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Business Schools Seize Entrepreneurial Spirit


Posted July 24, 2018 by Elliot Davis - Senior Coordinator - Research

While many business school graduates move on to positions with established businesses, some have the itch to be their own boss and focus on their own business ventures. For these budding entrepreneurs, business schools have implemented a number of programs designed to help turn ideas into successful businesses. Degree programs with a focus on entrepreneurship are one option, of course. These programs are typically structured to teach students everything they will need to know to engineer a startup. But business schools are doing more to help facilitate the creation of business ventures.

The following are four examples, sourced from the 2018 Innovations That Inspire collection, of activities occurring at business schools with the goal of supporting entrepreneurs.

Turn Your Entrepreneurship Dreams into Reality

Southern Alberta Institute of Technology, School of Business (Canada)

This is a course, offered by the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology, designed for the entrepreneurial spirited. It is a just-in-time, online, condensed course that is completed in just a few weeks. Its step-by-step approach is designed to help entrepreneurs define their vision and make their dream a reality. The course is structured in four consecutive modules, each addressing a key different component in a typical business plan. The digital learning content is broken into micro-learning units to improve learners’ engagement and to allow them to be in control of what and when they are learning.

The course design focused on innovative technologies by creating easy ways for learners to understand the business content using digital tools such as 2D whiteboard video animations, interactive video presentations, and real case study videos with seven Calgary, Alberta-based entrepreneurial companies. While these tools have been used in the past, the design is innovative in that it adopts the best practices from the film and multimedia industries and produces more engaging online course content. Additionally, the real case studies are not merely interviews with entrepreneurs but instead are comprehensive stories that are interwoven throughout the fabric of the course content. In this way, learners can explore the course through storytelling, which effectively combines their learning in each of the four modules and their actions to apply this new knowledge to building their integrated business plan. Learners can also build an entrepreneurial business community that engages them to be more active in their own learning through online discussions where they can share their business ideas with peers.

Entrepreneurial Work Terms (EWTs)

Memorial University of Newfoundland, Faculty of Business Administration (Canada)

Designed for student entrepreneurs who want to create solutions to real-world problems, the EWTs are cooperative education placements that enable students to be their own boss and develop a business idea in a relatively low-risk environment. The EWTs join entrepreneurs together in shared spaces where they can work on their projects collectively. Suspending studies for a term and focusing on their entrepreneurial pursuits, the work term allows students with business ventures to pursue their dreams in a low-risk setting. Additionally, through several agreements, Memorial University of Newfoundland provides the participating students with a number of benefits as they work toward their goals.

Through funding from the federal government, provincial government, and private donors, EWTs were created and have become a sought-after option for young entrepreneurs. Students work in a co-working space and meet and learn from other student entrepreneurs. They participate in entrepreneurial workshops and in a validation program at a business incubator. Each team receives monetary support, as well as individual and group supervision and support for writing funding applications and other entrepreneurial support program applications.

Gameful Learning

The University of Michigan-Dearborn, College of Business (United States)

The University of Michigan-Dearborn’s College of Business is using “gameful learning” to help students embrace entrepreneurial concepts, such as calculated risk-taking, more easily. Gameful learning uses a flipped grading structure to gamify the course. In a traditional course, students start with 100 points and stand to lose points every time they take a test or submit a paper. In a gameful learning structure, all students start with zero points and then accumulate points as they take on new assignments. The idea is to encourage students to try new things and to take risks in order to maximize their point gains. Through this gameful learning approach, students are actually being encouraged to make use of the concepts taught in entrepreneurship courses.

Gameful learning was used for the BA 300 Career Planning and Development course in fall 2017, and the early feedback from the students was very positive. Students have reported that they appreciate being able to have more control of their grade, and many significantly exceeded the minimum requirements for an A (or perfect score) in order to gain more valuable career-related experience. Expansion of gameful learning in other courses is being considered, including a winter 2018 semester pilot program being organized by the business fraternity on campus.

Stimulating Urban Renewal Through Entrepreneurship (SURE)

University of Houston, C.T. Bauer College of Business (United States)

The goal of SURE is to produce socially engaged students who have developed empathy, critical-thinking abilities, and key soft skills, while at the same time stimulating urban renewal by empowering entrepreneurs who don't have the financial or educational resources to realize their business dreams. The program creates a three-way partnership between students, business thought leaders, and current or aspiring entrepreneurs from under-resourced communities in the Houston, Texas, area. The program gives University of Houston students, including Bauer College MBA students, the opportunity to hone soft skills by managing projects, developing client relationships, and learning to manage and motivate others. The students provide business consulting to entrepreneurs in the program, sharing what they’ve learned in the classroom, and participate in a weekly symposium class, learning from and networking with subject matter experts.

Those accepted into the program are expected to attend 10 free lectures given by industry experts in their field and be mentored by MBA students. From industry experts, the entrepreneurs learn about a wide range of topics: accounting, finance, taxation, business development sales, marketing, supply chain management, logistics, writing a business plan, and networking. Through their MBA consultants, the entrepreneur is connected with all of the resources they may need to succeed. Each entrepreneur then receives an official certificate of completion from the SURE program and remains a lifelong alumn, joining a network of Houston small business owners.

About Innovations That Inspire

With over 100 submissions from 25 countries and territories, the 2018 Innovations That Inspire collection illustrates business education’s commitment to being at the forefront on leadership development. Thirty of these innovations were featured at AACSB’s 2018 Deans Conference and are available for public browsing. The complete collection of Innovations That Inspire, including the 2016 and 2017 collections, can be found using AACSB’s DataDirect database.

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