We know the transition to teaching online can be overwhelming. We want to help.
We’ve fast-tracked a subset of the ExEC Online exercises you’ll be able to use free through June 2020!
The ExEC Online: Express Pack will be a collection of free, interactive, online entrepreneurship lessons available through the rest of this term that you can easily plug into your class.
We’re specifically releasing exercises that are not only engaging, but particularly relevant in this time of dramatic uncertainty:
Problem-Inspired Idea Generation: We know customers don’t buy products, they buy solutions to problems – and right now people’s problems have changed dramatically. This exercise will show your students a systematic way to identify new opportunities inspired by their customer’s real-world problems that is particularly helpful during times of disruption like we’re experiencing right now.
How to Interview Customers on Lockdown: Now that business model assumptions have been flipped on their head, it’s more critical than ever that students learn how to effectively talk to customers to discover what problems they’re facing. A person with the skills to learn about how this new world will effect people individually, is a person that will thrive during this, and any future dramatic changes. This lesson will help students understand how to find customers to talk to, what questions to ask, and most importantly, why asking them will form the basis of a successful business model.
Financial Projection Simulator: With a global recession looming, it’s essential our students understand the elements of a robust financial model, and how to develop a sustainable one. This exercise makes finance approachable by turning what would normally be an overwhelming series of numbers, into a game-like experience that enables students to experiment with many different financial models.
60 Minute MVP: The key to thriving in the face of high uncertainty and limited resources is efficient experimentation. This exercise will show your students how to quickly launch a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) to measure demand for their products/services. Plus, even outside the entrepreneurial context, in a future where online, remote-enabled work will likely be in demand, this is a great opportunity for students to learn how to build websites and create animated videos.
We’ll be making each lesson plan available as soon as it’s finished. If you’re interested in using any of the exercises from the ExEC Online: Express Pack, please fill out the form below.
Due to the accelerated pace we’re releasing these lessons, the first iteration will be designed for use in colleges/universities in the US and Canada. Future iterations will be accessible to students across a wider range of environments.
Regardless of who or where you teach, we welcome you to request access and we’ll notify you if, and as soon as, we’re able to bring your students on board!
Get the ExEC Online: Express Pack
Know a Teacher?
If you know anyone who these new lessons might be help, we welcome you to invite them to participate. You can:
Thank you for all the work you’re doing teaching, and supporting, young people during this challenging time – we’re grateful to have an opportunity to support you, and look forward to helping you however we can!
Let students know there is a specific perspective that can help them develop powerful ideas that they will enjoy working on, and that today they will learn that perspective.
Step 2: Why Businesses Fail
Ask students to describe what they think the difference is between an inventor and an entrepreneur.
Walk students through the two comparisons to highlight this difference:
Segway vs. Razor scooters. Explain that Segway is an incredible invention, estimated to have a value of $2.5 billion, and that it was a colossal failure that reached only 1% of its market valuation. Then explain that Razor scooters (and now Bird and Lime electric scooters) are similar, but these far less “innovative” transportation options have generated far more market value – nearly $15 billion market. Point out that the Segway creator is an inventor because he focused on his emotional needs (building something technologically innovative, whereas the creator of the Razor scooter are entrepreneurs because they focused on creating products people actually decide to buy and use.
Google Glass vs. Warby Paker. Explain that Google Glass, like Segway, was invented as a revolutionary technology, but ended up being the butt of many jokes. Warby Parker, on the other hand, sells glasses that actually solve a problem for customers, so customers want to buy and use them.
Step 3: Setting Up the Game
Tell your students that to understand what people decide to buy, they must first understand how people make decisions. Explain they will play a game to figure that out, and the team that wins a game will get to pick their prize.
Explain that to play the game, your students will:
Form teams of two
Listen to a recording
Answer one question about the recording
The team that answers the question the best gets the prize
Let students know they will pick between a real lottery ticket worth up to $40 million, or a dime. Be sure to emphasize the potential value of the lottery ticket (e.g., a chance at $40 million) as opposed to simply describing it as a lottery ticket. Even if the jackpot is more than $40 million, tell them it’s worth $40 million to keep the math consistent for this exercise.
Tell your students that, based on the odds of winning the lottery, and the taxes they’d have to pay on any winnings, the dime is, strictly speaking, more valuable than the lottery ticket. Students should talk in their dyads and decided which prize they want.
Step 4: Lottery Ticket vs. Dime
Ask students to raise their hand if they want the dime. Then ask them to raise their hand if they want to lottery ticket.
The majority will pick the lottery ticket. Ask them
Why do you want a prize that is objectively worth less?
Probe them with questions that highlight any emotions associated with your students’ choices as you begin to hand out copies of the Emotional Palette Canvas
NOTE:Some students will indicate they want the dime instead of the lottery ticket. Be sure to dive in to understand why they want the dime. Ultimately, their preference for the dime will have an emotional component as well, even if it appears to be based entirely on logic (e.g. they want to feel confident, smart, etc.).
Step 5: Emotional Palette Canvas
Explain that this canvas is a tool to help them visualize and compare the intensity of different emotions.
Ask students to find the emotions they would feel if they won the lottery ticket. Scores should be in the +3 or +4 range. Ask your students to discuss in their dyad the following question:
Using the Emotional Palette Canvas, how can you explain why most people prefer the shot at $40 million, as opposed to an objectively more valuable dime.
NOTE: The correct answer is that while the objective value of the dime is higher than the lottery ticket, the emotional value (e.g. hope, excitement, fun, etc.) of the ticket is much higher than the dime. Teams should use the Emotional Palette Canvas to illustrate that the lottery ticket emotions “score” higher than the dime emotions.
Step 6: The Man Who Couldn’t Feel
Switch now to the questions that will determine the winning dyad. Tell students to listen carefully to the podcast you will play and think about this question:
It may take a few attempts for teams to get all the elements of this answer correct. After a team guesses, provide them feedback and then let another team answer. Continue until all of the elements above have been spoken to.
NOTE:So many people, including the majority of our students, think our decisions are based on logic, reason, and rational thinking. This is an opportunity to highlight that’s not the case. Drive this point home, especially if you’re teaching a large number of logically-oriented students, like engineers or scientists.
Step 8: Recap
This is your chance to drive home the main points of this lesson.
There’s no such thing as a human making a purely logical decision. Without emotions, we can’t make decisions.
Emotions influence every decision we make including what products are successful and who gets what jobs.
Whether one become an entrepreneur, or get a job, how much money one makes depends on how well they understand and fulfill other people’s emotional needs.
Get the “Lottery Ticket Dilemma” Lesson Plan
We’ve created a detailed “Lottery Ticket Dilemma” lesson plan. This exercise walks you, and your students, through the process, step-by-step.
It’s free for any/all entrepreneurship teachers, so you’re welcome to share it.
This lesson is part of our fully experiential curriculum. If you’d like to see the entire curriculum, click to learn more.
Get our Next Free Lesson Plan
We email new experiential entrepreneurship lesson plans regularly.
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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:
“The best class I’ve taken!” We all want a Dead Poets Society moment in our entrepreneurship class. One professor using the Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum got hers!
Improving Student Idea Generation. Help students build ideas around the customers they are most passionate about helping, and the problems they are most excited to help them resolve.
Teachers Need Tools. Our curriculum makes prepping your entrepreneurship classes a breeze, and makes teaching the classes a powerful experience for students.
Want More Engaging Exercises?
Teaching Entrepreneurship Online: 5 Common Mistakes (and how to Avoid Them)
As many of us transition our classes online, growing pains will abound. We wanted to provide a quick summary of the most common pitfalls you’re likely to run into so you know how to avoid them.
5 Online Teaching Mistakes to Avoid
Mistake #1: Weekly assignments
If you have weekly assignments, in other words just one touchpoint per week where students are expected to turn something in, you’re inviting time management challenges for your students. This can be especially true if students are new to taking online classes; they’re not used to planning out their weekly schedule around finishing assignments. Couple that with other work and class commitments and in all likelihood, they will wait until the last minute to get their work finished.
Solution: Multiple touch points each week.
When transitioning our own in-person curriculum online, we’ve found it helps set our students up for success by having at least 2 touchpoints per week. For example, we have assignments due on Tuesday and Thursday. Alternatively, you can set up your course so that assignments are due Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Whatever you decide, break up the assignments into smaller chunks to help avoid any time management problems your students may have. This will help keep them on track and reduce their tendency to cram.
Mistake #2: Not Using Groups
We often hear from professors who teach online that they don’t feel as connected to their students, or they worry their students don’t feel connected to them. Additionally, we’ve heard from students that they don’t feel connected to other students when taking an online class.
If you’re avoiding group work because you’re teaching online, you’re missing an effective tool for fostering a connection between your students.
Group work can seem daunting to set up, assess and grade online, but it doesn’t have to be. And since group work is a powerful tool to combat disconnection in an online classroom, it’s worth the effort. Here are a few of our proven methods for creating a successful group.
1) Reflection Groups
Reflection Groups are small groups of students (3-4), who meet up “face-to-face” online via Zoom, Skype, Facetime, etc. to reflect on individual experiences they’ve had during the class. This provides an explicit opportunity to reflect, and take notes about their reflections, with peers from the class, helps drive student thinking deeper. It also helps them connect with other people in their class and fosters a more profound connection since it provides space for them to share their reflections of their experience, rather than simply sharing right/wrong answers.
For example, in our classes students meet with their reflection groups to discuss:
Their fears and curiosities about life after graduation
The biggest failures they’ve encountered in their lives so far, and what they’ve learned from them
Successes and struggles they’ve had with individual assignments
Creating groups isn’t difficult. All Learning Management Systems (e.g. Canvas, Blackboard, Moodle, Brightspace, etc.) have functionality for creating student. While technology like Zoom, WhatsApp, Facetime, and Skype make it really easy for students to meetup. This makes it simple to leverage group work and increase your student’s feeling of connection.
What can feel a little more daunting about online groups is grading/assessment. Here’s how to tackle that:
2) Team Work + Individual (Video) Reflections
Have the students complete their exercises together, but have them turn in individual reflections.
In our classes, we encourage students to work together but require each student to submit their own video-based reflections on the work they’ve done. These videos (which we limit to 1 – 3 minutes), speed up the assessment process, cutting down on overall assessment time while ensuring each student is developing their own skills.
Mistake #3: Not Using Webcams
Webcams establish an instant face-to-face connection which is incredibly helpful in establishing a connection with your students. We recommend, whenever possible, using your own webcam, and to encourage your students to use webcams themselves.
When we ask for student submissions, we have them use a tool called Loom, which is an easy-to-use browser extension which allows students to simply record their screen and capture their webcam at the same time. We’ve used Loom thousands of students and have had great results.
Loom lets you see your students (establishing a connection) and gives you a real insight into what they’ve been working on. We’ve found this is an invaluable tool in discovering how well they understand the concepts being taught in class. It also leads to a deeper level of understanding of the material because students will need to be able to write about the subject as well as talk about it concisely. We do recommend setting time guidelines for the videos. For example, we have students make videos 2-3 minutes long. This reduces the amount of time needed to go through the videos.
Mistake #4: “Read and Regurgitate” Discussion Boards
Typically, discussion boards are used as a way to ensure students complete some reading by asking students to reflect on what they’ve read, and possibly comment on another student’s post. Most of the time, this leads to students simply summarizing what they read and writing similar comments on fellow students’ posts. Unfortunately, this doesn’t lead to a lot of in-depth discussion or reflection.
Discussion boards are optimal when people are presenting diverse viewpoints as opposed to all reflecting similar ideas.
We recommend using discussion boards for personal reflections. For example, instead of asking students to go through an experience and describe what the experience was, have them talk about their personal challenges that came up with the experience. Ask what they learned most as a result of the experience. How are they going to apply that skill going forward?
Making personal comments creates a connected feeling in the class as students read other people’s responses. They get to know each other better and you get a sense of if they’re really understanding what you want them to take away from the material.
Discussion boards can also be used for students to pitch business ideas. You can even have students form teams around pitch ideas. Any experience you can create where students are leveraging different ideas is a great place to use discussion boards.
Mistake #5: “Class-Based” Thinking
It’s hard enough to create an engaging classroom in-person. Going online can feel even more daunting because we don’t have the opportunity for real-time interaction with students.
That said, there’s a little-known benefit to teaching online that can be used to create extremely engaging experiences.
When teaching in-person classes, it’s normal to have your thinking centered on “classes.” Whether a 75-minute class, 90-minute class, etc., we know that we have X-amount of things we want to cover in that amount of time. However, an online class doesn’t have the same time constraints.
We have found that it’s helpful to shift from a “class” structure to focus on creating “ah-ha” experiences for our students. Start by thinking about the ah-ha moments you have in your in-person classes and write out all of the interactions you have with your students that lead up to that moment. Then start translating each of those interactions online. Once you start thinking on an “interaction” level, as opposed to a “class” level, it’s much easier to…
Structure your course around creating “ah-ha” experiences.
As we created the online version of our in-person curriculum, we’ve had to tease out the interactive moments between instructor and students and rethink the time frame of these interactions. For example, in an in-person class, the professor can provide a prompt and the students respond in real-time and the entire lesson may only take 30 minutes. Online, this same lesson may span two weeks as the professor provides a prompt, awaits student responses, provides counter-discussion or reflection, etc. While this takes longer calendar-wise, we have found it is possible to create just as engaging of an experience for online students as we have in-person, by focusing primarily on these interactions.
For example, in the first class of our curriculum, we have students write out on post-it notes their fears and curiosities after they graduate. We then have them share their fears and curiosities with someone sitting next to them. We then create post-it note clouds around common themes they share. Then our instructors take those common challenges and map them into their syllabus. Some common fears are:
How am I going to find a job?
Is my job going to pay enough?
Am I going to like my job?
Professors then take these common problems or themes and point towards the places in the syllabus that will help address them. Students then realize, “Oh, even if I don’t want to be an entrepreneur, here’s what I’m going to get out of this class or entrepreneurial skills.” This whole process takes roughly 30 minutes in-person.
The online version, on the other hand, is more drawn out. First students fill out a survey that says “here are my fears and curiosities.” Then they utilize the aforementioned reflection groups where they’ll talk about their challenges. Then the instructor takes the survey results and makes a video response connecting the dots between their students’ challenges, and their syllabus. So, the interaction takes longer in terms of calendar time but creates the same “ah-ha” moment as students realize the value entrepreneurship skills can have on their lives, even if they don’t see themselves becoming entrepreneurs.
Transitioning to teaching online can be challenging, but it can also be extremely effective. If you want to make sure your students:
Feel connected to you and your other students
Engage fully in your class
Having multiple touch points per week
Group assignments w/ individual reflections
Everyone record videos with webcams
Use discussion boards for personal reflections
Replicate your interactions, not your classes, online
If you’d like more tips on running successful online classes, subscribe here to get the next one in your inbox.
If you have any suggestions to fix the mistakes above or want to recommend any mistakes we missed, please let us know!
In the meantime…
We Need Your Questions!
During this time of uncertainty, we want to hear what challenges you’re running into, and questions you have. We’re eager to experiment with ways to serve the teaching community, but like good innovators, we want to make sure we’re solving real problems.
In my role as USASBE President-elect, I’m hosting a USASBE Virtual Town Hall on March 25th, where we’ll discuss your challenges in detail. Answering the question above, or clicking the image below, will register you for the discussion, and make sure you get the recording afterward.
If you’re looking for a structured, comprehensive, and engaging experiential entrepreneurship curriculum you can run with your students in person, or online, check out the Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum.
Used at more than 80 colleges and universities, ExEC helps students feel connected with you, and one another, while they learn practical entrepreneurial skills regardless of their career path.
As the Coronavirus spreads, more and more schools are transitioning to online classes.
If you’re asked to teach entrepreneurship online, know that we’ve accelerated the development of ExEC Online due to the outbreak. If you’d like to use it, please reach out and we’ll see if/how we can be most helpful.
Fortunately, teaching with ExEC Online takes relatively little prep – much of the teaching material is already prepared – and student engagement is at least as high as in-person classes.
For more information on teaching entrepreneurship online with ExEC, click here.
Otherwise, please stay as safe (and stress-free) as possible, and let us know if there’s anything else we can do to help.
It’s no question: technology is shaping how or students engage (or don’t) with us.
From the apps nagging our students for attention during class to the learning management systems (Blackboard, Moodle, Canvas, etc.) we and our students are asked to wrestle with, technology is absolutely altering how we interact with our students.
That said, when leveraged the right way,
Technology can be a way to increase engagement in the classroom.
In this post, we share some of our favorite tech tools you can use to flip the script on technology and use it to re-engage your students.
Active Learning vs Passive Listening
The first thing to know is that lectures are the antithesis of engagement. If your class is full of:
Remember that it’s not that disengaged students don’t like to learn, the truth is most students love learning. They just hate listening.
Ask yourself, what do Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube and Netflix all have in common? They are all visual-based technologies that our students have grown up with and spend far more time “learning from” than they do lectures.
Now ask yourself, are your bullet points genuinely more compelling than their latest Instagram story?
If the answer is no, the next question to answer is:
How do you create an active learning experience for your students?
If you’re looking to shift from a “sage on the stage” class to an active learning environment, Kahoot! is a great tool to use.
How to Leverage Kahoot! In Your Entrepreneurship Lesson
Gamification is a great way to increase engagement in class. Using technology like Kahoot! you can create multiple-choice competitions that foster engagement or as an assessment tool.
Here’s what we love about Kahoot! in the classroom:
Produces real-time competition
Encourages instant collaboration
Boosts energy with a real-time leader board that students love seeing their names on
Inspires discussion among all students
Kahoot! works by showing students a series of multiple-choice questions on your projector and each student (or team of students) uses their smartphone to quickly answer each question. Teams are awarded points for correct answers, and the faster they answer, the more points they get and after each question, they can see how well their team is doing compared to other teams in the class.
If you want to easily try Kahoot!, we’ve actually integrated it into our free Customer Interviewing Cards Exercise. This lesson plan was presented at USASBE 2020 and teaches valuable customer discovery skills.
Give it a shot and you’ll not only teach your students what questions to ask (and questions avoid) during customer interviews, you’ll do it in an engaging way with full class participation.
Nothing Compares to Learning by Doing
Another way to engage students is to have them teach themselves by creating a “learn by doing” experience. For example, if you want to teach students about the power of Minimum Viable Products (MVPs), why not use Wix and Powtoon to have your students create their own during class?
Wix: Launch Websites (No Student Experience Required)
Wix is a free and user-friendly website creator. Some of the features we’ve found helpful when using in our lesson plans include:
Drag and drop editing
No technical skills required
Powtoon: Your Students Can Create Explainer Videos
Powtoon is an incredibly useful tool to make simple explainer videos fast. Here are some of the features that make Powtoon a useful teaching tool:
Wide-variety of templates
Change elements with a simple click
Animate a video in minutes
While you can plan an entrepreneurial lesson using Wix and Powtoon, we’ve found they can be combined for a powerful lesson. You can try our 60-Minute MVP this semester to introduce your students to Wix and Powtoon so they can see how quickly and easily they can start testing demand for new products, even if they have no tech or video editing skills.
This lesson plan was a finalist in the USASBE 3E competition, and it’s one of the most popular on our site. We hope you give it a shot – not only will it use technology to teach your students new skills, they’ll be completely engaged while they do it.
Design an App Prototype Without Technical Skills
So many of our students want to build apps, but most of them will lack the technical skills to even prototype their apps. Marvel changes that.
Marvel is an easy to use app that lets your students quickly prototype their app designs by first drawing them on paper, and then simply taking pictures of their designs with their phone, but that’s not all!
Here are some of the exciting features you can leverage in the classroom:
Design easily with Marvel’s UI builder
Perform usability testing with a simple link
Get customer/usability feedback immediately
Marvel is free to use and is perfect to encourage design thinking and inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs. We created our Marvel App Lesson Plan below to introduce you to this new entrepreneurial teaching tool.
It’s free for any/all entrepreneurship teachers, so you’re welcome to share it.
Incorporate Technology in Your Entrepreneurship Class
When used well, technology can transform your classroom into an experiential, fully-engaged experience for your students. If you’d like to learn more about the technologies we use in our entrepreneurship lesson plans, click to learn more. We hope that it supports the work you do in the classroom, and if you and your students enjoy, check out the full Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum (ExEC).
If you’d like more lesson plans like this, subscribe here to get the next one in your inbox.
Want More Engaging Exercises?
Creating Rigorous But Accessible Entrepreneurship Lesson Plans
Whether teaching Intro to Entrepreneurship at a community college, or Tech Entrepreneurship at Stanford, we know…
Experiential exercises are the key to engaging students.
In our continuing collaboration with Rebeca Hwang from Stanford, who introduced us to her Wish Game, we were excited by her invitation to share two of our lesson plans with her students.
Teaching at Stanford
Knowing that experiences are both the best to teach skills, we decided to introduce students to the difference between Inventors and Entrepreneurs with our award-winning Lottery Ticket Dilemma lesson plan. With our second lesson, we shifted our focus to customer interviews. We wanted students to walk away with a clear understanding of what questions they should, and more importantly, what questions they shouldn’t ask, during customer interviews.
Inventors Vs. Entrepreneurs
We chose to present this exercise because it creates a fun, experiential way for students to conceptualize customer behavior. They can also identify business opportunities, by demonstrating it’s not actually customer problems that drive behavior, but customer emotions.
After this game-based activity, students understand why some products are successful even if they don’t solve an obvious problem. This inspires them to identify non-problem based opportunities to leverage.
Customer Interviewing: Learning the Basics Through Gamification
We followed with another fun and interactive exercise designed to improve your students’ interviewing skills in just one lesson. During this class, students will identify what their problem interviewing goals should be and should not be. Those goals will point them to what questions they should and should not ask during customer interviews.
After the card game, we provided an interview script template to the students. They can use this script as the basis for any problem discovery interview they conduct. This robust script will increase the quality of their interviews, and their confidence in conducting them.
Students Love Engaging Entrepreneurship Classes
After our two lesson plans were concluded, one thing was very clear: students love to be engaged in the classroom. Here is a snapshot of some of our feedback:
We were delighted to get this real-time feedback from Stanford students. We believe in practicing what we preach and the opportunity to teach at Stanford allowed us to perform our own customer discovery interviews. The overall response was two-fold. The students:
Loved how engaging the lessons were
Appreciated learning a new, practical skill
Rigorous and Accessible Entrepreneurship Curriculum
But what excites us most about the work we do at TeachingEntrepreneurship.org is that these same exercises are accessible and loved by a wide range of students and university professors like. You can find our curriculum in:
Teaching entrepreneurship online is daunting. In addition to the technical challenges, teaching entrepreneurship online comes with extra questions like:
How do you make online classes experiential?
How do you keep virtual students engaged?
How do create connections between you and your students?
And most importantly…
How to can you teach entrepreneurial skills online?
Introducing ExEC Online
Over the last 5 years, we’ve worked hard to produce the best available experiential entrepreneurship curriculum possible. During that time, we’ve had a laser focus on in-person classes. Over the same time period…
We’ve seen an increasing number of our instructors being asked to teach entrepreneurship online.
Our ExEC Online students are launching companies, running experiments, testing their hypotheses and interviewing customers – everything they do in our in-person ExEC classes!
But that’s not even the best part. Based on what we’ve seen so far…
ExEC online could enable you to spend less time prepping, and more time coaching and mentoring individual students, which means your online classes could potentially be, more impactful than your in-person classes.
The combination of:
Automatically scheduled assignments
Pre-recorded video lessons
Online experiential exercises that integrate with your LMS and
…means you can significantly reduce your prep.
Imagine an experiential, skill-building, online entrepreneurship course, with 10% of the prep of a traditional class – and just as much impact.
When Will You Teach Online?
Looking at the flexibility online classes offer students, and the potential for growth they offer universities means, it looks like online classes will be the part of all of our futures’.
For example, below you can see close to 50% of all Oregon Public school students are taking online classes now – more than double the rate just 10 years ago.
Whether you’re already teaching online, or think it could be in your future, know that we’re developing and testing an online version of our award winning experiential curriculum, that you can use starting Fall 2020.
Curious about ExEC Online?
If you’re teaching entrepreneurship in an online, or hybrid, class in Fall or Spring of next year and are curious about our online experiments, let us know and we’ll show you what we’re up to:
ExEC Online Interest Form
Think, Pair, Share: More Engaging Class Discussions
Does getting your students to participate in class discussions feel like pulling teeth? Have you ever struggled leading a class discussion?
We’ve discussed before how to inspire the entrepreneurial mindset in your students but most of us struggle with engaging all of their students, especially during in-class discussions.
Some students are naturally involved in classroom discussions, while for others, the call for participation can lead to dropped gazes, hunched postures, and impenetrable silence. Why?
Students don’t feel safe.
We’ve all been in group situations where we’ve been called to participate and we are reluctant to share. Think about the last conference you attended, where the presenter asked for volunteers. Or the last meeting you attended where you were asked to share your thoughts.
Just like us, our students sometimes don’t feel confident that what they have to share will benefit the class or worry about how they will be perceived. When that happens, the glassy stares and stony faces of our students can leave us feeling frustrated and disheartened. Not only that, but without a game plan, a few disengaged students can hinder the engagement for our entire classroom.
With the Think, Pair, Share process, we’ll show you how to bypass what stops your students from participating and deepen their commitment to showing up 100% in your course. Specifically, we’ll help you flip the script on how you facilitate discussions, so students feel confident and safe participating in your discussion. This results in a livelier classroom.
3 Steps to Lively Class Discussions
An engaged discussion with your students starts with you as the instructor and how well you prepare to promote the exchange of diverse ideas. Imagine you want to have a discussion where students come up with a business to start on campus or to discuss last night’s reading.
If you start off your discussion with a generic question about the main takeaway from the reading, you’ll likely have your usual suspects raise their hands to share their thoughts. The rest of your class may keep their heads down hoping you won’t call on them. Instead of just jumping into a group discussion, try this 3-step process and see how it improves the engagement of your entire class.
Step 1: Think
Rather than announcing that you’d like your class to discuss a topic, you’ll start by telling your students you’d like them to reflect on what they read last night. For example, ask them to come up with 1-2 takeaways from last night’s reading and write them down. Tell them you will give them 1-2 minutes to think about this.
Tell the students they are going to have a specified amount of time to reflect on the topic for discussion and encourage them to write down their thoughts.
It’s important to keep this reflection time quiet and discourage any conversation so each student has a chance to reflect on their own.
Step 2: Pair
Once you’ve given the students adequate time to reflect and organize their thoughts on the topic, connect them with a partner give them 2-3 minutes each to share their thoughts.
The Pair step is fundamental to the process’ success because:
Sharing with a partner is less intimidating than speaking in front of the entire class.
It gives the students practice putting their ideas into words and clarify their thoughts.
It gives the students validation as they discover what they have to say is well-received and makes sense to someone else.
(BONUS) As soon as you’ve created your pairs, you’ll notice that your entire class is instantly engaged.
Make sure the students understand how much time each of them will have to share their ideas and remind them to switch roles halfway through.
Step 3: Share
Now that your students have finished with their partner, it’s time for the main event. In this step, you’ll find that your students feel safer participating with the entire class because they’ve practiced sharing their thoughts which were validated by their partner. In addition to sharing their own ideas, they may be inspired to share their partner’s thoughts.
Invite the students to share their thoughts on the subject with the entire class. There are a few sharing options that you can utilize, depending on what feels right for you and the energy of your class:
Ask them to raise their hands to share their thoughts
Invite them to spontaneously shout out their thoughts, sometimes with leading questions (à la popcorn style)
A sharing option for one class may not work for another. It’s important to practice different sharing options to find what will work best for a specific class.
Because students are given space to ease into discussions with this process, you’ll find that the majority of your students will begin to participate easily and quickly.
Through these steps, students will gain clarity and confidence in expressing their ideas on any given topic. Use this technique not just for discussion-leading, but for:
Coming up with business ideas
Brainstorming solutions for problems
Discussing why some solutions fail and some don’t
Anytime you want your students to share thoughts, use Think, Pair, Share to boost student engagement.
This will also help them prepare for speaking and presenting beyond the classroom and into a workplace setting.
As the instructor, you’ll get more engaged students and lively classroom discussions.
Get the “Think, Pair, Share” Worksheet
We’ve created a detailed “Think, Pair, Share” worksheet. This exercise walks you through the process of facilitating a successful group discussion step-by-step and gives you the tools to assess and evaluate what works well for any particular class.
It’s free for any/all entrepreneurship teachers, so you’re welcome to share it.
We’ve incorporated Think, Pair, Share into several of the exercises that are in our fully experiential curriculum. If you’d like to see how Think, Pair, Share is leveraged in a structured lesson, click to learn more.
One of our founders, Doan Winkel, became President-Elect of USASBE. We look forward to his leadership of this great organization.
In addition to our annual happy hour, we hosted our first-ever Innovator’s dinner.
This definitely was our favorite conference yet. USASBE gives us a space to share and learn. We came away from the conference reinvigorated to continue improving our product to provide you and your students even more value.
This year we:
Hosted our annual happy hour and first Innovator’s dinner
Ran six sessions, featuring experiential entrepreneurship exercises from our ExEC curriculum
And the pièce de résistance…
We won the Excellence in Entrepreneurial Exercises (3E) competition again!
Winning this award has validated we are on the right track when it comes to creating truly innovative entrepreneurship programs.
After winning the 3E competition, we were delighted to join our fellow educators at the USASBE Gala.
Thanks to your engagement in our events, we had a fantastic conversation that covered:
what we wish for our students and entrepreneurship education as a whole,
what we wish for ourselves as entrepreneurship educators,
the barriers to creating engaging curriculum
how to make entrepreneurial skills accessible to all students
We had a wonderful time hosting happy hour as well as our inaugural Innovator’s dinner on Friday night. It was wonderful connect with other educator’s with an aligned vision and we enjoyed demoing our financial simulator:
As always, thank you for supporting us, challenging us, and for sharing our passion for engaging students everywhere.
New Orleans was an amazing host, but we’re already planning for next year’s USASBE conference in Los Angeles. We hope you join us!
Our team is busy getting ready for the USASBE conference in New Orleans, Louisiana. The conference gives space for entrepreneurship educators to come together to share innovative research and experiential ideas for teaching entrepreneurship.
Eat & Drink with Us
Enjoy great food and drink
Connect with like-minded professionals
Get inspired with thought-provoking conversation
See Our Lesson Plans in Action
We’re leading 6 talks this year during the conference:
This exercise was borrowed from faculty at Stanford University and developed into the foundation of an MBA Entrepreneurship course to teach entrepreneurship skills by classmates iteratively delivering wishes for each other. This exercise is a powerful path to students learning entrepreneurial skills like ideation, customer interviewing, prototyping, selling, and mobilizing resources, all in the context of creating memorable experiences for their fellow classmates.
The 60 Minute MVP is an intense and exciting exercise that teaches critical aspects of the entrepreneurial mindset and lean start-up methodology, namely the iterative process of hypothesis testing through the creation of minimum viable products (MVPs). In 60 minutes, with no prior technical expertise, students work in teams to design a landing page, create an explainer video, and set up a way to measure pre-launch demand from prospective customers by accepting pre-orders or email addresses.
There are not enough female students in entrepreneurship and innovation programs and career paths. This expose will introduce a proven program that successfully addresses this inequity: a series of college-student driven events targeting the entrepreneurial confidence, vulnerability, and action of high school students (particularly female students). Participants will learn the framework for how these high-impact events can be developed and delivered in any university setting and scaled to a city-wide event, and to intensive summer camps and overnight retreats.
This is a fun, interactive exercise will demonstrate to students: What their problem interviewing goals should be and should not be, and based on those goals; What questions they should and should not ask during customer interviews; Educators follow up the card game by giving students an interview script template they can use as the basis for their problem discovery interviews. After students experience this exercise, they will have a robust customer interview script they can use to increase the quality of their interviews, and their confidence in conducting them.
This exercise provides a fun, experiential way for students to conceptualize customer behavior, and identify business opportunities, by demonstrating it’s not actually customer problems that drive behavior, it’s customer emotions. After this game-based activity, students understand why some products are successful even if they don’t solve an obvious problem, and how to leverage that fact to identify non-problem based opportunities. Attendees to this session will get to experience the lesson themselves, and leave with a lesson plan they can use to integrate this exercise in their classes.
This exercise helps students understand the value of their entrepreneurship classes, even if they never envision themselves becoming an entrepreneur, helping them engage with the class from the first day. The exercise starts with students sharing their fears and curiosities about life after college in a fun and engaging way. After this exercise, students will understand the value of what they are about to learn in their entrepreneurship course, regardless of their relationship to entrepreneurship.