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3 Exercises to Start Your Course

3 Exercises to Start Your Course

Each semester we ask the thousands of students using our Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum a few questions to understand the challenges they face:

  • What’s the hardest part about being a student?
  • Why is that hard?

What we learn informs our curriculum development. It also helps me, as a professor, formulate a strategy to approach my first day of class so it will be memorable, engaging, and so students want to come back for the 2nd day.

The main challenges we hear are:

  1. Time management
  2. Knowing what they want out of life
  3. Staying focused
  4. Staying positive

Students struggle because they balance so many roles – student, athlete, leader, friend, child, teammate, and so on. They share with us general strategies they use to combat the stress and anxiety they face, such as scheduling their days, having an accountability buddy, asking “adults” for help, etc.

Mostly what we hear is that students don’t carve out the time to dig into what matters to them and how they can leverage their college experience to prepare for a meaningful career around what matters to them.

Understanding the challenges our students face gives us the foundation upon which we can change their path. If we build our course experience knowing they struggle with things like time management, finding meaning, and staying focused, we engage them and provide them tools to become successful.

Here we share three exercises that help students think about what is meaningful to them. Implementing these exercises gives you a chance to map your course learning objectives, modules, and assignments onto specific issues students bring up.

They will feel engaged. But more importantly, they will see your course as useful.

#3: Curiosities + Fears = Engagement

The key to engaging students is making lessons personally relevant.

To discover what matters to your students, you can ask two simple questions:

  1. “When you think of life after college, what are you curious about?
  2. “When you think of life after college, what are you afraid of?”

When you ask students to brainstorm their fears and curiosities individually, and then in small groups, your class will buzz with excited and nervous energy about the future. 

Then when you ask students to share what they came up with, you’ll instantly know how to make entrepreneurship relevant: yours is the class where they’ll get to learn about their curiosities, and allay their fears.
Launch class by focusing on students fears and curiosities

This exercise will help you discover your students’ fears and curiosities – which will likely revolve around making money and finding a job they like after they graduate. While it may not be your natural inclination to help solve those problems for your students during an entrepreneurship course, those topics are the key to fully engaging your customers (i.e. students), because those are the problems they care about most.

Students start by jotting down fears that come to mind when they think of life after graduation. You might ask a few students to share, to help create a safe environment where students can be vulnerable.

Students next jot down what they are most curious about when they think of life after college. For this part of the exercise, using a think-pair-share structure will help students connect. As students begin sharing the curiosities they identified in pairs, use a (digital) whiteboard to identify categories that are consistent across the entire class. You will likely end up with categories related to employment, financial, and social concerns.

Your goal here is to show your students how the material and skills they will learn and practice in your course map onto the things they are currently curious about.

You want to rephrase and connect their curiosities to demonstrate you’ve heard your students well and understand them. For example, “It sounds like you’re curious how to find a job you’ll like, you’re good at, and can make enough money at. Does that sound right?”

This is a critical part of this lesson, you’re asking for your students’ buy-in. The better job you do listening to your students’ curiosities and incorporating them into your description of how you’ll resolve them, the more engaged your students will be throughout the course.

Thank your students for any input to clarify, and tell them that their curiosities align well with your objectives for the course. Tell your students how your course is designed to teach them exactly what they’re most curious about:

Tell them if they are curious about finding a job they’ll like, they will test out several jobs in this class, such as:

    • Sales
    • Marketing
    • Product Design
    • Finance
    • Graphic/web design
    • Being your own boss/CEO

If your students are curious about what it takes to get a good job, you can tell them the vast majority of people get their job based on personal recommendations from someone in their network, and that in this class, they’ll learn the skills they need to grow their network, so they can find better job opportunities.

To maximize student buy-in, this exercise allows you to frame the course for your students in a way that will fulfill their curiosities.

Your Course in Students’ Context

Return next class session with the fear and curiosity categories mapped onto the content/lessons/modules/skills you cover in the course. For instance, if you lay out each week in your syllabus with the topics you will cover, add one column for “Fears” and one for “Curiosities”. List in each column the fear and curiosity categories to which each particular topic relates.

This last step is the most critical. It is your chance to reinforce the connection between the course material and the things your students are currently thinking about. Show them how you will give them the tools to address each one of their fears, and each one of their curiosities.

Students Now Have the Context to Launch

After this activity, your students will understand the value of what they are about to learn. They will be more engaged because the learning is now very real for them.

Click here for the complete lesson plan of the Student Fears and Curiosities exercise.


Want 30+ Lessons Like These?

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

Check out ExEC.


#2: High-Functioning Teams on Day 1

Your students will work in teams, but they’re not looking forward to it. Helping them form functional teams will increase both their motivation throughout your course. 

The Skills Scavenger Hunt is not only a fun way for students to get to meet one another, it’ll help them discover who in the class can help them build a diverse team with aligned goals.

Launch class with a skills scavenger hunt to create high-performance teams

During this quick exercise, students go on a scavenger hunt to find other students with complementary skills in the following categories:

  1. Graphics
  2. Technology
  3. Social Media
  4. Design
  5. Sales
  6. Marketing

Students progress through each section, checking any boxes for skills they possess so they find students with complementary skills. Split students into groups, in which students go through each box, and if they possess that skill they share, in 30 seconds or less, details about how/why they achieved that experience.

As this process evolves, each student writes down names and quick notes about any students who possess skills they don’t possess. We suggest shuffling groups at least 1 or 2 more times, to allow students to learn about as many of their classmates as possible.

After the class session, students should post in a discussion board on your LMS what skills they possess and a quick sentence about that particular skill. Students with gaps in their worksheet can identify other students to fill those gaps on this discussion board.

As students meet each other and learn more about their classmates, they set themselves up to execute better, and conflict less, by successfully assembling their own high-performing teams.

Click here for the complete Skills Scavenger Hunt exercise!

#1: Uncover Their Passions

Students who come into our classes passionate about entrepreneurship are easy to engage. 

How do we engage students who aren’t passionate about launching a company? Help them discover what they are passionate about…and help them launch that!

Launch class with the Pilot Your Purpose Exercise

The Pilot Your Purpose exercise help students explore areas that motivate them:

  1. Interests that spark their curiosity
  2. Skills they want to develop
  3. People they want to impact

The combination of these three elements defines a purpose for your students – a personal mission statement that taps into their passions to help others.

Once students have a purpose, you can ground each class session in that purpose. You don’t have to talk abstractly about difficult or stressful topics like customer interviewing or entrepreneurial finance. Instead, your class becomes an opportunity for students to pursue their purpose!

Your class becomes an opportunity for students to pursue their purpose!

Interests + Skills = Passion

The easiest on-ramp to identifying passion is interests. Students think about:

  1. What friends say they always talk about
  2. What they would spend time doing if money was no object
  3. What they were learning about the last time they lost track of time watching Youtube or scrolling on social media

The next step is identifying skills students think about. Similar to interests, students do this by thinking about:

  1. What friends say they are good at
  2. What they would like to get better at doing
  3. What they think they are above average at doing

To identify their passion, students:

  1. Look back at their interests sheet and jot down what excites them
  2. Look back at their skills sheet and jot down what they are interested in getting better at
  3. Think of ways to combine interests and skills

Pilot Your Purpose: Passion

Passion + Impact = Purpose

With a passion identified, students now turn to the impact they want to have on the world. To do that, students think about:

  1. Groups of people they’re excited to help
  2. Problems in their community they’re interested in solving
  3. Global problems they’re interested in solving

Students are now ready to identify their purpose:

  1. Look back at their Passion sheet and jot down what stands out
  2. Look back at their Impact sheet and jot down what stands out
  3. Think of ways to combine passion and impact (which is their purpose)

Pilot Your Purpose: Purpose

When your students identify a specific purpose, they can weave it throughout the rest of the course, as they are developing their entrepreneurial mindset and skill set.

As you begin each module of your course, students will stay motivated as they see the direct application of the particular material to their purpose!

Get your copy of the Pilot Your Purpose Worksheet here!


Want 30+ Lessons Like These?

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

Check out ExEC.


What’s Next?

In an upcoming post, we’ll share a new exercise for helping to normalize failure so students fear it less.

Subscribe here to get our next exercise in your inbox.

Motivated Students in 3 Steps

Motivated Students in 3 Steps

We all want to teach motivated students, but this is a particularly challenging time for them:

  • Classes are virtual. You and I are experiencing Zoom fatigue, but imagine being a student and being asked to sit through hours of lectures each week.
  • Experiential learning is scary. Getting out of the classroom, engaging with strangers, sharing rough experiments with the world – these can all cause students significant anxiety.
  • “I’m not an entrepreneur.” Some students may just be filling credits. Others may have a misconception about what it means to be an entrepreneur.

We’ve found the key to keeping students motivated is to…

Help Students Discover Their Intrinsic Motivators

How do you guide students to their intrinsic motivators? Focus on the intersection of three elements:

  1. The skills they have and want to develop further.
  2. Their interests that spark their curiosity.
  3. Where they want to make an impact in the world.

Get Motivated Students with the Pilot Your Purpose Exercise

Purpose lies at the intersection of these three elements. If you guide your students through the exercise below early in the semester, they spend the semester working on their purpose.

Students pursuing their purpose = motivated students.

If you did not see us present this exercise at our Summer Summit, we will be presenting it again at the 2021 USASBE Annual Conference on January 5

Pilot Your Purpose = Motivated Students

Once students have a purpose, you can ground each class session in that purpose. You don’t have to talk abstractly about difficult or stressful topics like customer interviewing or entrepreneurial finance. Instead, talk with students about how to interview customers for the idea they are most passionate about pursuing, or how to finance their passion project.

Your class becomes an opportunity for students to pursue their purpose!

Interests + Skills = Passion

The easiest on-ramp to identifying passion is interests. Have students think about:

  1. What friends say they always talk about
  2. What they would spend time doing if money was no object
  3. What they were learning about the last time they lost track of time watching Youtube or scrolling on social media

I talk to my friends and colleagues, who say I’m always talking about mentoring programs, curriculum, and big town & gown ideas. I think about what I would do if money was no object, and some things I thought about are building mentoring programs, adopting old dogs, and teaching entrepreneurship to prisoners (I’ve never engaged with prisoners, but think teaching them entrepreneurship would be deeply meaningful). I then think back to the last time I lost a couple of hours staring on my phone, and it was watching others teach Adobe Illustrator.

I now see my interests mapped out, according to what my friends say, what I dream about, and what holds my attention.

Step 1 of Pilot Your Purpose Exercise is identifying interests The next step is identifying skills students think about. Similar to interests, students do this by thinking about:

  1. What friends say they are good at
  2. What they would like to get better at doing
  3. What they think they are above average at doing

I again talk to my friends, who say I am good at being coaching teachers, giving honest feedback, and at being sarcastic. I think about things I do that I want to be better at. I love, for instance, trying to create engaging content on social media, but know I have a lot to learn! Last, I think hard about what I am really good at, and land on creating curriculum, presenting, coaching/mentoring and connecting others.

I now see my skills mapped out, according to what my friends say, areas I want to improve, and what I’m already good at.

Step 2 of Pilot Your Purpose Exercise is identifying skills

Here is the exercise to motivate your students!

To download the full Pilot Your Purpose exercise enter your email below!


Want More Engaged Students?

Check out the Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum.

Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum Logo

Whether you’re teaching online, face-to-face, or a hybrid of the two, we built our Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum (ExEC) to provide award-winning engagement and excitement for your students

  • in any course structure
  • on all major learning management system

Preview ExEC Now
 

We’ve taken the guesswork out of creating an engaging approach that works both online or in-person. ExEC has a comprehensive entrepreneurship syllabus template complete with 15 weeks of award-winning lesson plans that can be easily adapted to your needs.

Exercise: 60 Minute MVP

Exercise: 60 Minute MVP

Imagine looking out at your classroom, and every student is talking and typing furiously. It’s noisy. Students are learning together and teaching each other.

There’s a buzz of nervousness and excitement!

Exercise: Students launch landing pages in < 60 Minutes

This is by far, one of Justin and my favorite in-class experiences because “60 Minute MVP” is engaging, fun, and fully-immersive, while teaching critical aspects of the entrepreneurial mindset.

Your students are going to build, and launch, an MVP in 60 minutes…with no technical expertise!

In fact, during this hour, your students will build…

A Landing Page

A simple website that describes the problem they’re solving to the customers they want to serve.

Your students will create landing pages like this

An Explainer Video

A quick video that hints how their solution will solve the problem.

And a Currency Test…

…to validate demand for their product!

Your students will learn how to use a service called Celery to take pre-orders for their products to demonstrate real demand, without them actually having to charge money/store credit card information/etc.

For example:

currency testing sample

And they’ll do it all, in an hour.

What are Landing Page MVPs?

Over the course of an hour, your students will create a landing page (a simple, single-page website) that:

  1. Tells their customers the problem their team is solving,
  2. Uses a video to demonstrate how the team will solve the problem and
  3. Asks for some form of “currency” from their customers to validate demand.

You can incorporate this exercise into one class period in your syllabus; push your students to complete every step within an hour. They can tweak things later, the important thing is that they don’t spend a ton of time trying to get everything perfect the first time around. As they will find later on, doing that for every experiment wastes a lot of time.

It’s important to note, for this exercise:

They’ll Learn More in 60 Minutes

…than they will in 6 hours of lectures:

  1. The true meaning of MVP. They will learn exactly how “minimum” a minimum viable product should be. MVP doesn’t mean “beta” – it means making the least amount of investment possible, to test a business model’s riskiest assumption.
  2. How much they can accomplish when they work as a team. By dividing and conquering, your students will be astounded at how much they can collectively accomplish in one hour.
  3. How many great, free tools exist for entrepreneurs. The internet is a crowded place, so we want to show them that there are free tools out there to help them develop skills they don’t yet possess.
  4. The upside of deadlines. Our students don’t usually work under tight deadlines, but they will soon! We want to show them how tight deadlines push them to get everything done and give them a positive experience executing under tight deadlines.
  5. It is easier to launch a product than they thought. Most of our students are overwhelmed at the idea of launching a product because their assumptions are wrong. We want to correct those assumptions so they believe in their ability to launch.
  6. That the easiest thing about building a business is launching the product. In a future post, we will explain that the most difficult part of launching is actually the testing and validation. Getting something into the world is quite easy, which your students will understand after this experience.

Most importantly, they will learn…

When it comes to MVPs, done is better than perfect.

Your Job in the Class

You have an important role during this exercise. While we’ve documented all of the instructions your students need to follow (see the lesson plan for details), you’ll need to be the chief cheerleader, time-keeper, and discussion leader.

Here’s what that entails:

  1. Give your students the instructional videos. We’ve recorded step-by-step videos for your student teams to follow when creating their MVPs. Links to the videos and instructions are provided in the lesson plan below.
  2. Play music. Ask them what music gets them pumped, and then play that. Create an energetic, intense, exciting environment for the students.
  3. Keep shouting how little time they have left. Create a sense of urgency; don’t write time on the board. Don’t announce it in your normal tone. Shout it, wave your hands; stress how important it is that something gets launched, even if it’s not the perfect something. It is likely your students will want to focus on minor technical or design details. Because the goal is to execute in 60 minutes, you need to refocus your students on that goal and steer them away from their inclination toward perfection. Remind them that:

“Done is better than perfect.”

  1. Celebrate the hell out of each MVP as it launches. Show each team’s MVP on the screen, and congratulate them on the incredible things they accomplished in 60 minutes.
  2. Host a discussion with your students about what it was like to build an MVP in 60 minutes. You’ll find your students reflect most, if not all, of the learning objectives listed above.

Note: when they step out of their comfort zone, they’ll get the most out of this exercise.

Full Class Engagement

If you’re looking for an immersive exercise that activates your class, complete with a chaotic, noisy, high-pressure environment, that teaches real entrepreneurial principles, give “60 Minute MVP” a shot.

Justin and I both love it. We think you, and your students, will will too 🙂

Complete details, including all the instructions for you, and videos for your students are in the lesson plan below.

Get the “60 Minute MVP” Lesson Plan

We’ve created a detailed lesson plan for the “60 Minute MVP” exercise 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.

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


What’s Next?

In an upcoming post, we will share a companion exercise to the “60 Minute MVP” exercise. This will help students understand why it is critical to engage customers prior to launching!

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

Slido: Our Favorite Tool for Online Engagement

Slido: Our Favorite Tool for Online Engagement

If Zoom fatigue is lowering enthusiasm for you and your students, here are some tips on using one simple tool – Slido – to inject energy into your online classes and increase online engagement.

Encourage Anonymous Questions

Slido is best known for helping instructors solicit questions from students and providing a mechanism for students to prioritize their most important questions.

A lesser-known element of Slido is that it allows your students to ask questions anonymously, and…

Anonymous questions increase interaction.

For example, if your high school health classes were anything like mine, the most interesting questions came when students anonymously wrote questions on pieces of paper and put them in a box to be answered by the teacher at the end of the week. Those questions started such provocative discussions I remember several of them today…decades later.

When you enable students to ask questions anonymously in your class, several interesting things happen:

  • Introverts participate. If you have a few vocal students asking questions and little participation from others, anonymous questions lower student anxiety, which makes it easier for everyone to participate. 
  • You learn what students are thinking about. Anonymity provides cover for students to ask questions they may be too afraid to ask but are curious about.
  • Discussions start. Anonymity means you can invite students to pose “challenging” questions. If you encourage your students to question what they’re learning, why it’s important, or why they should have to do the work you’re assigning, you spark discussions about how entrepreneurship is relevant, which can often be the key to increasing engagement.

One great way to take advantage of this technique is to start each class session off by inviting students to post anonymous questions about the last lesson you did, their last homework assignment, or anything else on their mind. If you do this at the beginning of every lesson, students know there’s always a safe place for them to ask questions, and you’ll see more of them crop up throughout your term.

Crystalize Learnings

In addition to soliciting questions, Slido also solicits brainstormed ideas from students.

One interesting way to use this technique is to have students post their takeaways from a lesson or exercise.

Some takeaways from the 2020 TeachingEntrepreneurship.org Summer Virtual Conference

When you ask students to write down what they’ve learned from an exercise, the process of writing their takeaway helps cement their learning. Plus, when you ask other students to upvote other students’ takeaways, they get to see a summary of all the topics you covered during the lesson, you also get to see which were most salient (and what topics you may need to reinforce in another class).

Plus, it’s a fun interactive way to end a lesson. Speaking of fun interactions, Slido is also great for creating…

Quiz Games

As we wrote in the Gamify your Lectures post, Slido is also great for replacing boring slides, with interactive games.

Be sure to read our full write-up for details on easy ways to make presenting information more fun for students.

See it All in Action

Enter your email address below to see exactly how we use Slido with these techniques to teach our TeachingEntrepreneurship.org Online Virtual Conference attendees:

Summary

If you want to inject a little energy into your class, we’ve found one simple tool – Slido – enables you to:

  1. Solicit anonymous, prioritized questions from your students
  2. Brainstorm ideas with students, including their takeaways
  3. Engage students with fun, interactive competition

Give it a shot and let us know how it goes!

Playing Music in Your Zoom Class

Playing Music in Your Zoom Class

Music is an easy way to add energy to virtual classes. For example, you can:

  1. Play music as students join the session, so you set a tone of good vibes from the beginning.
  2. When students are working on exercises, chill music can increase concentration.
  3. As your session is ending, play music so your students leave with an upbeat impression from the class.

Plus: It takes < 10 seconds to set up.

Here are step-by-step instructions to play music in Zoom:

Step 1: Click on the “Screen Share” green button at the bottom of the screen

Play music in Zoom

Step 2: Click on the “Advanced” tab at the top of the screen

Playing music on Zoom

Step 3: Select “Music or Computer Sound Only” option and click “Share”

Instructions for playing music in Zoom

Step 4: Play your favorite music

Here are some starter playlists we curated specifically to energize your classes:

Use Microsoft Teams?

Here are your step-by-step instructions.

Big thanks to Tristan Kromer at Kromatic for the heads up about this functionality. If you haven’t seen his Innovation Resources, definitely check them out.


Want More Engagement?

Check out the Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum.

Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum Logo

Whether you’re teaching online, face-to-face, or a hybrid of the two, we built our Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum (ExEC) to provide award-winning engagement and excitement for your students

  • in any course structure
  • on all major learning management system

Preview ExEC Now

We’ve taken the guesswork out of creating an engaging approach that works both online or in-person. ExEC has a comprehensive entrepreneurship syllabus template complete with 15 weeks of award-winning lesson plans that can be easily adapted to your needs.


Get our Next Free Lesson Plan

We email new experiential entrepreneurship lesson plans regularly. Subscribe here to get our next lesson plan in your inbox!


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:

Custom Online & Hybrid Sample Entrepreneurship Syllabus

Custom Online & Hybrid Sample Entrepreneurship Syllabus

Whether or not your Fall starts online, it is almost certain that your Fall will finish online. As more colleges announce shifts online last week, Inside Higher Ed wrote:

“Colleges and universities [are] conceding that previously announced plans to resume in-person learning are no longer feasible.”

Between the social nature of students, the continuing spread of COVID, and the steps our schools will need to take once students start testing positive, it’s increasingly likely classes in the US will end up online this Fall.

Get Prepared

To help with your preparation, we’ve published an extremely flexible sample syllabus you can customize for just about any learning environment: 

Whether your class ends up:

  1. In-person
  2. Online synchronous
  3. Online asynchronous
  4. Hybrid

…or transitions between them, the sample syllabus will show you how to design an engaging and structured course for Fall.

Comprehensive Online Curriculum

In addition to the sample syllabus, you’ll get a preview of the checklist all of our Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum (ExEC) instructors use to prepare their courses.

For more details on using ExEC this Fall, request a full preview of ExEC.

teaching entrepreneurship

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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:

  • Consistently Teaching with Adjuncts. The hardest part about coordinating classes taught by adjuncts is delivering a consistent experience when multiple instructors teach the same course.
Consistently Teach with Faculty & Adjuncts

Consistently Teach with Faculty & Adjuncts

The hardest part about coordinating classes taught by adjuncts is delivering a…

Consistent experience when multiple instructors teach the same course.

Especially true for Intro to Entrepreneurship classes, high turnover among adjuncts and different areas of expertise among faculty can mean students have vastly different experiences depending on who teaches their particular section.

This inconsistency often leads to lower enrollment and knowledge gaps that affect subsequent entrepreneurship classes.

Solution: “Flexible Structure”

To eliminate these inconsistencies while growing your entrepreneurship program, ensure your Intro to Entrepreneurship curriculum is all three of the following:

  1. Experiential. Lecture-based classes not only neglect to teach students skills, they fail to inspire students to continue their entrepreneurial journey. To grow an entrepreneurship program, your first course needs to be both relevant and engaging – experiential classes can be both.
  2. Structured. Experiential courses are great, but most educators don’t have time to design their own comprehensive set of experiences. Instead, they piecemeal activities from a variety of sources resulting in courses that lack a cohesive framework and leave gaps in students’ understanding. Having a coherent set of lesson plans that all instructors utilize means that students get both a robust and consistent experience.

    Plus, a consistent framework makes onboarding new instructors much easier.

  3. Flexible. Of course, structured curricula must also enable instructors to leverage their personal strengths (i.e. research specialties, entrepreneurial experiences, personal networks, etc.). The framework you use needs to be modular enough that it allows instructors to make the class their own, while still maintaining the core of the curriculum.

This unique “Flexible Structure” is precisely why so many…

Large Programs Use ExEC

The Experiential Entrepreneurship Curruciulm (ExEC) has become a popular choice when course coordinators want high-quality lessons that deliver consistent experiences across all sections.

For example, when Cal Poly’s Jonathan York wanted to improve his 500+ student / multi-instructor Intro to Entrepreneurship course, he chose ExEC:

Likewise, when Florida State University wanted to provide more structure for the instructors teaching their hundreds of entrepreneurship students, they adopted ExEC…

Cal Poly: 500+ Students and 10 Instructors

We recently sat down with Jonathan York of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo to discuss his experience transitioning to ExEC and why he recommends it for other professors and universities looking to streamline their entrepreneurship curriculum.

Jon is Professor Emeritus of Entrepreneurship and Cofounder of the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Cal Poly. Like most professors, when he began teaching entrepreneurship he found himself searching for and saving specific resources in Google Docs to help augment the textbook and lesson plans.

As an entrepreneurship professor, “I was constantly looking for more tools I could use in class,” he shares. While he felt capable of finding great resources to use in the classroom, once he needed to get his fellow professors and adjuncts on the same page, this method wasn’t sustainable. Cal Poly teaches over 500 entrepreneurship students a quarter with more than 10 professors and ever-changing adjunct faculty. Their entrepreneurship curriculum needs were larger than could be handled with Google Docs.

While looking for a solution to get his entrepreneurship department on the same page he found ExEC

“ExEC helped bring everything I wanted to teach in one place.”

Adopting the Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum 

When implementing ExEC, what stood out for Jon was that it was powerful to divide the quarter into two “sprints,” the first called “finding a problem worth solving” and the second “finding a solution worth building.” He recommends this strategy of “grouping the lessons into themes” divided into the 10 week quarter.

When Jon first started using ExEC, there were some tweaks in the first quarter, but after fine-tuning the timing for the lesson plans, he found it to be an easy switch from his previous approach of combining lots of tools coordinated through Moodle, which led to considerable student confusion and frustration.

While designed to be taught in 15-weeks, the ExEC curriculum clearly states the goals and objectives of each lesson. This helps professors easily group the lessons thematically for their quarter system.

The main benefit of using ExEC is it made it easier for Jon to ensure consistency in the entrepreneurship classes taught at Cal Poly. It helped unify the entrepreneurship department and align professors and adjuncts alike with not just what was going to be taught with entrepreneurship, but how.

Adjunct professors in particular may be successful entrepreneurs but new to teaching. Of teaching entrepreneurship, Jon says, “You don’t just want warhorses sitting around telling stories.”

The goal of an entrepreneurship class is to engage.

When they rolled out ExEC with the Cal Poly faculty, Jon held weekly meetings to help with any questions or trouble-shooting, which is what he recommends for any organization looking to adopt ExEC. He started with 3 professors using the curriculum with other professors observing. This helped identify any tweaks that may be needed with the timing of lesson plans and solidified the staff’s confidence in using ExEC.

With any new tool, there’s a certain learning curve to be expected. However, when adopting ExEC, professors aren’t alone in trying to figure out how to teach the lesson plans. We offer a comprehensive and responsive customer service not found with a traditional textbook.

Engaging Entrepreneurship Lesson Plans

Overall, the rollout of ExEC at Cal Poly was successful. Jon really enjoyed the Early Adopter modules and the Business Model Canvas (BMC) aspects of the ExEC curriculum. For instance, the BMC lesson is designed to provide an overview showing where each lesson fits into the overall curriculum, it also provides professors with a view of the big picture – where they’ve been, where they are, and where they are going. Think of the Business Model Canvas as the map that shows the flow of lesson plans throughout the curriculum.

When teaching any of the lesson plans to his entrepreneurship students, he had this to say: “your pre-class materials prepared my students better than anything I have used before.” Unlike a textbook that puts the onus on the instructor to prepare how to teach the information, ExEC includes thorough instructions for how to prepare before class, including all the necessary resources to use during class.  

We also include information on what students should do after class to help create an experience that resonates beyond the classroom. 

We have found that this dramatically cuts down on any necessary prep-time for the professor. It also creates a comprehensive curriculum that engages every student, whether your entrepreneurship program is large or small.

An Evolving Curriculum

We know that experiential education is really difficult to execute. We’ve created a foolproof system to teach each lesson successfully.

Our goal is that your students are engaged with each lesson throughout the entire entrepreneurship curriculum.

When asked if he would recommend ExEC to other professors or universities looking to expand their entrepreneurship curriculum beyond a traditional textbook, Jon answered, “Yes. With each iteration, it keeps getting better.”

The average print textbook is considered out of date in 3 years. In the ever-evolving world of entrepreneurship, time is invaluable. With ExEC, updates to entrepreneurship lesson plans happen immediately and are implemented seamlessly. This helps keep your university’s program on the cutting edge of entrepreneurship education.

We pride ourselves in practicing what we preach. We’ve applied the invaluable feedback we received from professors and students alike in our latest version of the Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum (ExEC). We’ve designed it to include the best practices of entrepreneurship education. And after just 2 years, ExEC is now being used at almost 100 universities!

If you want more engagement, more structure, and more impact, now is your chance with ExEC!

Start Engaging this Fall with ExEC

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Whether you’re teaching online, face-to-face, or a hybrid of the two, we built our Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum (ExEC) to provide award-winning engagement and excitement for your students

  • in any course structure
  • on every learning management system

Preview ExEC Now

We’ve taken the guesswork out of creating an engaging approach that works both online or in-person. ExEC has a comprehensive entrepreneurship syllabus template complete with 15 weeks of award-winning lesson plans that can be easily adapted to your needs.

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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:

Skills Scavenger Hunt: Online Icebreaker & Team Building Exercise

Skills Scavenger Hunt: Online Icebreaker & Team Building Exercise

If students don’t form into high-performance teams, their learning curve significantly flattens.

You can create the most amazing content, and deliver it in the most engaging manner. But if your students are in teams that are dysfunctional, or just sleepy, their learning can come to a screeching halt as they disengage.

Students put the course content into practice in their team environment where they apply it to bring ideas that matter to them to life. Student teams formed randomly erode the student (and professor!) experience through internal conflict and apathy.

Helping students form high-functioning teams will boost their learning capability exponentially.

We built our concept of high performing teams on the idea of matching students based on aligned goals and diverse skills. We developed our Skills Scavenger Hunt to facilitate that process and thus mitigate the biggest drawbacks of student team projects.

BONUS: This exercise is also an incredible icebreaker, which is critically important to do in an online course environment.

skills scavenger hunt online ice breaker team building animation

In this exercise, students go on a scavenger hunt to find other students with complementary skills in the following categories:

  1. Graphics
  2. Technology
  3. Social Media
  4. Design
  5. Sales
  6. Marketing

Step 1: What Skills Do You Have?

Each student checks any boxes in all 6 areas that are applicable to them. They may be able to check more than one box in a particular area, and they may not be able to check any boxes in a particular area. This doesn’t matter – the goal with this exercise is for students to identify their gaps in skills and fill them with qualified teammates.

Skills scavenger hunt step 1

If students check any boxes for their skills, that particular column will turn dark grey –  to indicate they do not need to add any potential teammate names or notes.

To see the entire Skills Scavenger Hunt Exercise enter your email below!

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Motivate Students with the Pilot Your Purpose Exercise

Motivate Students with the Pilot Your Purpose Exercise

Help your students unlock their purpose, and they will be motivated to learn the entire semester!
Especially in an online environment, you can more easily engage students by tapping into their intrinsic motivation. In other words, learn how to leverage students’ internal drivers and your class sessions will buzz with energy. There is nothing more internally motivating than pursuing one’s purpose. Where students’ interest intersect with their skills represents their passion. When students combine their passion with the impact they want to have on the world, that becomes their purpose. Do this at the beginning of class, and then make every interaction with your students meaningful by tying everything back to their purpose. Pilot Your Purpose Exercise For instance, let’s say a student loves playing video games (their interest). They enjoy learning about and getting better at playing video games, and also writing and performing slam poetry (their skills). That leads the student to imagine streaming their preferred video game while performing slam poetry about competitors (their passion). How could this student create impact?
  • They could create educational video games.
  • They could create video games to help people empathize with people of other races and socioeconomic status.
  • They could raise money through being a Twitch streamer to support causes in their local community.
This purpose becomes the thread that weaves throughout your course. When they practice customer interviewing, or forecasting financial needs, or prototyping, you can link those lessons back to applying those skills to build an educational game company, or whatever they identify their purpose is. And your students stay motivated.
Your students’ purpose is the perfect hook to keep them engaged the entire semester!

Step 1: Interests

To identify their interests, students think about:
  1. What friends say they always talk about
  2. What they would spend time doing if money was no object
  3. What they were learning about the last time they lost track of time watching Youtube or scrolling on social media
Our example student talks to their friends, who say they are always talking about FPS video games (particularly Call of Duty (COD)), skateboarding, and slam poetry. They think about what they would do if money was no object, and they land on playing FPS video games and skydiving (they have never been skydiving, but loves watching videos of skydiving and dreams of going one day to experience the adrenaline rush). Last, they think back to the last time they lost a couple of hours staring at their phone, and it was watching others stream COD on Twitch. Our student now has their interests mapped out, according to what their friends say, what they dream about, and what holds their attention.

Pilot Your Purpose: InterestsStep 2: Skills

To identify their skills, students think about:
  1. What friends say they are good at
  2. What they would like to get better at doing
  3. What they think they are above average at doing
Our example student again talks to their friends, who say they are good at teaching them how to play FPS video games, and at making them laugh. They think about things they do that they would like to be better at. They really love writing and performing slam poetry, but knows from their performances and comparing themself to other performers that they have a lot of room to improve. They also want to get better at playing Call of Duty. Last, they think hard about what they are really good at, and land on playing FPS video games, at mathematics (Calculus, at least), at Adobe Illustrator, and at slam poetry. Our student now has their skills mapped out, according to what their friends say, what skills they want to improve, and what they are already good at.

Pilot Your Purpose: Skills

To see the entire Pilot Your Purpose Exercise enter your email below! The Pilot Your Purpose exercise is a great way to keep your students motivated all semester. You can meet with your students individually after completing this exercise & have them share their purpose so you understand what makes them tick. As you move into each module of your course, you can reference a particular student’s purpose to talk about why the particular module is relevant. For instance, when you introduce a financial module, you might reference our example student and (assuming they are a game designer) how they need to hire a project manager, programmers, 3D artist, and quality assurance specialists to complement their team, pay for servers, legal fees to protect their IP, a 3D engine license, and potentially rent for space for the team to create. As you begin each module, students will stay motivated as they see the direct application of the particular material to their purpose!

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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:
Creativity and Innovation Sample Syllabus

Creativity and Innovation Sample Syllabus

Building an engaging undergraduate Creativity and Innovation course can be challenging. We wanted to share a few tips and tricks we learned from surveying our community of nearly 10,000 entrepreneurship educators:

  • Invite your students to practice the skills necessary to identify and develop with creative ideas – like observation, problem-solving, customer interviewing, and prototyping.
  • Show your students how the concepts apply to their current existence.
  • Bring guest speakers and judges into the conversation so students learn from other perspectives.

This sample syllabus provides a way to help students develop the mindset and skillset to be confidently creative entrepreneurs!

Creativity Skills

Students taking a creativity and innovation course should gain transferable skills they can use to create significant value in any workplace! Students pursuing any career path will benefit from honing these skills – any organization constantly needs new and better ideas. This syllabus lays out a course that helps students recognize, develop, and act upon their creativity and innovative spirit.

Specifically, this course is structured as a journey that enables students to first find a problem worth solving, and then find a solution worth building. During the first phase as they find a problem worth solving, students develop a growth mindset, leverage failure, discover ideas that bring them meaning using the creative process, interview customers and validate problems they identify.

During the second phase of the course, once students identify a problem they find to solve, they turn their attention to finding a solution worth building. In this phase, students develop their creativity and design thinking skills as they develop solutions based on customers’ problems. They also learn to monetize solutions through financial modeling, learn to prototype solutions to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort, and run business model experiments. Finally, students share the story of the process they went through (in)validating their business model. In this end, they demonstrate they have acquired the entrepreneurial skills to find and test new opportunities.

Experiencing Creativity and Innovation

In this course, your students actively experience creating and capturing value. Through a variety of validated experiential learning techniques, students remain engaged and excited from day one until the last day of the course.

One example of our approach to experiential learning is our award-winning Lottery Ticket Dilemma exercise, during which students discover how important emotions are in the decision-making process and the importance of understanding and fulfilling other people’s emotional needs. Learning how to tap into and apply creativity and innovation is a very difficult journey.

We developed this creativity and innovation syllabus to help you enable your students to learn and practice the skills necessary to be a force of creativity and innovation in their chosen career path.


Get the Creativity & Innovation Sample Syllabus

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

Get the Sample Syllabus

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


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Don’t Reinvent the Wheel

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

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

Use the “Best Entrepreneurship Curriculum Available”

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