Flipping the Classroom and the Benefits of Experiential Learning

iStock-479087782-colourful-chairsExperiential learning is gaining much popularity in Entrepreneurship programs and conferences. Educators are encouraged and challenged to consider offering in-class experiential exercises and to consider “flipping” their classrooms. Jim Hart explains.Many educators have found that the traditional lecture-only approach to entrepreneurship education is not enough. The complexity of the practice of entrepreneurship, being a risk-based creative endeavor with a felt impact, can be intense. At times, startup founders can feel overwhelmed and uncertain as they enter new experiences, challenges, and demands in their adventures in venturing. Experiential learning can afford our students experiences upon which they can build in the future and reflect upon when encountering circumstances in the field that they experienced in the classroom.

The market is an intense and competitive environment riddled with proverbial landmines. Often, competitors do not want a new entity entering the market, as a new company may siphon resources or customers away from an existing organization. On the nonprofit side, there is, generally speaking, a donor pool in any given community – a certain amount of people who have the means and desire to give to nonprofits. Local, and at times state and national nonprofits, are competing for funding from similar, if not the same sources. Companies, in their pursuit funding, profitability, and sustainability, may do what they can to make competition less-profitable and, at times, even try to push competition out of the market so they, themselves, have a more significant market share. The market can be not only intense but brutal in this respect.

Experiential learning offers aspiring entrepreneurs a degree of experience in what it is like to be an entrepreneur. This modality of teaching offers a way to experience entrepreneurial simulations and make tough decisions and, hopefully, increase the likelihood of both viability and sustainability in market pursuits. This in-the-field implementation can be accomplished, as students can reflect upon and draw wisdom from personal insights and experiences.

There is no greater teacher than experience.

When a student hears an expert, a professor, say something is so, that student likely assumes what is said is true. The student makes leaps of faith in instances of opinions, not facts. However, those students who experience and, consequently discover what it is they are learning, do not need to have faith, as they know something they have learned is so. They know as they have experience. Experience is what affords wisdom and wisdom can lead to wise decision-making.

Within the confines of a university environment, however, it may be challenging to offer real-world experiences through which students are actively-placed within the market. Though this is possible and some programs do this now, most instructors have to work with a three hour a week course structure that meets either once, twice or three times a week. Some universities do not allow students to engage in business and profiting while on campus. For some nonprofit institutions, profiting while on compass could threaten the nonprofit status of the university – such is the case at the university where I teach. Consequently, the university may require students to pursue their endeavors outside of a classroom environment.

Some of those challenges mentioned above can be avoided or overcome by offering simulations, demonstrations, games, and what I otherwise call “exercises.” Simulations can offer a real-world-like experience in which students can make entrepreneurial decisions, just as they might in the market. Such an exercise makes it possible for students to fail without any real-world and felt consequences. Demonstrations offer an experience of something, a phenomenon based on truth. Games can offer a playful class environment that stimulates students’ creative impulses, their imaginations and the act of creating or “creativity.”

The United States Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship conference (USASBE) values experiential learning. USASBE has a competitive experiential exercises track. Conference attendees who devise and submit original exercises have the opportunity to compete and potentially win an award.

The website www.teachingentrepreneurship.org offers an “Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum” and sample exercises. Neck, Green and Brush’s Teaching Entrepreneurship: A Practice-Based Approach offers a wide array of exercises for professors to draw from, as does my new book Classroom Exercises for Entrepreneurship: A Cross-Disciplinary Approach. These are just a few of the many resources one can explore and utilize.

Some exercises I have encountered or participated in, I am left wondering what topic in entrepreneurship is addressed or why the exercise is so abstract. With this in mind, in my new book, Classroom Exercises For Entrepreneurship: A Cross-Disciplinary Approach, I offer sixty-five original exercises that are each unequivocally related to entrepreneurship. Each was designed to be easy to implement, and the book covers an extensive range of entrepreneurial topics. Each of the sixty-five experiential exercises offers learning objectives, which can be inserted into an instructor’s syllabi and each is identified as being short, medium or long in the way of time required to complete. Most importantly, each exercise is designed to be clearly and unequivocally relatable to entrepreneurship and the process of venture creation.

The book is framed as a cookbook of sorts. The professor is the chef, and their course is the meal, which the chef serves to their customers – their students. This meal is prepared with ingredients, which are the experiential exercises. Instructors are urged to leaf through the book and find topics relevant to their courses, to use them and adapt them freely to their own needs. At the book’s conclusion, “recipes” are offered, which are lists of exercises from the book, each listed in sequential order. Such a linear approach can provide an instructor with multiple exercises that each build off of the other or communicate a particular topic, such as how to attract capital. Readers are urged to create their own recipes and to adopt and adapt exercises as they see fit.

Those who wish to make their class entirely experiential can “flip” their classroom. In this process, professors can offer pre-recorded lectures and out-of-class readings, which students engage as homework. Professors can then primarily use class time to offer experiential entrepreneurship exercises. Flipping one’s classroom, I can say from experience, can stimulate students, enable them to learn in a faster and perhaps better fashion. Through this mode of learning, students often develop a genuine enthusiasm for class, which often leads to word of mouth advertising among their peers. Such can lead to higher demand for a course. If you have yet to implement experiential exercises in your classroom, I highly recommend you do so. Resources are readily available.


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Jim Hart serves as Director of Arts Entrepreneurship at Southern Methodist University and is the author Classroom Exercises for Entrepreneurship: A Cross-Disciplinary Approach. For his work with original experiential entrepreneurship exercises, Hart has received several awards and recognition for innovation.

Read Chapter one free on Elgaronline

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  1. Flipping the Classroom & Experiential Learning | Arts Entrepreneurship Games - September 6, 2018

    […] Please see the following post I wrote, published by Edward Elgar Publishing, about the value of both “flipping” one’s classroom and experiential learning. […]

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