sigma Eta Pi, and professional business fraternities like Alpha Kappa Psi and Delta Sigma Pi.

Expand beyond the clubs and departments that are already intimately familiar with your program. Remember, your goal with a pitch day is to grow your program, so you want to reach out to students from areas you don’t normally engage with.

Use this as an opportunity to strategically connect with departments you don’t normally engage with. Maybe that’s the science departments. Or the foreign language departments. Or the fine art departments. Ask your students to present to their other classes, and to their friends majoring in these departments.

Give your students a chance to practice their pitching skills. Give your campus a chance to be excited by your program.

Equip students with a short template so messaging is consistent – keep to the point of “network with employers” as the main message.

Leverage the power of social media. Ask the university to share promotions on their official social media accounts. Incentivize students to share on their social media accounts by making it a deliverable of their pitching assignment (or extra credit).

And last, but certainly not least, take this opportunity to invite your university’s administration. Enable (and guide) your rock star students to handle these introductions – administrators will appreciate it more coming from students. Many will politely decline, but you can make them aware of what you are doing. And if they do show up, make sure they feel the energy of the connections you’re creating between students and employers.

Work with your enrollment/admissions office to invite prospective freshmen and their parents.

The enrollment/admissions team wants to highlight the best of your university for prospective freshmen. Enable them to invite these students to your pitch day – local students and their parents can attend physically, and others can join via Zoom.

This builds your funnel of freshmen students for your program by exciting them before they even get to campus! You can provide immense value to your enrollment/admissions office. Plus, universities struggle with retention and helping students find their way early on in their university careers. Pitch days can help to inspire and have students see future opportunities.

Provide food and drinks for everyone who attends

People get hungry and thirsty, and having food and drink at an event helps create spaces for connection. You don’t want the typical student event pizza and red Solo cups. But you also don’t want the alumni wine and charcuterie. Go for some very simple (and not messy) appetizers and finger foods along with a selection of soft drinks and water.

Food and beverages don’t always come cheap, especially as your guest list grows. If you have former students running or working with local food vendors, reach out to explore ways to incorporate and highlight their stories. You can also ask areas around campus to help fund this and receive recognition, given the presence of potential employers and donors. Ask your career center, a College of Business, enrollment/admissions office to share the cost and get sponsorship benefits of recognition at your pitch day event. See below for more tips on increasing funding.

During the event, highlight your program to prospective students in attendance

Throughout your event, highlight to prospective students the kind of learning experiences they will encounter in your entrepreneurship program.

In breaks between pitches, or as your judges are deliberating, talk to prospective students about how they too can learn how to pitch companies like they’re hearing. Also, share with them stories of the types of companies and jobs successful students from your program are currently engaged in (these stories will also resonate with alumni and enrollment/admissions staff in attendance).

During the event, facilitate connections between your judges and your high-performing students to grow your list of successful graduates from your program.

Most communities really want to give back to students– as educators we just need to figure out the in-roads. Many of the students at Western Washington University are food systems aficionados. One such student is Arlen Coiley. Arlen entered our entrepreneurship program with a great fervor for coffee- of all sorts- recycling hulls, creating compost, exfoliating soaps, you name it- this guy was ALL about coffee.

During his time in the program, Arlen pitched his coffee fervor to community members, who then hired him for events, invested in expanding his pop-up stand Handshake Coffee, and ultimately helped develop connections and now a vibrant restaurant called Storia Cucina.

Get Sample Emails for Inviting Judges and Coaches

Plus get a demo of how to map out external investors to help grow your program:

Go Forth and Grow Your Program

You now have a playbook to use the pitch days we all do to grow your program.

  • It’s not just an event for your students to practice pitching.
  • It’s not just an event to give your students beer money.

This is your opportunity to make connections between your current students, your next cohort of students, and the people in the community who want to support those students.

Teach the Process

If you’re interested in teaching the process that leads to unforgettable student pitches, check out the Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum.

Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum Logo

Students complete award-winning experiential exercises during a journey of finding a problem worth solving and then finding a solution worth building.


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!

Discord: For Engaging Class Discussions

Discord: For Engaging Class Discussions

Engaging students in discussion has never been easy, but now with our online classes…

Having interactive discussions is harder than ever.

Fortunately, there’s a new tool to help…

Discord Saves The Day

Discord is an amazing communication tool many students already use that we can leverage for more dynamic classes.

Discord: where campus communities talk

Discord is great because it:

  1. Is free
  2. Uses points to incentivize participation
  3. Makes discussions easy to grade
  4. Reduces time you spend answering questions (because students get rewarded for helping one another)

Plus, students love it.


Elizabeth StricklerA huge thank you to Elizabeth Strickler, Director of Media Entrepreneurship and Innovation in the Creative Media Industries Institute at Georgia State University for turning us on to Discord and for collaborating with us on this article.


What is Discord?

Discord (a lot like Slack if you’re familiar with it) is an online tool for groups with:

  • Real-time text chat
  • Voice and video discussions
  • Screensharing
  • Small-group/team collaboration spaces
  • Integrations with lots of cool services (e.g. bots) that can provide features like gamification to increase interaction

For a quick sample of what Discord looks like when used with a class, check out this video:

Student Discussions on Discord vs LMS

Before we talk about why Discord can be so powerful, it’s helpful to understand why our LMS discussion boards, which are designed to solve this problem, don’t work:

Why LMS Discussions Don’t Work

  • They encourage communication with long paragraphs. Students prefer quick, real-time communication with short, SMS-length messages, emojis and gifs.
  • Not mobile-friendly
  • User interface is old and slow
  • No real-time capabilities (i.e. have to refresh to see updates, no voice or video discussions)

In short, LMS discussion boards may make sense to us as instructors because we’re used to communicating via email with full sentences and paragraphs. Our students on the other hand live on TikTok and Instagram. Asking them to use LMS discussion boards is like asking them to hand-write letters to one another.

Why Discord Works

Students Design Their Own Experience

In Discord, however, students can create their own character and their own emojis. In an LMS discussion board, students cannot develop and share their personalities.

Peer-to-peer communication seems more authentic because individuals can add individuality to their communications.

Cameras Off

In addition, we know what feels natural to many students in online classes is having their cameras turned off. Discord takes full advantage of that with “voice only” channels where students can work in groups in real-time either during or outside of class with no expectation of having to turn their cameras on. 

An Emoji is Worth 1,000 Words

Discord provides another natural communication tool for students: emojis. Look at any student’s texts and you see a plethora of emojis – it’s quick and it’s the language they prefer. Discord takes full advantage of this by offering a wide variety of emojis. You can even design your own emojis for certain situations, such as:

  • “$” for great business ideas
  • “A” and “F” letter grades to let students know when they’ve contributed great (and not-so-great) ideas to the conversation
  • Test tubes to represent an assumption that needs to be tested
  • Etc.

Sample of emojis

Gamify The Student Experience

Another way to encourage richer communication among your students is to gamify the experience. LMS discussion boards can’t do that. Discord can, with bots.

Discord bots are built to perform any number of useful automated tasks. For instance, bots can reward students with “experience points” (“XP” in gaming and Discord terminology) that measure each student’s contribution to the discussion.

Students automatically earn XP:

  • Each time they post to a conversation and
  • The longer, more thoughtful their post, the more XP they get

Gamification by leveling up in a Discord server

It’s Easy For You to Grade Discussion

Grading discussions can be unbearable. Let Discord do it for you!

With bots such as Arcane, you can actually associate grades with different levels of XP. So if you had a participation requirement for your class, you could say students need:

  • 75 XP for a “C” in participation
  • 150 XP for a “B”
  • 300 XP for an “A”
  • etc.

Leveling Up Calculator in Arcane's Discord Bot

You can enable the bot to determine what students are participating and what students are not, and with some more advanced features, you can even reward levels based on the quality of posts.

Students Answer One Another’s Questions

With all of the gamification built-in, students will naturally want to answer each other’s questions to gain XP points and level up. Once they start engaging each other, their anxiety decreases, and their excitement increases as they learn together.

Students Get a Fast, Responsive Solution

Students struggling with homework or class details can post a question on your Discord server, and you or other students can respond lightning-fast, from a phone, with emojis! Students are notified of activity on their phone, unlike an LMS that students have to log into to see activity.

This will significantly minimize your time spent fielding basic questions about things like your syllabus and assignments and other basic course details.

Discord vs Slack

If you’re familiar with Slack, you can tell it has a lot in common with Discord. When it comes to teaching there are a few key differences that come to mind:

  • Slack Pros
    • Slack offers “threaded messages” so you can reply to students and it makes it clear which message you’re replying to.
  • Discord Pros
    • Slack is designed for business, which means its UI reflects that. That makes it a more applicable app for students to learn before they enter the job market, but also means it will often be less inviting for students to adopt while in school.
    • Discord will keep all of the messages on your server (Slack will only keep 10k on the free version).
    • Many students will already be on Discord.
    • Discord is easier to invite students to.

If you’d like to see a general overview of Slack vs Discord, check out this video:

Play with Discord

If you want to try out Discord, in 2 minutes you can have your own server and add gamification and levels!


What’s Next?

In an upcoming post, we will share tips for faster, but still rigorous, assessment!

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