Crowdsourced Document: Teaching Entrepreneurship Online

Fellow entrepreneurship educators:

Covid is upon us, which means that thousands of entrepreneurship educators need to convert their courses to online and learn how to best use the relevant tools and tech.

This is new territory for many educators so we gathered ideas, insights, and information from the community and are sharing them in this document for the benefit of everyone. 

Note: This document is not comprehensive nor does it attack any specific aspect of teaching entrepreneurship online. This resource is a quick first effort to supplement your efforts teaching entrepreneurship online. 

I was surprised at the demand for a document such as this so there will likely be more soon. It would be appreciated if you would share this far and wide so that we have an even deeper set of educators to draw from in the future.

Special thanks to the contributors, hailing from institutions from three continents! And a special shout out to the members of the 3 Day Startup community who gave their thoughts. Contributors are credited at the end of this document.

Enjoy!

Cam Houser
CEO, Actionworks
Adjunct Professor, School of Design and Creative Technologies at The University of Texas at Austin


Describe the three best exercises you use to teach entrepreneurship online. Example: assigning customer interviews, completing the Lean Canvas, online pitching and feedback.

  • Creating virtual teams of students so they could work in groups and present/get feedback from each other
  • Have students start kickstarter campaigns
  • Learning from others’ failures, getting out of the building to meet customers
  • Using case studies, inviting guest speakers, playing interactive videos, working on business projects 
  • Assigning a “business walk” where a student leaves the house and walks by a retail or commercial district. Their task is to analyze the businesses they see and present their findings to their online cohort
  • Defining and contacting customers, mapping out the customer purchase process
  • Business Model Canvas, videos of successful entrepreneurs (interviews and pitches), virtual coaching
  • Virtual mentoring w/ alums, virtual AMA sessions, and Virtual workshops on topics of importance
  • Watching startup founders’ conference keynotes
  • Watch Feasibility Analyses, Business Plan/Business Model Canvases
  • Have students identify a problem or opportunity (not a solution) and convince other people of the importance through a brief paragraph and/or presentation.

What are some challenges to teaching entrepreneurship online and how do you overcome those challenges?

  • Good video quality for those that don’t understand tech
  • Immediate feedback/interaction is always a challenge. I like to see the eyes of the audience to gauge their level of engagement and understanding. It could partially be overcome by frequent stops and polls/questions. But still not personal enough!
  • Knowledge/comprehension checks. Still haven’t figured out how to overcome it.
  • Engagement…I use chatstorms (google it) and lean heavily on the annotation tools in Zoom
  • Students’ attention is hard to get, students are not collaborative to work within teams since they don’t meet. Force attendance by punishing with grades
  • Getting people to look at the micro of the process, not a general solution
  • Lack of social interaction. Some of this is overcome with video conferencing, but it still limits “off-the cuff” conversations that are crucial to learning.  Perhaps more unstructured time needs to be built in to virtual interaction
  • Face-to-face is always preferred but virtual works as long as all parties are organized and can share in good content
  • Students will not read assigned text without in class discussions. I created YouTube videos to explain the information and I use the comment boards to encourage participation.    
  • Receiving feedback
  • People assume f2f is necessarily better. Sometimes it is. Sometimes we don’t have access to it. Use the situation as an opportunity to teach uncertainty tolerance and adaptability.
  • People feel can’t be connected in online class but that’s often b/c we try to make a digital copy of the course rather than create based on objectives and resources. Instead build a community.

Open-ended prompt: share your most impactful strategies, advice, techniques, for teaching entrepreneurship online.

  • Get a lapel mic—they cost $10 on amazon, and vastly improve sound quality. 
  • Learn the basics of good lighting for making videos
  • We have to relate the teachings to local practical issues and give real examples from the local community
  • Guest speakers with moderated questions from the virtual audience
  • Break down the day to day process of evaluation and purchase and the associated players
  • Inviting potential entrepreneurs to observe investor & competition pitches (this will move online for 2020 Texas A&M New Ventures Competition)
  • Be fun! Be engaging! Don’t just talk at young entrepreneurs but talk with them and have practice exercises, solid examples with visuals and good people providing the content
  • Encourage students to engage with their chosen opportunity for their own ways and their own reasons.  Again, YouTube videos are a fantastic tool, and Moodle provides endless opportunities to meaningfully engage with students.  Please feel free to use my YouTube channel – Dr. D University. I have complete courses in Ethics, Strategy, and Entrepreneurship. I am adding new videos and playlists on a regular basis.  The videos have been used for every level from undergraduate to Ph.D
  • Lean heavily on student/peer moderators for online breakout room discussion and work sessions
  • Learn how to get students engaged and to see the impact of the information they have received
  • Tell jokes (even bad jokes are OK!) during sessions to add some levity and humor and increase engagement. Some jokes you can use are here.
  • Feel free to let students know you are learning during your initial efforts. Online sessions work far better when they are collaborative and everyone, including the educator, is learning. The “sage on the stage” model where an expert gives lectures the whole time is less effective.
  • Have students profile entrepreneurs (short digital writeups) they admire and compile these profiles in one doc to be shared to the entire cohort
  • Let students know about Otter.ai to transcribe interviews
  • Encourage students to do collaborative, “live” note-taking for guest speakers during online sessions
  • Focus on creating a community and communication skills. Create a discussion forum that is not about short essay responses but rather a Q&A space where students help each other out. This requires socializing them to the process of asking and answering questions on a regular basis (not too much or clumped together) and not too little. I spend the first days of class and the first weeks of class responding to posts in the discussion forum first (I use Piazza) rather than email (to encourage interaction so people can overhear and add to the conversation). When students send emails from which the entire class could benefit I ask them to post it online. (Students can be anonymous to peers but not to the instructor). I provide labels and supportive guidance–but not prompts. The goal is to have them help each other. With structure and effort and mentoring, they do. Later in the semester they ask and provide feedback (voluntarily) online. Not all of them. But it matters. Moves from community to communitas (see Victor Turner) And we use it to talk about creating an informal community of experts and cheerleaders to vett your ideas and provide support.
  • To improve communication, we talk about asking and answer questions and listening online. It helps them be more intentional offline as well. Rather than grading discussion postings (I don’t). We check to make sure they have 2 or 3 contributions (questions, clarification, reflection, addition, or edit we don’t check) to provide a mini-reward system for regular and habitual engagement. Worth very little of the grade. Twice in the semester they pick an example of their strongest and weakest communication online. They explain why and then they improve the strongest (build on strength) and address the weaknesses. They do the work of learning — and develop skills in self-development, communication, and reflection–necessary for resilient entrepreneurship.

List 3 resources (books, blogs, twitter accounts, podcasts) that helped you learn to teach online.

  • Learning-by-doing: I delivered webinars and online presentations many time before
  • Steve Blank, Nexus Center, Zero to One, Lean Startup
  • Harvard Cases
  • Patent application database and google scholar for competitors, EDGAR for licensing deals
  • We have all students read Shoe Dog, a great book about Phil Knight and the founding of Nike
  • Y Combinator’s Startup School and online resources from TechStars 
  • Startups.com online courses 
  • Dr. D University Youtube Channel, Mary Parker Follett’s work, The Student-Teacher Relation, and Alfred North Whitehead’s article, The Aims of Education
  • Twitter account: @emollick
  • Udemy, Harvard Business Review
  • Seth Godin and Krista Tippett online lectures
  • Don’t Make Me Think (Steve Krug): Extend to communication and community online by making it easy to people to focus on the learning and the community rather than the structure of the class]
  • Setting the table (Danny Meyer): On creating a space for people
  • How Learning Works: 7 Research-Based Principles for Smart Teaching by Susan A. Ambrose, Michael W. Bridges, Michele DiPietro, Marsha C. Lovett, and Marie K. Norman
  • @eric_mazur (Peer Instruction—not always the prettiest interface—but the research backs up the approach for depth of learning, transfer, and creativity–core skills)
  • But for quick and dirty getting it done: The Online Teaching Survival Guide: Simple and Practical Pedagogical Tips (Boettcher & Conrad)

Contributors

Andrew Zimbroff, Professor, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Brenda Berkelaar, Consultant/The University of Texas at Austin
Eugene Buff, Primary Care Innovation Consulting
Buddha Burman, Founder & SVP Technology, BOOMnBUZZ
Akhmet Ishmukhamedov, KAZGUU
Mami Serwaa, NBSSI
Earle Hager, Managing Partner, The Neutrino Donut, LLC
Chris Scotti, Chair – Texas A&M New Ventures Competition, TEES Commercialization & Entrepreneurship
Derick Maggard, Executive Director, Virginia Tech/ Apex Center for Entrepreneurs
Duncan Pelly, Associate Professor of Entrepreneurship, McMurry University
Scott Meyer, Ozbun Executive Director of Entrepreneurship at North Dakota State University
Cam Houser, CEO, Actionworks/Adjunct Professor, University of Texas at Austin