How can you set up entrepreneurial activities in your study programme?
Why are entrepreneurial activities relevant to your study programme?
Entrepreneurial activities are closely related to 21st-century skills such as creativity & innovation, problem-solving thinking and the capacity to adjust yourself to ever-changing circumstances. An entrepreneurial mindset prepares students for a future with new types of jobs, needs and issues.
In its Codex Higher Education, the Flemish government expects graduated Bachelors to have an entrepreneurial mindset and graduated Masters to be sufficiently informed about entrepreneurship as a possible career. Ghent University has integrated these skills into its competency model. The university expects its study programmes to make these more concrete in their learning outcomes and programme overviews. Because entrepreneurship has become a key competency in secondary education, related skills will increase in new entrants. Study programmes must further embed this knowledge.
What does Ghent University consider as entrepreneurial activities?
Ghent University uses the term ‘entrepreneurial acting’ as an outcome of secondary education, following the Flemish government. Other terms appearing in literature are ‘entrepreneurship’ and ‘entrepreneurial mindset’.
- According to the definition in VLAIO’s Action Plan Entrepreneurial Education 2015-2019, entrepreneurship revolves around starting one’s own business as well as all following phases that an entrepreneur runs through with their enterprise (continuing, growing, restarting, …) within a broad range of fields, both in the private and in the non-profit sector. A study programme that stimulates entrepreneurship teaches students the necessary knowledge, skills and attitudes to run through one or several of these phrases.
- Entrepreneurial mindset is a broader term, which is more frequently deployed as an essential learning outcome for students. It can be defined as the capacity to take initiative, develop ideas within a certain context, and show perseverance, responsibility, courage, creativity and autonomy to turn ideas into actions. It thus also includes planning and managing projects to realize objectives and is regarded as a necessary skill towards entrepreneurship.
- The Codex Higher Education includes the term entrepreneurial acting, which stresses that this concerns an attitude demonstrated by the students. The Flemish government acknowledges the individuality of the broad range of study programmes and expects institutions of higher education or study programmes to judge for themselves whether they want to solely aim for entrepreneurial mindset or also for entrepreneurship (see also the results of the Forum Plan for Entrepreneurial Higher Education). Ghent University follows this reasoning and lets study programmes decide for themselves how far they want to take this, although they must ensure to comply with Ghent University’s competency model.
How can you translate entrepreneurial activities to learning outcomes?
What does Ghent University’s competency model include regarding entrepreneurial acting?
Each study programme should meet Ghent University’s competency model, which includes three aspects of entrepreneurial acting:
- All Bachelor students should ‘demonstrate entrepreneurial acting’. This is compulsory for all study programmes.
- All Master students should be informed about organizing a career as an entrepreneur and the relevant legislation. This is also compulsory for all study programmes.
- Including ‘self-employed entrepreneurial acting’ in learning outcomes is optional for all Master’s programmes.
Each study programme should translate these competencies to concrete learning outcomes. Study programmes must develop their own view on:
- which aspects of entrepreneurial acting are important for the specific nature of the programme itself as well as the professional field in which graduates are likely to be employed.
- how to integrate these aspects of entrepreneurial acting into educational and teaching activities.
- how to evaluate these aspects of entrepreneurial acting.
How do you decide which entrepreneurial competencies are relevant to your study programme?
Each programme should select the relevant aspects of entrepreneurial acting and translate these to entrepreneurial competencies. The following questions can lead the way:
- What is expected of graduating students at the end of the programme? In any event, it is important for each student to have acquired a certain amount of knowledge (such as requirements for starting a self-employed career or liberal profession), but also to take the right actions and know where to go for additional support.
- What does the field expect of graduated students? Should students be able to respond to a certain context of new opportunities for and demands of customers? Are they starting their own business or a career in a liberal profession?
- Various study programmes lead to a career in research and development. Graduates work in or are the head of an R&D-department, develop new products or services, or often cooperate with customers. This takes place in the context of an existing company or organization; however, it is still important for students to acquire entrepreneurial skills such as responding to customers’ demands, assessing business opportunities, networking. For these students, especially an entrepreneurial mindset is important.
- Additionally, graduates of certain study programmes start their own company, their own practice or a career as a freelancer. Take, for example, students of (para)medical programmes such as Rehabilitation Sciences and Physiotherapy, or students of Linguistics and Literature who do editing as a secondary profession. Students of these programmes benefit from acquiring entrepreneurial skills aimed towards starting an own company. These companies (e.g. paramedical practices) often have to take account of specific legislation (concerning e.g. autonomous acting, processing patient files, liberal professions and recognition procedures).
Examples of ways in which programmes integrate entrepreneurial acting are:
- In the Master of Science in Biomedical Engineering: Food Science and Nutrition, students learn how to develop their own food product and draft an accompanying financial plan. This is relevant to these students as in their later career they will often be responsible for making decisions regarding new products that will be included into the line and thus will also have to understand the financial repercussions.
- In the minor ‘Bio-inspired innovation and sustainability’, Master students of Biology have to focus on innovating and fitting biological characteristics into a new product. Here the design process is a primary topic rather than the financial aspect.
What are examples of entrepreneurial competencies?
The European Commission has developed an extensive tool (Entrecomp) to pinpoint competencies concerning entrepreneurial mindset and entrepreneurship from a starter level up to an expert level. Here you can find not only relevant themes and topics for competencies, but also descriptors for various levels of competencies. VLAIO’s website lists extra links.
Examples of entrepreneurial learning outcomes are:
- Various methods to test innovative ideas with end users and customers (including interviews and prototypes).
- Efficiently communicating the activity that creates added value towards stakeholders with various backgrounds.
- Insight into the components of a business model.
- Understanding the most important success factors of a start-up company.
- Understanding the impact of various types of entrepreneurship (social, academic, growth-oriented) on society.
- Independently analyzing an existing business plan.
- Applying project methods that support innovation processes.
- Insight into relevant legislation concerning the profession of an entrepreneur.
- Seeing the benefit of innovation and modernization for society.
How do you integrate entrepreneurial acting into educational and teaching activities?
Which educational and teaching activities already exist in terms of entrepreneurial acting?
There are various ways to integrate entrepreneurial competencies into a study programme. Before selecting one of the options, check what already exists on various levels.
At the university level
Ghent University offers four university-wide elective course units that students can integrate into their curriculum, for 3 or 4 ECTS-credits.
- Basic entrepreurship (E076450, at a Bachelor level)
- Introduction to Entrepreneurship (E076431, at a Master level)
- Dare to venture (E076460, at a Master level)
- Dare to start (E076471, at a Master level)
These elective course units are accessible to students from all study programmes (even if they are not yet mentioned in the course sheet), require little to no prior knowledge and cover a wide range of skills and knowledge.
At the faculty level
A good source of inspiration are other study programmes within your faculty that already focus on entrepreneurial acting. Organize a similar initiative or join other study programmes as entrepreneurial acting is a topic that lends itself perfectly to a multidisciplinary approach:
- Cooperate with other study programmes (and their students) whose graduates often cooperate with graduates of your programme in the professional field; for example, students of Chemistry from the Faculty of Sciences, civil or industrial chemical engineers and bio-engineers.
- Cooperate with study programmes (and their students) in a different domain. In “Product innovation in the food industry”, students of Bioscience Engineering cooperate with students of Business Administration to launch a new food product.
At the study programme level
Make sure to check which projects and course units are already part of your study programme. Entrepreneurial competencies can often be added with minimal effort. Let the following questions lead the way:
- Are specific competencies in terms of entrepreneurship already present at the study programme level? If so, in which course units / projects are currently included?
- Are generic competencies which are closely related to entrepreneurship already present at the study programme level, e.g. innovation skills, independent acting? If so, in which course units / projects are they currently included?
- Do certain professors, assistants, researchers or other staff members of your study programme have expertise or knowledge about entrepreneurship? Do certain former staff members have their own company? If so, do you know these people and can you map their entrepreneurship?
- Do course units or projects regarding entrepreneurship already exist? Conceptualize a project with a societal result or Master theses that put research into practice by, for example, developing a product or service.
How do you develop a learning path for entrepreneurial acting?
Entrepreneurial acting is best taught spread throughout the curriculum, so the complexity of the competencies gradually develops. It is recommended to develop a learning path that offers enough opportunities for students to gradually acquire the competencies. Keep the principle of constructive alignment in mind for doing so: what do you want to achieve, how will you teach this and how can you evaluate this?
Take into account that you first have to build up part of the knowledge base, that practice sessions should be organized and that this can eventually result in entrepreneurial acting. As ‘demonstrating entrepreneurial acting’ is a competency at the bachelor level, you should achieve this within the first three Bachelor years.
Which methods are most suitable for entrepreneurial acting?
Which method is most suitable strongly depends on the objective you want to achieve. Entrepreneurial acting is often displayed in behaviour, so practical teaching methods are an obvious choice, though other methods such as formal lectures, online learning paths and self-study are also possible.
Project work is the method par excellence to teach an entrepreneurial mindset (and entrepreneurship). Many entrepreneurial competencies are best acquired by doing.
- In many cases, project work can be combined with course-specific project work, e.g. ‘Venturing in chemistry’, which lets students apply their chemical knowledge to solve a (societal) issue and develop a basic business model.
- Both individual and group project work are possible, though group work is more common as you usually never venture into an entrepreneurial project on your own. Ideally, the group work is multidisciplinary.
- Consider combining a few competencies into a project course, e.g. competencies related to societal impact and sustainability. Consider, for example, an assignment related to the professional field or relevant to society. Are you in search of challenges for which students can find a solution? Each year, DO! (Dare to Venture!) launches a call to match organizations with course units.
If a project cannot fit within the curriculum, opt for case studies (also called case-based learning). This way, students practice certain skills in the context of fictitious or real business cases. However, finding a good case study is not always easy.
- Invited speakers are a small but valuable way to get students in touch with entrepreneurship. They are preferable graduates of the study programme and / or are entrepreneurs or intrapreneurs in an affiliated field. Their presence could also go hand in hand with a company visit. Maybe a (former) student-entrepreneur wants to share their experience?
- Another option is to let students look for someone to interview or talk to, which can spark their entrepreneurial mindset even more.
Which extracurricular support is available for entrepreneurial acting?
Student life is the ideal time for experimenting and undertaking. Most students have nothing to lose during this time and financial benefits make student enterprises highly attractive. Students who become self-employed can adopt one of two support statutes.
- Ghent University’s student entrepreneur statute
This special internal statute helps student entrepreneurs to combine their studies with an enterprise.
- The Flemish government’s statute of self-employed student
This statute allows students to start an enterprise in a financially advantageous way during their studies so they can earn some pocket money as through a traditional student job.
Additionally, students can consult DO!, which helps them to take the ideas they developed during certain courses to a next level, or spark new ideas. DO! offers a broad range of extracurricular support which is free for students, such as coaching, events, a network and the pre-acceleration trajectory Expedition DO!. You can contact DO! if you want to make their services known in your study programme.
How can you evaluate entrepreneurial acting?
Evaluating entrepreneurial competencies has to be focused on both at the study programme level and at the course unit level. The programme should mainly focus on the bigger picture, while course units should concretely evaluate (aspects of) the entrepreneurial competencies.
How can you evaluate entrepreneurial competencies at the study programme level?
- In the study programme’s view on evaluating, concretely state which aspects of entrepreneurial competencies you will formally evaluate. Of course, you can still focus on other aspects without formal evaluation.
- ‘Demonstrating entrepreneurial acting’ is a competency which refers to a certain skill that has to be developed and evaluated. During the study, provide sufficient practice sessions that teach knowledge, skills and attitudes concerning entrepreneurial acting, for example in a learning path. The formal evaluation can take place at the end of the study programme.
- Each entrepreneurial competency should be evaluated at least twice during the programme. The competency matrix is a useful tool to check whether this is the case as it meticulously maps how and which aspects appear in which course units within the educational and teaching activities as well as how evaluation of the entire study programme is organized, as the study competencies are concretely translated into learning outcomes of course units. The opportunities to acquire these competencies are offered in educational and teaching activities of course units, and their evaluation is included in the evaluation of learning outcomes of course units.
- Apply a suitable mix of evaluation methods to evaluate the broad range of entrepreneurial competencies throughout the study programme, for which examples are provided below.
- Align evaluation methods of entrepreneural competencies within the study programme. Study programmes with a learning path for entrepreneurial acting gradually include these competencies throughout the programme and automatically align their evaluation well. If your programme provides no learning path, evaluation methods can be aligned in various projects or course units by means of a shared set of evaluation criteria or a rubric.
How can you evaluate entrepreneurial competencies at the course unit level?
- Use the learning outcomes as a source of inspiration for evaluation. What do you want the course unit to achieve? These objectives can immediately act as the learning outcomes.
- Select one or several suitable evaluation method(s) for the competencies you wish to evaluate.
- Do you want to evaluate if students have acquired knowledge about several ways to tackle an entrepreneurial project?
- Or do you rather want to evaluate if students can also apply the entrepreneurial activities?
- Use clear evaluation criteria or rubrics to evaluate skills and attitudes. Both towards the student and towards the evaluator, clearly communicate what the entrepreneurial competencies entail and what is expected when evaluating creativity or ability to consult various sources to develop a concept.
- Decide whether to evaluate the product, the process, the reflection or a combination of these aspects. The process can be evaluated by means of a portfolio including all steps of the process, possibly accompanied by a reflection. Use clear evaluation criteria for all these evaluation components.
- Examples of suitable evaluation methods are:
- The students pitch the project and company they developed in front of a jury, which often consists of lecturers, one or several entrepreneurs and / or a representative of DO!.
- The students submit a business plan which describes their company and its activities.
- The students give a presentation which elucidates their learning process and experience.
- The students write a reflective report concerning one of several aspect(s) discussed in the course unit.
- The students present their projects in a closing fair during which an external jury evaluates them.
- The students hold intermediate presentations by means of which lecturers can assess the progress and milestones of the project.
- The students record a promotional video to present their product.
- The students write a blog post about the process to develop a concept into a product.
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