Profile course in entrepreneurship

Course type: Profile course. Course: Profile course in entrepreneurship, 20 ECTS. Study level: Master’s degree programme, semester 9. Class size: Approximately 15-35. Link to course description.

Motivation for the activity

Like all profile courses at the Faculty of Arts, this course has a strong focus on practice. The activity/course seeks to ensure that the students gain theoretical knowledge of entrepreneurship, but also that they learn to use entrepreneurship as a method in various contexts. The course is based on a broad understanding of entrepreneurship, with company start-ups being only one of many types of entrepreneurship. In connection with the project work, it will therefore also be possible to work with entrepreneurship and innovation at/for existing companies, social entrepreneurship etc.

Central learning objectives for the course

  • The course focuses on strengthening the students’ ability and desire to take action, spot new opportunities and put them into practice in collaboration with other students and external partners.
  • The students are introduced to and gain understanding of the theory of entrepreneurship.
  • The students are introduced to and work with entrepreneurial tools and methods.
  • The students work with an issue in a real context – and reflect on and assess their learning process.

Central learning objectives for the activity

  • The students work with procedural entrepreneurial methods
  • The students learn to present a concept and use a business model for this purpose

Description of the activity

During the first week, the students are introduced to central definitions, theories and research positions within the field (combined with creative exercises along the way).

By way of preparing for class, the students produce an individual poster presenting the everyday issues with which they would like to work. These posters are presented to the other students and used to put topics into perspective, as well as forming the basis for joint analysis and brainstorming.

Then the students form groups based on their academic interests and their chosen topics. This may result in relatively homogeneous groups because the students who share the same core expertise often share an interest in the same type of academic issues. But there are also other advantages, such as motivation and the opportunity to work with topics which might be relevant for writing their Master’s thesis (or in their subsequent careers).

The course is then divided into four phases.

In phase 1, the focus is on understanding that successful entrepreneurs use the resources that are available to them – who they are, what they can do and who they know. I am qualified in this field, so I start by preparing a personality type profile so the students can find out which profile they have. Among other things, these profiles show that different profiles have different strengths in the different phases of the Me2 model, on which the teaching is based. In other words, the groups get a good idea of the areas they need to be particularly aware of, where their strengths and weaknesses lie – and how to work with them.

At the end of phase 1, the students submit a five-page assignment in which they describe the resources that form the basis for the group’s entrepreneurial process in the light of theoretical texts. The teacher gives brief feedback on this assignment.

In phase 2, the students work on expressing, understanding, explaining and documenting the issue they want to work on during the rest of the course:

  • They find out whether this issue is something real that other stakeholders also notice, and which practices and underlying causes form the basis of the issue
  • The students collect knowledge of the problem area – from both research and other secondary sources, as well as using ethnographical methods (observations, interviews, questionnaires etc.)
  • In the second half of phase 2, we do an exercise called “The world afterwards”. The focus of this exercise is on defining what the world should look like after the solution to the problem has been implemented
  • Phase 2 ends with the students submitting a relatively comprehensive assignment of approximately 10-12 pages. In continuation of this, they present their provisional results in class and are given thorough feedback from their fellow students

Phase 2 is very central to the course because it makes no sense to create solutions for problems which are poorly described or non-existent. This phase should therefore occupy a large part of the students’ total workload. In this course, which spans an entire semester, the students spend approximately one month on this phase.

In phase 3, I give the students a small catalogue of methods of idea generation which they can use as a source of inspiration. In this process, the students also swap catalogues and use each other as sounding boards. Then the groups decide on the 1-4 ideas with the greatest potential for further work, after which they develop one or more prototypes to illustrate their solution. Some prototypes are highly specific, while others are more abstract. For instance, a prototype could consist of LEGO building blocks, a drawing of their process or a mock-up of an app.

In phase 4, we focus on the value which the students’ solution can potentially create for others. In doing so, we use two models that may be useful in constructing arguments about the real creation of value in student solutions:

We also work on the presentation of the project, including refining the prototypes. Finally, the students produce presentations in which they present their prototypes. Any stakeholders with whom the students have been in contact during their projects are invited to the presentations. It is up to the students to invite them.

The exam is held at the end of phase 4. The exam consists of (and is assessed on the basis of) several sub-elements:

  • The submission of a work report, including reflections on their process
  • The submission of their prototype
  • The submission of their Business Model Canvas
  • Their final presentation
  • The submission of a synopsis on the topics they intend to present at the oral exam
  • Participation in the oral group exam

Outcome of the activity

The students learn that entrepreneurship is a particular way of addressing their own everyday practice and thereby also their own academic skills. The students are introduced to a procedural method which can be used in many study-related and career-related contexts.

Useful tips

It may be a good idea to consider whether you want the groups to be as heterogeneous as possible. If you do, you need to mix the groups in a different way than the way described here.

Helle Meibom Færgemann

Special ConsultantCentre for Teaching Development and Digital Media

Read more about:

  • THEME: Exams and forms of exam
  • THEME: Teaching Evaluation
  • THEME: Feedback
  • THEME: Teaching strategies of studying
  • THEME: Supervision

Further reading:

  • Carlson & Wilmot (2006): ”Innovation: The Five Disciplines for Creating What Customers Want”

  • Ruef (2002): “Strong ties, weak ties and islands: structural and cultural predictors of organizational innovation”

  • Shane & Venkataraman (2000): A Promise of Entrepreneurship as a Field of Research

  • Spinosa, Flores & Dreyfuss (1997):”Disclosing new worlds: entrepreneurship, democratic action and the cultivation of solidarity”, S. 1-68

  • Sarasvathy (2001a): “What Makes Entrepreneurs Entrepreneurial”

  • Sarasvathy (2001b): ”Causation and Effectuation: Toward a Theoretical Shift from Economic Inevitability to Entrepreneurial Contingency”

  • Sarasvathy & Venkataraman (2011): “Entrepreneurship as Method: Open Questions for an Entrepreneurial Future”