ESSCA School of Management
Category: Teach - Pedagogy and Learning
Location: Angers, France
Accreditation Status: Business
ESSCA’s innovative course is focused on developing entrepreneurial spirit through a triple-blended learning approach that fosters close and progressive interaction between students and freshly graduated entrepreneurs.
Call to Action
How does a young undergraduate student learn to become an entrepreneur in spirit? Mentoring emerging startup projects with small teams of master’s students is one thing, but raising awareness of their own entrepreneurial potential in a cohort of 600 relatively immature second-year students is a different challenge. At ESSCA School of Management, a French Grande Ecole based in Angers and Paris, a team of faculty members in collaboration with the school’s Institute for Advanced Pedagogy seized this challenge in a new introductory course for which they developed an innovative triple-blended learning approach.
The main learning goal of this original, integrated combination of e-learning, classroom teaching, and tutoring by practitioners was not to push 18- or-19-year-old students into becoming instant entrepreneurs but rather to think, act, and communicate (pitch) as entrepreneurs do. In other words, the goal was to enable them to behave not only as learners but as doers who are able to undertake a project in various contexts, whether as business creation, business takeover, or business development. Behind the official learning goal, the hidden objective was to encourage a large group of students, who tend to adopt a consumerist attitude in many courses, to invest in an idea as if their life depended on it.
In order to achieve this underlying aim, course facilitators would need to effectively impel students to discover the unique human experience that is associated with collaborating on an entrepreneurial project. The key to this effort was the involvement of freshly graduated young entrepreneurs.
The cohort was divided into 17 study groups, each of which was assigned an entrepreneurial project currently developed by a freshly graduated student who had agreed to intervene as tutor for his or her group. The close and progressive interaction in tutoring workshops between second-year students and young alumni entrepreneurs who are hardly older than the undergratuates and have graduated from the same school results in a stimulating kind of mirror mode peer learning, during which students were able to grasp three fundamental aspects of entrepreneurship: (1) What is an entrepreneurial project? (2) Who are the entrepreneurs and how do they think and act? and (3) How do entrepreneurs pitch their projects?
The innovative character of the course lies in what was finally called the triple-blended learning approach. First, at various stages of the course, students acquire basic knowledge with the help of an internal distance learning platform, using podcasts and continuous assessment. Second, at regular intervals, both face-to-face debriefing sessions with faculty and workshop sessions with tutor-entrepreneurs are conducted in order to prepare the forthcoming assignments. These assignments—an executive summary, a presentation of infographics, and a written and oral pitch performance—were directly in line with the three questions outlined above. Finally, students completed an original Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) on creativity, newly developed by the Institute of Advanced Pedagogy and scheduled over four consecutive weeks during the semester. They did so together with over 3,000 participants who had enrolled for this publicly available online course.
The impact of this new course has exceeded the expectations of all stakeholders involved. For the students, this course proved to be far more than a first glimpse of entrepreneurship. Starting with a very vague idea of key notions and concepts, they not only had to integrate knowledge acquired in very different learning modes but also had to activate their new competencies right away. As a result, their deliverables were of outstanding quality.
For example, they demonstrated amazing creativity in the storytelling assignment by using very original tools. At the end of the semester they not only were aware of what entrepreneurship was about, they had experimented it as collective project managers. For the tutor-entrepreneurs, the course experience was an opportunity to look back and become aware of their own project trajectory. It helped them adopt a critical distance to their overall business activity. Some of them even decided to review their business model and explore new avenues suggested by the students.
Overall, this very first teaching experience gave them confidence and additional motivation to pursue their project further. For the faculty at ESSCA School of Management, this course will be a game changer. Involving newly graduated alumni without teaching experience requires different ways of course preparation, coordination, and assessment. The takeaway from the triple-blended learning is twofold: the course setup gives more value to face-to-face interaction and empowers the entrepreneurs and the professors in their respective roles (tutors and experts), and the focus shifts from mere knowledge acquisition to actionable insights.