Over the last year we learned what you and the rest of our community of over 3,000 entrepreneurship teachers want to make your classroom environment more engaging and rigorous for your students.
Here, we share our entrepreneurship professor’s 5 favorite lesson plans. These transform students’ experience through experiential lessons around ideation, customer interaction, and prototyping.
5. Syllabus Co-Creation
In our Syllabus Co-creation lesson plan, we provide an interactive experience to engage your students by turning their problems into your syllabus. This is a powerful way to launch a semester by creating for students an authentic feeling of what it’s like to be the customer.
Our goal with this lesson plan is to give you a way to make entrepreneurship relevant to all your students. We provide a roadmap to show how what you’ll teach will be relevant to them right now. Specifically, through this exercise, you’ll show students:
- You care about their problems and fears
- They will learn the skills to solve their problems
Students will see exactly how and when they will acquire the skills to address their biggest problems and fears during your course.
Your students will be engaged, because you will be engaging them.
4. Why Business Plans Fail
A great way to follow up the Syllabus Co-Creation is our Why Business Plans Fail lesson. During this day, students experience the marshmallow challenge to understand why business model experimentation can be more effective than business planning.
While variations of the Marshmallow Challenge have been around for a while, we found the vast majority of students have still never done it.
Students will experience the pitfalls of hidden assumptions first-hand so they can more easily validate their business model assumptions later in your course.
This class will be fun and high energy for you, and your students. Our lesson plan guides you through two iterations of an 18 minute, fast-paced construction challenge where students learn that invalidated assumptions lead to failure. Your classroom will be loud, it will be full of anxiety and excitement, and ultimately full of failing and the glorious learning that comes from it.
Our goal with this lesson is to introduce a high-intensity activity that teaches students:
- The pitfalls of business plans
- Why assumption identification, and assumption validation, are critical to creating success companies
- Why iterations and experiments are the key to validating their business assumptions
3. Idea Generation vs. Problem Generation
Most people think the heart of entrepreneurship is the idea. In this lesson we shatter that assumption, and replace it with an appropriate focus on customer problems.
We want your students to develop ideas that are more feasible, impactful, and creative. This is one of the toughest challenges entrepreneurship professors face. Student ideas tend to be a repetition of low-impact or infeasible mediocrity. You want more from them. We can help!
We focus your students on problems in this lesson, because the best business ideas come from problems.
After this lesson, your students’ ideas will be:
- More feasible because they’re focusing on serving people they care about.
- More impactful because they’re paying more attention to problems than they are products.
- More creative because they’ll use those problems as inspiration.
2. Teaching Customer Observations
During our years of research on what topics entrepreneurship professors struggle to teach, we heard “customer interviewing” over and over again. Our ExEC curriculum includes a robust method of customer interviewing, but customer observation is another great way to gather customer information. So we developed our Teaching Customer Observations lesson plan to help students learn learn the value of seeing how their customers experience problems, as opposed to imagining their customers’ problems.
This exercise positions your students to observe customers in their natural settings. This allows them to discover new business opportunities and increase their empathy and behavioral analysis skills.
Our goal with this exercise is to teach students to have an empathy picture/analysis that frames the problem they are trying to solve before they jump to a solution. Having this clear picture will allow them to come up with better creative solutions.
During this two-class exercise, your students will experience customer empathy and how to plan and translate an observation experience into ideas for products and services. This will provide the following benefits:
- Introduce students to a powerful tool to gather information on customer experience in real life situations. This allows students to avoid predicting customer behavior by actually observing it.
- Students practice how to listen with their eyes in order to understand what people value and care about, & what they don’t.
- Provide a common reference experience for expanding on topics later in the course.
1. 60 Minute MVP
By far, our most popular lesson plan is the 60 Minute MVP. During this class, students launch an MVP website, with an animated video and a way to take pre-orders, in an hour with no prior coding experience. One of our professors told us after running this exercise:
“One student described it as like a Navy Seal mental training exercise. Not sure it was that intense, but they were amazed and proud that they got it done.”
Your students will love this class period; they progress from the anxiety of the challenge confronting them (build a website in 60 minutes) to the elation of their journey (launching a website they built in 60 minutes). This exercise creates tremendous energy in your classroom. Students create something real.
On the lesson plan page you can view an example video students created in about 20 minutes, built around actual customer problem interviews:
You can also view a great example of a website built in just 60 minutes:
Upscale dining at its finest!
Some critical learnings for your students are the true meaning of Minimum Viable Product (MVP), that it’s easier to launch a product than they thought, and that the easiest thing about building a business is launching that product.
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