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How AI Thinks: The Birds and Bees of AI Answers

How AI Thinks: The Birds and Bees of AI Answers

For your students to be able to take advantage of full AI . . .
Students need to understand how AI works.

Lesson Plan: Birds & Bees of AI

Watch the video above to learn how to teach students:
  • Where AI answers come from
  • The difference between Google search and ChatGPT
  • When to use AI and when to avoid it
You can also get the lesson plan and slides below.

Step 1: A brand new language for AI answers

Tell your students they are going to learn a brand new language the same way AI learns new things.

Show them a list of words and their job is to figure out

  • Which words refer to birds
  • Which words refers to cats and
  • Which words refer to neither

Present this list of words to your students and ask which ones are the bird words.

Birds and bees exercise to understand how AI learns a new language

You’ll sit in awkward silence and be met with blank stares.

After a few moments, acknowledge your students have no clue which ones are the bird words. Explain this is exactly how AI answers start out.

Everything these AIs learn they’ve had to be trained on.

Before your students can answer the “bird word” question, they need training data.

Give them some bird words and ask them to observe what’s happening in their brain as you show these bird words.

  • Show the first bird word in this new language: Briz.
  • Show the second bird word: Buitle.
  • Show the third bird word: Bast.

Ask your students what the last bird word is. Tell them to write it down but don’t say it out loud, that you will count them down and all of them can shout it at once.

Count down 3 . . . 2 . . . 1 . . . GO! and your students will likely all shout “BEOL!”

Exercise demonstrating how AIs identify patterns in wordsStep 2: AI answers through pattern recognition

Explain the way their brain works to identify an answer is the same way AI answers a question.

Your students started making connections and seeing patterns as soon as you showed them the second or third word. They could understand you were giving them the words that start with B.

Tell your students they recognized the pattern, which is exactly how we train AIs. 

Tell your students you’re moving on to the cat words, and same as with the bird words, you will show them a couple words and then you’ll count them down to tell you the last cat word.

Give them some cat words and ask them to observe what’s happening in their brain as you show these cat words.

  • Show the first cat word in this new language: Schluggat.
  • Show the second cat word: Fissat.

Count your students down to yell the third cat word 3 . . . 2 . . . 1 . . . GO! and your students will likely yell a variety of answers.

Many students will say “Lerat.”

This answer makes sense because it ends with “at” just like “cat” and the first two cat words.

This is incorrect, because they don’t take the time to think through all the patterns you’ve given them.

It turns out AIs can be overly aggressive in pattern matching just like students who pick Lerat.

Step 3: Training data for accurate AI answers

Use the following story to highlight that an AI is only as good as its training data. If the AI doesn’t have enough training data it can can make incorrect assumptions, and if it has biased or incorrect training data, it can produce erroneous results. The point to drive home is that training data is of utmost importance.

The story is about AI researchers who were trying to train AI to detect malignant moles from images. They used a lot of images of moles to train the AI, and the AI came up with an astounding conclusion:

Rulers cause cancer.

The AI learned that any picture with a ruler in it also contained a malignant mole. So it concluded that rulers caused cancer. What happened is the AI researchers trained the tool on a number of pictures of people’s benign moles that didn’t have rulers in them, but the malignant moles did have rulers in them to indicate the size of the mole.

The AI got overly aggressive and thought anytime it sees a ruler the mole must be cancerous.

Back to the cat words.

Tell students that Lorat is not the right cat word, and ask them to shout out what is the last cat word in 3 . . . 2 . . . 1 . . . and they will shout “WRATT!”

How AIs learn language

Highlight the pattern of double letters that ends with an “at” sound.

Tell students they now have all the information they need to be an AI after these two training exercises.

Step 4: A brand new word!

As a new AI, you want them to use the patterns they learned so far to generate a brand new word that means “flying cat.”

Turning students into AIs by training to recognize patterns

Give your students about 30 seconds, and tell them you’ll count down for them to shout their answer. Count them down from 3, and you’ll hear some words that start with “B” and have double letters and end with an “at” sound. 

This is what you want because they are using their training to combine the attributes of bird and cat words. Talk about some of the words they’re sharing and how they made incorrect assumptions and/or produced erroneous results. 

For instance, maybe a student says “bat.” It does start with a “b” and end with an “at” sound, but it doesn’t have any double letters.

Maybe another student says “bullet.” It does start with a “b” and have double letters, but it does not end with an “at” sound.

This is how generative AIs work – they learn some patterns and combine them.

Step 5: Google answers vs. AI answers

Explain to your students this is the difference between these new AIs and something like Google. Google is basically a dictionary. It is a database of gathered information from around the web. So when they ask Google for that information, it searches for information on websites and creates a database of them.

When you ask Google for a definition, it retrieves information about that word and gives it to you.

The difference between Google and generative AI like ChatGPT

Now explain the difference of generative AI answers.

ChatGPT works from information it’s gathered across the web, but it’s not a dictionary.

Tell your students to think of a generative AI like ChatGPT like an incredible Lego builder. The Legos are not individual facts, but are patterns it observed. The AI builds a database of these patterns, and uses those patterns to generate brand new content that has never before been created.

As new generative AIs, your students never saw a word that means “flying cat” but they do know:

  • Things that fly are birds, and bird words start with a “b”
  • A cat word needs to contain double letters and end with an “at” sound

Tell them to combine these patterns and generate a brand new word from them.

For fun, give students 30 seconds to create a new word by combining these patterns. As they share, have fun celebrating their ability to use pattern recognition to create something the world has never known before.

Get the “The Birds & Bees of AI” Lesson Plan

We’ve created a detailed lesson plan for the “The Birds & Bees of AI: Where Do Answers Come From?” exercise to walk you and your students through the process step-by-step.

Get the Lesson Plan

 

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

 


Coming Soon…

In upcoming posts, we will be sharing more engaging AI exercises like this one!

Subscribe here to get lesson plans delivered in your inbox.

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

 

AI Interviewing Simulator

AI Interviewing Simulator

Students are reporting more social anxiety than ever.

This Fall, there’s a tool that can help…

New: AI Interviewing Simulator

The key to helping students feel more comfortable interviewing customers is practice.

The new AI Interviewing Simulator helps students practice their interviewing skills as many times as they need to.

Here’s how it works:


Step 1: Students describe a customer they want to interview…

Step 2: They ask interview questions out loud…

Step 3: The AI verbally responds to them…

(Bonus) Step 4: After asking all of their questions, the students get feedback on how how to improve their interviews…

Watch the Full AI Interviewing Simulator Demo

AI Interviewing Simulator for Entrepreneurship Educators


2 Ways Your Students Can Use the AI Interviewing Simulator

Option #1

Use the Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum

ExEC provides 30+ engaging lessons you can use inside and outside your class.

Now ExEC includes the AI Interviewing Simulator, at no additional charge.


Option #2

Use just the ExEC Customer Interviewing Module

You can now integrate ExEC’s customer interviewing lessons into your course without having to adopt the entire curriculum. You’ll get exercises to teach:

  • Who to interview
  • What to ask during an interview
  • How to analyze interviews
  • And of course, your students will get full access to the new AI Interview simulator

All without you having to redesign your course.

Your students will get access to everything in ExEC, for life, and for less than the cost of a textbook.


Click Here to Chat About Either Option

Since so many students are experiencing social anxiety and are reluctant to talk to customers, we’re super excited about this new approach!


What’s Next?

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

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

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

Recordings, Slides & Lessons from USASBE

Recordings, Slides & Lessons from USASBE

Wow, USASBE was amazing this year!

Below you’ll find the slides, lesson plans, and where available, recordings from our presentations.

But first, we wanted to say thank you for such a fantastic conference and share some of our highlights:

HAPPY HOUR MILKSHAKES

Milkshakes at USASBE

MEETING SUMMIT FACILITATORS (IN REAL LIFE)

Twice a year we host the Teaching Entrepreneurship Summit showcasing the best entrepreneurship exercises we can find, and we couldn’t do it without an outstanding cohort of facilitators.

Teaching Entrepreneurship facilitators at USASBE

Renee Just, Kelly Reardon-Sleicher, and Krystal Geyer (left to right) are some of our best and most devoted facilitators. It was wonderful meeting them in person (and seeing the real-world “backpack” Kelly created for Krystal based on their Backpack Design Challenge experience)!

DOAN NAMED A JUSTIN G. LONGENECKER FELLOW

This award gives special recognition to the people whose outstanding passion for entrepreneurship is reflected in their teaching, writing, research, training, and public service.

Doan Winkel named a Longenecker Fellow at USASBE

Doan is one of only 85 people to be selected as a Longenecker Fellow over the last 36 years and we can’t thank him enough for his contribution to entrepreneurship education.

MAKING THE 3E PODIUM

This year’s exercises were the best we’d ever seen at USASBE.

Federico Mammano, Justin Wilcox, Doan Winkel - 3E Podium 2023

Considering the level of competition among the Entrepreneurship Experiential Exercises (3E), we were ecstatic, and honored, that the Financial Modeling Showdown got recognized!

This continues our streak:

FEDERICO BOWLING FOR THE FIRST TIME

Bowling at USASBE
                  That face says it all 🙂

Overall, we came away from the conference reinvigorated and recommitted to providing the best entrepreneurship education resources we can!

Speaking of which, here are all of our resources from USASBE:

SLIDES, LESSON PLANS, AND RECORDINGS

TeachingEntrepreneurship.org logo +

Get Slides, Lesson Plans, and Exercises

Includes resources from all 5 of our sessions:

  1. Marketing MVPs: Testing Demand on Social Media
  2. Making Finance Fun: The Financial Modeling Showdown
  3. Revenue Model Card Game
  4. Backpack Design Challenge: Intro to Design Thinking
  5. What is Your “F” Problem?

Just enter your email in the box above.

What’s Next?

In upcoming posts, we will share lesson plans, quick slides, and a variety of other resources to keep your students engaged!

Subscribe here to get our next classroom resource in your inbox.

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

Inspirational Videos: Steve Jobs

Inspirational Videos: Steve Jobs

Has a guest speaker ever said something to your class you had already taught, but your students seemed to believe it more from them?

It’s not because students don’t listen. It’s because when an outsider reinforces something we say, it feels more important.

This is one of the reasons guest speakers are great, but they can be hard to schedule for every lesson. So for any lesson you really want to drive home, you can try using a video as a validating external voice.

Here are some videos of Steve Jobs that you can use in conjunction with lessons on growth mindset, marketing, and pricing:

“If you’re afraid of failing, you won’t get very far.”

This is a fantastic video to reinforce the Failure Resume lesson. This exercise is a favorite among students and helps them develop growth mindset skills, especially when they’re endorsed by someone like Steve Jobs.

Get the Failure Resume

The Crazy Ones

This video, where Steve talks about why the best ads barely talk about the product at all, is a great compliment to the Lottery Ticket Dilemma. This lesson helps students understand the persuasive power of emotions and was the winner of USASBE’s 3E competition.

Get the Lottery Ticket Dilemma

A Pricing Masterclass

This video is an amazing example of Steve’s reality distortion field. Your students can see him convince a crowd that the iPad (a larger but less capable iPhone) was a steal at 250% the price of an iPhone because…it’s more like a laptop than a phone?!

You can use this video in conjunction with the Financial Modeling Showdown to demonstrate that the optimal price of a product isn’t determined by its cost of goods sold, it’s determined by what customers are willing to pay for it.

Get the Financial Modeling Showdown


What’s Next?

In upcoming posts, we will share lesson plans, quick slides, and a variety of other resources to keep your students engaged!

Subscribe here to get our next classroom resource in your inbox.

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

Delight Your Students This Fall

Delight Your Students This Fall

Gift your students an unforgettable experience this Fall!

With better team engagement . . .

With quick video submissions . . .

With a simplified LMS implementation . . .

ExEC delivers an engaging, structured course for any teaching format that faculty at nearly 200 colleges and universities have been using for years. For more details on using this award-winning curriculum this Fall, request a full preview today!

Preview ExEC Now

Here is how ExEC will WOW! you and your students.

Easy Team Collaboration

We have updated our platform to allow team collaboration with literally a few clicks.

Students complete exercises within our curriculum and then with a few clicks can invite other students to collaborate on that particular exercise. See this in action below:

For instance, many of our students work on a Business Model Canvas. They get frustrated sharing paper copies, or emailing ideas, or struggling with a clunky Google doc version.

Collaborating should be productive, not frustrating.

With ExEC, students easily collaborate on one Canvas, in real time, within the platform.

Quick Video Submission

Video submissions are a great way for students to meaningfully reflect on their experience. This reflective approach encourages students to improve and learn from their mistakes. Video submissions have been a juggling act of multiple tools like iPhones, Zoom, and Google Drive.

Until now!

In our new video submission process students record their reflection with the click of a button, and instantly get a link to the video they can turn in. With our next iteration of ExEC:

We leverage technology to keep the focus on the learning experience.

The student experience is not all we have improved!

New LMS Generator

With ExEC’s LMS integration, preparing your class is easy. Give us the first and last day of class, any holidays, what LMS you use, what days of the week classes happen, and the length of class sessions.

Our technology builds an LMS package specific to your course so all you do is upload it and your course is ready to go.

With ExEC, spend your time diving into detailed lesson plans, not tinkering with the LMS

ExEC Integrates with all LMS

Engage Students

Students want simple, interactive experiences.

Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum (ExEC) is a cohesive toolset of structured activities that will build students’ entrepreneurial skills. For example:

Try ExEC this Fall and transform your and your students’ experience.

Preview ExEC Now


What’s Next?

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

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

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

ExEC Can Be Your Fall Curriculum

ExEC Can Be Your Fall Curriculum

Fall will be here before you know it!

Do you want students engaged from day one?

Do you want a simplified grading process?

Do you want award-winning detailed lesson plans?

Whether you will teach:

  • In-person
  • Online synchronous
  • Online asynchronous
  • Hybrid

ExEC delivers an engaging and structured course that faculty at nearly 200 colleges and universities have been using for years. For more details on using ExEC this Fall, request a full preview today!

Preview ExEC Now

Here is what ExEC can do for you and your students.

Engage Students

Students want you to replace your lectures with interactive experiences.

Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum (ExEC) is a cohesive toolset of structured activities that will build students’ entrepreneurial skills. For example:

Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum Organization

Easily Deliver a Consistent Experience

Students enjoy a consistent and structured learning experience.

ExEC is a fully experiential and extremely well-organized curriculum for any class structure – 8, 10, 12, or 16 weeks, quarter system or accelerated MBA schedule.

You get a well-organized schedule of topics that guide students to:

problems and solutions

Preview ExEC Now

Get The Tools To Enjoy Your Experience

ExEC makes planning and grading faster, so you can spend your time guiding your students. You get dozens of extremely detailed lesson plans to minimize your prep time!

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

ExEC Integrates with all LMS

Preview ExEC Now

Use a Curriculum So Students Enjoy Their Experience

ExEC uses fully integrated, objective rubrics that make grading a snap and provide students valuable feedback to improve their skill development.

objective rubric

For your students, ExEC provides elegant, graphically pleasing slides for every class session to maximize engagement.

what is an mvp?

 

Give Your Students Engagement, Quality, and Structure

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

Try ExEC this Fall and transform your and your students’ experience.

Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum Logo


What’s Next?

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

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

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

Videos to Improve Student Presentations

Videos to Improve Student Presentations

If students can get their audience to feel something, their chance of “success” rises dramatically.
We’ve all been there. Two students stand on one side of the screen, two students stand on the other. One student talks to the screen while the others fidget nervously until it’s their turn to stumble through what they couldn’t quite memorize.

Student presentations are painful. For them. For us. For judges.

Use the videos below to teach your students to deliver presentations that make their audience feel something.

Option 1: Make The Audience Feel Something About Themselves

Students often jump right into describing or selling the product/service.

This is the classic pitch mistake.

Students need to know their audience – their goals, their values, their struggles. The more they know about their audience, the easier it will be for them to bring the audience’s point of view to theirs. In the video below, Dallas Mavericks owner, and Shark Tank billionaire Mark Cuban shares how he sold Mavericks tickets when they were the worst team in the NBA.

Presentation hack to pitch from your audience's perspective

Mark is not selling the basketball game. He is selling the feeling parents have when they create family memories at the basketball game.

Mark understand that his customers (parents) want to create memories with their children. And more importantly, the kind of memories the parents have with their parents. He convinces customers that a Mavericks game experience creates those lasting memories. Mark makes an emotional appeal to his audience’s nostalgia so they will feel something about themselves and buy his product.

Option 2: Make The Audience Feel Something About You

If your students want people involved, they can open up about themselves and weave their personal story into their presentation. If they are vulnerable, their audience begins to feel something.

This approach is about students finding something that is true about them that may also be true about their audience.

In the Shark Tank pitch below, a founder (Phil Lapuz) gets sharks tearing up tearing up – including Kevin O’Leary, who is the definition of a robotic investor!

Phil is vulnerable and authentic. He uses his own story to remind the sharks about the risks of starting a new company, something that each shark undoubtedly remembers and feels very intensely.

Help your students appeal to their audience’s emotions by:

  • Being vulnerable, and authentic
  • Identifying their audience’s values – what matters to them
  • Specifically link their product/service to those values

The audience is immediately compelled to act because they remember, they feel, and they believe. They empathize with the person pitching and with the product/service. Phil makes the sharks feel something about him so they will invest in his startup.

Option 3: Make The Audience Feel With You

Amy Cuddy’s video below is about imposter’s syndrome, which she felt and which many in the audience undoubtedly felt at one time or another. They feel Amy’s fear and angst. Because they remember, and feel, their fear and angst.

People clap during Amy’s talk, because they are celebrating her and what she is offering another young woman experiencing imposter syndrome. But they are also clapping because they recognize something in themselves.

Amy doesn’t just make her audience feel something about themselves.

She doesn’t just make her audience feel something about her.

She makes her audience feel with her. And in that moment, they will go wherever she wants to take them!


If students default to their normal Powerpoint presentation technique, the audience defaults to processing language. All their effort is spent decoding words into meaning, instead of feeling. Share these videos with your students to help them understand that great presentations make audiences feel something.


What’s Next?

In upcoming posts, we will share lesson plans, quick slides, and a variety of other resources to keep your students engaged!

Subscribe here to get our next classroom resource in your inbox.

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

How to Grow a Top 50 Entrepreneurship Program

How to Grow a Top 50 Entrepreneurship Program

When Dennis Barber III joined East Carolina University’s entrepreneurship program 5 years ago, there wasn’t much of a program to speak of:

  • No entrepreneurship major
  • Low class enrollment
  • Little entrepreneurial brand recognition

Fast forward to today and ECU not only has an entrepreneurship major, they’ve:

  • Tripled their entrepreneurship enrollment
  • Won USASBE’s Model Emerging Program
  • Won GCEC’s Emerging Centers award
  • And made Princeton Review’s list of Top 50 Entrepreneurship Schools

Princeton Review Top 50 Entrepreneurship Programs

So how did Dennis and his colleagues – Michael Harris, Director of the Miller School of Entrepreneurship, David Mayo, and Corey Pulido – grow their entrepreneurship program so quickly? And more generally…

How do Top 50 entrepreneurship schools get on, and stay on, that list?

To find out, we interviewed the leaders of several Top 50 programs so we could share their techniques with you.

Who We Interviewed

Top entrepreneurship programsBelow you’ll find a summary of what we learned during our interviews, as well as…

5 concrete steps you can take to grow your entrepreneurship program.

Step #1: Define Your Niche

Most of the successful entrepreneurship programs we interviewed did two things early on to spark their growth:

  1. They intentionally started small and
  2. They specialized in an area of entrepreneurship that leveraged their local community and institutional culture

For instance, Iowa State University leaned into agricultural entrepreneurship, and East Carolina University specialized in the needs of eastern North Carolina. Studying your local ecosystem by identifying the largest industries, companies, and communities will help you define your niche. Additionally, you can look at your local Convention and Visitors’ Bureau, or similar entity, to see how they are marketing your community.

Defining your entrepreneurial niche is important because it will help your program stand out in a sea of other academic programs, not to mention accelerators, incubators and community-based organizations. Narrowing in on a small group of students you can serve extremely well as your program is still growing will increase the success rate of your program, which you can highlight as case studies to create a positive feedback loop that grows your program.

As David Townsend from Virginia Tech University said,

“Let it grow where the soil is fertile.”

So if your local community has a large Latinx population, consider specializing in Latinx entrepreneurship. Or if your entrepreneurship program has a number of instructors who are veterans, consider developing programs that specialize in veterans entrepreneurship.

Over time, you’ll be able to grow and broaden the scope of your program, but when you’re starting out, do like the most successful programs have done and ensure that you can provide a fantastic opportunity for a small set of entrepreneurs in your community. Then, highlight their successes to help fuel your program’s growth.

Note: This is our first article in a series dedicated to growing entrepreneurship programs. We’d love your input on which article we should write next.

If you want more details on this specific step (i.e. how to define your entrepreneurial program’s niche and create programs specific to it) please vote here and we’ll expand the overview above into a full article and checklist.

Step #2: Name Your Champions

The Top 50 programs we talked to overwhelming stressed the importance of identifying people on your growth team to fulfill these three roles:

  1. Administrative Champion: A Dean, Vice-President, Provost, President, etc. who has been at your school for some time and has excellent relationships with faculty, staff, and the ability to get buy-in for creating new programs.
  2. Faculty Champion: Preferably a tenured faculty member who can drive the implementation of your new academic and extracurricular programming.
  3. Data Collector: Someone to aggregate program metrics, testimonials, and success stories.

Note: the same person can fulfill multiple roles, you just need to make sure you’ve got someone owning all three levels of responsibility.

Champions are people who can help you launch your efforts by providing critical feedback, opening doors, and giving their resources. Many of the programs we interviewed mentioned specifically having two campus champions – one a tenured faculty member, and the other an administrator (Dean, Vice-President / Provost, President). With respected champions who can reach across campus, program growth has a clear path for growth. They also recommend giving the faculty champions a meaningful title and a commitment of time and support to help them help your entrepreneurship program.

Another potential benefit to identifying champions is that they sometimes rise into leadership positions at the university (Dean, Vice-President / Provost, President) and can provide ongoing support and visibility for your program from the top down.

Jamey Darnell from Penn State University mentioned that working towards getting ranked as a top entrepreneurship school is a great way to get administration excited, and achieving rankings is a great way to keep them excited.

In addition to stressing how important campus champions were to building their program, the leaders we interviewed all spoke about the importance of a data collector: someone to capture their efforts and successes and report them as part of the Princeton Review rankings process. As with your champions, consider providing this person (ideally a faculty member) with a title and a small monetary stipend to emphasize the importance of the role and ensure they have time to complete it. In addition, make sure other people on campus know who this person is – put out a press release, introduce the data collector at campus meetings and events, etc. This person will interface with faculty, students, and administrators, so letting your campus know who they are and what they’re doing enables them to collect more stories and data.

Finally, as Dr. Susan Fiorito, Dean of the Jim Moran College of Entrepreneurship at Florida State University stressed, all of your faculty, staff, and champions need to feel enabled as leaders of your entrepreneurship program. When everyone feels ownership, everyone delivers.

If you’d like us to write a more detailed article about how to identify and empower your entrepreneurial champions, please click here.

Step #3: Start a Fellows Program

Every program we talked to emphasized the importance of early cross-campus collaboration. Creating these connections will help you accomplish two things:

  1. Get buy-in from a wide range of tenured faculty which helps establish academic legitimacy.
  2. Grow your program by embedding entrepreneurship across the curriculum which introduces it to more students.

To do this, you want to build a cohort of entrepreneurial ambassadors across campus. As Tom Swartwood at Iowa State University recommended, you want to:

“Deputize people around campus.”

Jamey at Penn State University found that having a cross-disciplinary program leads directly to growth because they get to meet students wherever they are: at a law school, at an incubator, etc. For the same reason, Susan Fiorito at Florida State University recommends developing a diversity of courses and programs to reach as far across campus as possible.

The most effective mechanism we heard for building cross-campus collaboration was through an “entrepreneurship Fellows” program. In a Fellows program, you pay non-entrepreneurship faculty a small stipend to bring entrepreneurship into their curriculum. For example, you might pay 4 or 5 faculty in different disciplines a few thousand dollars to each develop a course that focuses on entrepreneurship in their respective discipline.  Judi Eyles at Iowa State attributed much of the entrepreneurship program’s success to spending a little money early on to “turn faculty into ambassadors.”

You guide the Fellows through learning about entrepreneurship in the context of your university (and your niche), and collaboratively develop ideas for how to introduce it into their curriculum. You will also want to include faculty involved with your curriculum approval process in your Fellows program, which will help smooth the course approval process when you get to that stage.

Each year, add more Fellows to your program (both senior faculty and new faculty), in new disciplines, while former Fellows serve as mentors. You can thereby build a rich and diverse community of entrepreneurship champions across campus.

The big payoff from an investment in a Fellows program comes in two forms:

  1. Cultivating entrepreneurship educators across many disciplines creates a rich fabric of entrepreneurial courses, which increases interest in entrepreneurial minors, and majors.
  2. Student entrepreneurs get a diverse range of experiences and perspectives, which increase the quality of their experiences and their outcomes as future entrepreneurs.

If you’d like us to write a detailed guide on how to create a fellows program, please click here.

Step #4: Map Your Ecosystem

Ecosystem maps will help you understand the relationships between the people and assets that contribute to creating amazing student experiences. Building an ecosystem map specifically provides two benefits:

  1. You identify the people who support entrepreneurship (so you can empower them) and those who do not support it yet (so you can interview them to understand their perspective and work to bring them onboard)
  2. During your research, you plant the seeds from which your entrepreneurship program will grow. As you map your ecosystem, you talk to faculty, staff, students, and alumni about your vision and goals for your program. When it is time to make an ask, these stakeholders understand what you’re doing and why.

The leaders we interviewed mentioned the following as critical components to include in your ecosystem map:

  • ​​The faculty and staff who collectively create your student experience.
  • The practices they perform – the services or value they deliver to students.
  • The information they require, use, or share to contribute to their parts of the university.
  • The people, systems, faculty, and staff they interact with to be successful in their roles.
  • The channels through which they communicate – e.g., email, campus newsletter, campus forums.

For a demo on how to start outlining the key players in your ecosystem, check out this great video by Meg Weber from Western Washington University:

Want more details on how to build and leverage an ecosystem map? Click here and we’ll expand this into a full guide.

Step #5: Connect Your FACS

After you’ve identified your niche, champions, Fellows, and ecosystem members, you’re ready to take the final step that separates the Top 50 entrepreneurship programs from the rest…

Connect your constituencies to accelerate growth.

Successful entrepreneurship programs are intentional about connecting their “FACS”:

  • Faculty
  • Alumni
  • Community
  • Students

Each of these groups complements the others, and together, creates the fuel for program growth. For example, you want to make sure you’re actively promoting programs connecting:

  • Faculty to Alumni – Great for finding guest speakers, internships for students, publicizing your programs’ success stories, and soliciting donations.
  • Faculty to Community – Great for getting pitch competition judges, finding inspiration for class projects, highlighting student success stories, and soliciting donations.
  • Students to Alumni – Great for mentorships, jobs, and potential investments.
  • Students to Community – Great for mentorships, jobs, and inspiring class projects.

As Judi Eyles at Iowa State University mentioned, “you need to make it easy for the outside world to connect with your students and faculty by giving them a portal to connect.” Intentionally building relationships with students will help you keep in touch with them as they transition to alums, and enable you to extend relationships with them and their growing network.

Creating relationships with alumni and community members will provide the “reality” your students yearn for as they wonder how to apply what they’re learning in the classroom. Alumni will also create opportunities for students – through job shadowing, internships, seed funding, adjunct instructors, and the list goes on.

In short…

Does your entrepreneurship program offer your alumni and community members multiple opportunities to contribute their time, expertise, and/or money to help your program grow?

If not, you may be able to accelerate your program’s growth by connecting your “FACS.”

If you’d like us to write a detailed guide with specific ideas on how to connect your FACS, please click here.

Bonus Step #6: Focus on Skills

The top 50 entrepreneurship programs we interviewed had one more resounding practice in common:

They prioritized entrepreneurial skill development over “success stories.”

The programs we spoke with acknowledged that entrepreneurial success stories are fantastic to share to grow your community, but they can be few and far between. So instead of focusing exclusively on those, the programs emphasized the value for students of learning entrepreneurial skills, regardless of their perceived career path.

Universally applicable skills like design thinking, financial modeling, and business model validation turn today’s students into returning alumni who are looking to hire similarly skilled and innovative graduates.

If you’d to review the skill-based curriculum that 1 out of every 3 programs on Princeton Review’s Top 50 list use, check out our Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum.

Want More Growth Tips

We’re excited to explore these subjects in more depth so please let us know what topics we should dive into next!

We hope you’re able to try these strategies and that we get to feature your program in the future!


What’s Next?

In upcoming posts, we will share lesson plans, quick slides, and a variety of other resources to keep your students engaged!

Subscribe here to get our next classroom resource in your inbox.

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

Improve Student Evaluations With Lean Teaching

Improve Student Evaluations With Lean Teaching

What happens when we apply Lean Startup principles like “Build, Measure, Learn” to our own teaching?
Our team’s experience: Vastly increased engagement.
Lean Startup helps entrepreneurs shift from “build it and they will come” to “Build, Measure, Learn.” So we wanted to know what happens if we apply the same principles to our teaching? Are there benefits to a “Teach, Measure, Learn” loop?
Lean Teaching - Teach, Measure, Learn
We’ve seen huge benefits (higher student evals, increased enrollment, awards won, etc.), so we wanted to share our process with you.
If you’re looking to increase student engagement give “Teach, Measure, Learn” a shot.

Step 1: Pick a Lesson to Improve

Start small; don’t worry about changing your entire class. The easiest way to get started is by just picking the lesson you’re most excited to improve. How do you decide which one?

  • Which lesson is the least fun for you?
  • Which lesson is the least fun for your students?

Whichever lesson you pick, the most important thing is that you feel excited about improving it.

We recently used this process to test some improvements to our Financial projection Simulator.

Whether it’s the lessons we make freely available like the 60 Minute MVP) or the lessons in our comprehensive Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum, we test every exercise to explore ways to improve them.

Step 2: Ask a Friend to Sit In

The next step is to find an instructor whose teaching style you and/or your students really enjoy. How do you find them?

  • Ask your students who their favorite instructors are.
  • Are there are instructors at your institution who have won a teaching award (it could be at the College level, at the university level, or on a national level)? Ask around to identify them.
  • Do you have a colleague at another school whose teaching style you respect? As you’ll see, the person you ask to observe doesn’t need to be from your school!

Once you identify that instructor, ask them to sit in on the class session you want to improve. On the class day, tell your students this instructor is auditing the class session to see how it works. (you don’t want to bias your students by telling them you want to improve the lesson until after it is over).

Doan testing a new lesson plan as Justin observes remotely via Zoom.

Our TeachingEntrepreneurship.org team is fully distributed – I’m in San Francisco, Doan is in Ohio, and Federico is in Italy but with Zoom it’s easy for us to sit in on each other’s classes.

We usually have one camera in the back of the room so we can see the instructor and one camera in the front of the room (sometimes just a phone logged into Zoom) so we can see how students are responding to the lesson.

 

A camera at the front of the room makes it easy to see when students are engaged and when they are tuning out.

Don’t let location be a barrier to improving your teaching!

With Zoom and a little help from your IT team, you can literally get feedback from any instructor in the world on how to improve a lesson.

Step 3: What Feedback Do You Want?

Before you teach the lesson with your observer, think through what feedback you want. We all teach so differently, it will be important for the person providing you feedback to know the type of feedback you would like on the lesson. Some things we focus on:

  • Are students engaged during the entire lesson? When does energy drop; when do students start to look zoned out or pick up their phones?
  • Does the lesson have a successful “ah ha” moment? If not, how might you create one?
  • Are there any logistical questions that can be eliminated by better instructions (i.e., questions about how to do the exercise aren’t productive, but lessons about how to apply the principles are welcome)
  • Did students actively and eagerly participate in any discussions? If not, how might you improve the discussions?

Step 4: Ask for student feedback

There’s no better way to model to students how and why they should listen to their customers than when you ask for their feedback.

After teaching the lesson you want to improve, give your students an opportunity to provide anonymous feedback about it. For us, we use a slide like this

Slide to get student feedback

which links to a survey like this

Student feedback survey

All of the information is anonymous (unless students volunteer to give us their email address). We simply ask students to fill out the survey before they leave class.

Step 5: Integrate the Feedback

After the class session, talk with the person who sat in the class as they go through their notes. If the person is an experienced and awarded instructor, ask for tips and tricks for anything they notice. Even if they see something as engaging, positive or productive, ask for their ideas on how you can improve.

If there are points where they offer constructive criticism, or where they saw student engagement wane, ask for specific advice on tips and tricks to improve and combine that with the feedback you got from your students.

Results

By practicing what you preach to students in terms of continuous improvement, you’ll not only increase the quality of your lessons, you’ll also demonstrate to students that you care about them – both of which can lead to improved evaluations.

We use this technique for each of the exercises we release, including all of the lessons in the Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum (ExEC), and the insights we gain have a tremendous impact on quality.


What’s Next?

In upcoming posts, we will share exercises to engage your students.

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

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


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 NEW Marshmallow Challenge.Use this exercise to teach students why invalidated assumptions hinder all new initiatives, and are ultimately the downfall of most new companies.
  • Marketing MVPs. In this experiential exercise, students launch real ad campaigns on Facebook and Instagram to test demand for their MVPs
  • Pilot Your Purpose. This exercise helps students discover what they’re passionate about and see how learning entrepreneurial skills can turn that passion into their purpose.
  • 2021 Top Lesson Plans. Here is the list of our 2021 top entrepreneurship exercises and lesson plans based on feedback from our fast-growing community of thousands of entrepreneurship instructors.
  • “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!
The NEW Marshmallow Tower Challenge

The NEW Marshmallow Tower Challenge

This revised version of the Marshmallow Challenge is a really fun way to teach the importance of iteration, experimentation, and the value of failure.

Students completing the marshmallow challenge by building a tower with string spaghetti and tape free standing structure

This updated exercise will help your students learn:

  • Why hidden assumptions hinder entrepreneurs

  • How iteration and experimentation weed out hidden assumptions

  • Why business experiments replace business plans

Note: if you’re already familiar with the Marshmallow Challenge, here are the key updates in this version:

  • This exercise isn’t just about team building or ice-breaking; it’s an analogy for business model assumptions, experimentation, and iteration.
  • Teams build towers twice: once to discover that they make hidden assumptions and once to resolve them.
  • There is a minimum height requirement to ensure students push their limits (and reinforce the learning objectives).
  • As homework, students write a short reflection on the dangers of hidden assumptions and the benefits of fast experiments and iterations.

Step 1: The Set Up

Students work in teams of four to build the tallest tower they can using only the provided materials.

Marshmallow Challenge Setup

Step 2: Build, Launch (and Fail!)

With only 18 minutes to build their towers, teams often follow a similar construction timeline:

  • ~3 minutes: Figuring out who is in charge
  • ~10 minutes: Planning
  • ~4 minutes: Taping spaghetti together
  • ~1 minute: Putting their marshmallow on top
  • ~1 second: Watching the tower crumble under the (surprising) weight of the marshmallow

Marshmallow challenge failure

Be sure to strictly enforce the rules and not give students tips.

The point of this first iteration is for students to experience the failure that comes from not testing their assumptions

For example, students often assume:

  • Marshmallows are light
  • Uncooked spaghetti is rigid enough to hold up a marshmallow

Most of the time, students find out these assumptions are incorrect far too late into the exercise to do anything to correct them.

Finish this step of the lesson by asking students what assumptions they made that may have led to their failure. Then ask them, “Do you know who doesn’t make these kinds of assumptions?”

Step 3: Kindergartners

Tell students that this exercise has been completed by a wide range of people and the average tower height is 20 inches tall.

What’s most interesting is that some people consistently perform better. While business school students often struggle, there’s one group of students who do particularly well:

Kindergartners!

Then show a slide like this to your students:

Marshmallow challenge results

Why Do Kindergarteners Build Better?

First thing: let your students know it’s not their fault – there’s nothing inherently wrong with them. They just made the mistake that virtually every first-time entrepreneur makes:

“You made assumptions about the world that turned out to be wrong.”

In the entrepreneurial context, that typically means making assumptions about who your customers might be, how much they’d be willing to pay for your product, and how many of them there are.

In this case, assumptions about their building materials led to sub-optimal performance, but why would kindergartners be able to build better towers than they could?

Because kindergartners don’t make assumptions!

Kindergartners don’t know that marshmallows are supposed to be light and uncooked spaghetti is supposed to be rigid, so the first thing they do is stick the marshmallow on the spaghetti and see what happens.

In other words, kindergartners don’t know enough about the world to make assumptions so instead of “planning” they naturally spend their time experimenting and iterating.

Tell your students that whenever they’re doing something they’ve never done before (e.g., launching a new product), the best way forward is often to run quick experiments so they can discover the hidden assumptions they’re making.

Once they’ve discovered their hidden assumptions, they’re ready to test out different solutions, which leads us to . . .

Step 4: Iteration

Now that they’ve had a chance to discover their hidden assumptions it’s time to let students act like kindergarteners and iterate and try again!

Give your students another set of supplies and let them build again. When they’re finished, compare the results of their first and second iterations. Use this as an analogy for:

  1. Why serial entrepreneurs are often more successful than first-time entrepreneurs
  2. Why business plans are often replaced by business experiments (e.g., quick experiments lead to more, faster, and validated learning than business plans).

FSU students building a marshmallow tower with string spaghetti and tape free standing structure
Florida State University students in Ron Frazier’s class

Step 5: Reflection

After class, ask students to write up a reflection on the difference between writing business plans and running business experiments:

  • When would they want to use a business plan?
  • When would they want to use a business experiment?
  • Why?

What if Your Students Have Already Done It?

It’s not uncommon for students to have done a version of the Marshmallow Challenge in another class. That said, they likely did it as an ice breaker or team-building exercise – not with a focus on iteration and experimentation.

Ask any students who have done this previously to form their own team of “experienced builders.” This will enable you to reinforce the learning objectives no matter how tall their towers are:

  • If the experienced teams build successful towers, you can point to them as examples of the power of iteration (their previous iteration being the first time they did the exercise)
  • If the experienced teams do poorly, you can cite how important it is to keep practicing the power of iteration throughout our careers – it’s an easy lesson to forget!

Get the Updated Marshmallow Challenge Lesson Plan

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

Get the Lesson Plan

 

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


 

Attribution

The original version of the Marshmallow Challenge comes from Tom Wujec. Here are his original instructions and associated TED Talk.

A version similar to the original exercise was also published by Bradley George:

George, B. (2014). Marshmallow Tower. In H. Neck, P. Greene & C. Brush (Eds.), Teaching Entrepreneurship: Challenging the Mindset of Entrepreneurship Educators (p.125-130).  Northampton, MA: Edward F. Elgar Publishing.


What’s Next?

In upcoming posts, we will share more exercises to engage your students.

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

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


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:

  • Marketing MVPs. In this experiential exercise, students launch real ad campaigns on Facebook and Instagram to test demand for their MVPs
  • Pilot Your Purpose. This exercise helps students discover what they’re passionate about and see how learning entrepreneurial skills can turn that passion into their purpose.
  • 2021 Top Lesson Plans. Here is the list of our 2021 top entrepreneurship exercises and lesson plans based on feedback from our fast-growing community of thousands of entrepreneurship instructors.
  • “The best class I’ve taken!”  We all want a Dead Poets Society moment in our entrepreneurship class. One professor using the Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum got hers!
  • Teaching Customer Interviewing. This card and the online game is a powerful way to teach students the importance of customer interviewing, and the right questions to ask.