Findings in Entrepreneurship Education Literature
This study is based on a review of the current Entrepreneurship Educa tion (EE) literature, which identifies important findings, concepts, and innovative teaching practices in EE. In search for reoccurring i nsights a wide array of entrepreneurship literature was reviewed. This wealth of information is arranged in three sections: Organizati onal and Contextual Factors Impacting EE, Teaching Practices and the Pedagogical Side of EE, as well as Suggested Exercises, Activities and Tasks for EE. Due to the variety of insights found, the sectional categorizations are rather broad, but this allows for a display of the interconnectedness of the different aspects influencing EE. The specific findings are also summarized in Appendix A: Insights in Entrepreneurship Education.
Organizatio nal and Contextual Factors Impa cting EE
National governments and the European Commission have discovered EE as a wealth creator and job engine ( Hytti & Kuopusjärvi, 2007; Volkmann, Wilso n, Mariotti, Rabuzzi, Vyakarnam, & Sepulve da, 2009). According Kolvereid and Åmo (2007) EE has the potential to foster econ omic growth and have a positive effect on unemployment rates. Henry, Hill and Leitch’s (2003) study has shown that aspiring entrepren eurs participating in developed their business idea significantly further than aspiring entrepreneurs not participating in EE.
Another function of EE that often goes unnoticed is its sorting effect. EE allows students to explore the phenome non of entrepreneurship and helps determine whether or not they are suited for becomin g entrepreneurs. Ultimately these sorting benefits help to save resources by avoiding th e start of companies that would fail in the long run due to the founders’ lack in competence or entrepreneurial drive (von Graevenitz, Harhoff, & Weber, 2010). Similarly, Shane (2009) points out that encouraging the wr ong people to start businesses is bad public policy.
According to Fayolle (2007) there are three main sources of demand for EE:
- Governments seeking economic growth through job creation and innovation
- Students who want to start their own business or improve their career chances
- Business of all kinds that are increasingly interested in innovators and entrepreneurial experience
With this list Fayolle (2007) not only identifies the sources that fuel the demand for EE, but also addresses the three remaining main stakeholders in EE other than academic institutions. Berglund and Holmgren (2006) recognize the following four spheres as main stakeholders in EE:
- a) Industrial
- c) Private
- b) Public
- d) Academic
Merging these spheres with the stakeholder model suggested by Volkmann, Wilson, Mariotti, Rabuzzi, Vyakarnam, and Sepulveda (2009) produces the following model Dissatisfied with current state of EE a number of scholars have called for a new approach to EE (Clergeau & Schieb-Bienfait, 2007; Volkmann, Wilson, Mariotti, Rabuzzi, Vyakarnam, & Sepulveda, 2009; Verstraete & Hlady-Rispal, 2007; Gibb, 2005; Heinonen & Poikkijoki, 2006; Kirby, 2004). Many of the alternative suggestions include a more interdisciplinary, university-wide5, and less business dominated approach that allows for cross fertilization among students from different disciplines such as engineering, science, healthcare, and business (Janssen, Eeckhout, & Gailly, 2007; Kailer, 2010; Volkmann, Wilson, Mariotti, Rabuzzi, Vyakarnam, & Sepulveda, 2009; Gibb, 2005; Welter & Heinemann, 2007; Klapper & Tegtmeier, 2010; Bridge, Hegarty, & Porter, 2010; Streeter & Jaquette Jr., 2004). This would allow combining the individual strength of the different disciplines and is suggested to increase the effectiveness of businesses started in a university context. A small step towards such an approach would be to require the formation of cross-faculty teams for any university competitions (Bridge, Hegarty, & Porter, 2010).
In order to achieve a more interdisciplinary and university-wide EE, the literature also suggests that entrepreneurship focused modules should be accessible to students from all faculties of a university (Janssen, Eeckhout, & Gailly, 2007; Kailer, 2010; Volkmann, Wilson, Mariotti, Rabuzzi, Vyakarnam, & Sepulveda, 2009; Gibb, 2005; Heinonen & Poikkijoki, 2006). Clergeau and Schieb-Bienfait (2007) and Kailer (2010) make a more detailed proposal by recommending the establishment of a university-wide entrepreneurship center. They continue to underline the importance of a clear project leader that takes charge of university-wide coordination over faculty borders, ensuring interdisciplinary education (Clergeau & Schieb-Bienfait, 2007). Regardless of the organizational approach used to achieve this, it is crucial that the credits earned in these modules can be recognized towards any degree at the university (Janssen, Eeckhout, & Gailly, 2007; Welter & Heinemann, 2007; Kailer, 2010; Gasse & Tremblay, 2006; European Commission, 2008). Not surprisingly, Gasse and Tremblay’s (2006) study that surveyed 600 students at Laval University6 showed that 96% of the students asked reported that receiving credits for their entrepreneurship modules was important to them. This can however result in difficulties concerning degree composition and accreditation considering the number of compulsory modules within most degrees. Adding an entrepreneurial track as alternative to other electives or study abroad could be one way of overcoming these problems. Gasse and Tremblay (2006) suggest a special label, “Entrepreneurial Profile”, be added to the degree of for example engineering students taking entrepreneurship classes.
Another factor frequently highlighted in the literature is the importance of entrepreneurial networking and team building in EE (Kailer, 2010; Heinonen & Poikkijoki, 2006; Blenker, Dreisler, Faergeman, & Kjeldsen, 2006; Gasse & Tremblay, 2006; Henry, Hill, & Leitch, 2007; Lans & Gulikers, 2010; Izquierdo & Deschoolmeester, 2010). Vezart and Bachelet (2006) state that recent university graduates often start businesses in teams formed during their studies. Similarly, Kailer (2010) finds that two-thirds of the students in his study prefer establishing a business as a team, but he also underlines that aspiring student entrepreneurs often lack the right partner to team up with. This explains why 98.2% of the 600 students that participated in Gasse and Tremblay’s (2006) study at Laval University wanted university support in entrepreneurial networking.
According to Blenker, Dreisler, Faergeman, and Kjeldsen (2006) a strong networking component (in EE), which helps students to establish relationships with others that possess different skills and abilities, stimulates entrepreneurial behavior. Consequently the interdisciplinary approach (bringing together students from different disciplines) favored by many authors in the EE field, would allow students to build multidisciplinary teams and learn by combining their respective knowledge and skills (Janssen, Eeckhout, & Gailly, 2007). This results in multidisciplinary groups of professionals able to leverage a wider array of expertise needed to start a successful business and thus minimizing the need for external capital through successful bootstrapping (Janssen, Eeckhout, & Gailly, 2007; Kailer, 2010; Heinonen & Poikkijoki, 2006). Kailer (2010) suggests that even external capital is more readily available for multidisciplinary teams since the portfolio of expertise of the founding team strongly influences investment decisions of business angels and venture capitalists. Rasmussen and Sørheim (2006) further underline the importance of entrepreneurial team building by pointing out that some individuals will only become entrepreneurs as team members of a group start-up and would not pursue an individual start-up.
Teaching in interdisciplinary teams, however, also brings about new challenges. One of the main challenges is the perceived incompatibility of teaching multidisciplinary teams in more traditional ways like lectures and seminars considering the diverse backgrounds of the participants. Janssen, Eeckhout, and Gailly (2007) proceed to suggest that problem and project based learning with a strong reality focus is one good solution for this problem. Considering that ‘working life’ is often based on a similar approach, in which expert groups of different disciplines come together to find optimal solutions to complex problems and implement challenging projects, this appears to be a natural solution. As different disciplines overlap and interact on a day-to-day basis in a business context, this approach also qualifies for teaching students that do not have an entrepreneurial focus. Ultimately, even a master thesis could be written in interdisciplinary teams (Janssen, Eeckhout, & Gailly, 2007).
Entrepreneurial networking also facilitates the students’ contact to external stakeholders such as business angels, small local investment vehicles, and business incubators and supports students in finding experienced external team partners (Kailer, 2010; Volkmann, Wilson, Mariotti, Rabuzzi, Vyakarnam, & Sepulveda, 2009). This is in line with another suggestion repeatedly brought forward by the entrepreneurship literature. The university should collaborate with regional actors, such as the regional government, and establish regional partner companies (Clergeau & Schieb-Bienfait, 2007; Kailer, 2010; Volkmann, Wilson, Mariotti, Rabuzzi, Vyakarnam, & Sepulveda, 2009).
The Survey of Entrepreneurship in Higher Education in Europe shows that many of the institutions participating in the survey involve practitioners and entrepreneurs in the curriculum development. Kailer (2010) goes one step further by suggesting the involvement of alumni entrepreneurs in curriculum design to ensure that the university addresses the students’ needs.
To ensure the quality of an entrepreneurship program, several scholars suggest at least some form of selection process other than previous academic performance controlling the participant intake. A common proposal is student selection based on interviews and tests analyzing students’ motivation (Janssen, Eeckhout, & Gailly, 2007; Kailer, 2010; Henry, Hill, & Leitch, 2007). Recognizing the additional resources required by these activities, Kailer (2010) suggested an alternative using self-assessment tests analyzing the fit between aspiring participant and the program. In the case described by Janssen, Eeckhout, and Gailly (2007) a more traditional approach using written applications and interviews was utilized, nonetheless still with a focus on students’ motivations.
On the other hand, several authors underline that using the selection criterion of ‘having a business idea’ is not a good approach since it excludes many potential participants that are, even without a business idea, genuinely interested in entrepreneurship (Linán, 2007; Janssen, Eeckhout, & Gailly, 2007). To stimulate further interest in entrepreneurship Clergeau and Schieb-Bienfait (2007) introduced the idea of offering a test that helps to assess student’s entrepreneurial capabilities on entrepreneurship day7, potentially even with the help of a psychologist. This initiates a first contact with the topic of entrepreneurship in a relaxed atmosphere and allows students of all disciplines to find out whether entrepreneurship is something they may have an inclination toward. Volkmann, Wilson, Mariotti, Rabuzzi, Vyakarnam, and Sepulveda (2009) further suggest integrating entrepreneurship elements into courses of other disciplines and departments to increase awareness for the subject. Such activities become increasingly important considering the fact that case studies, for instance the one carried out at the University of Siegen in Germany, have shown that university students are not always aware of the entrepreneurship activities offered at their university (Welter & Heinemann, 2007).
The next component identified as crucial by a number of authors is a strong support structure that includes elements such as expert advice, consulting, mentoring, and relevant workshops (Janssen, Eeckhout, & Gailly, 2007; Kailer, 2010; Volkmann, Wilson, Mariotti, Rabuzzi, Vyakarnam, & Sepulveda, 2009; Fayolle & Degeorge, 2006; Kickul, 2006; Gasse & Tremblay, 2006; Henry, Hill, & Leitch, 2007). According to the findings of Gasse and Tremblay (2006), this is significantly more important than business plan competitions and entrepreneurial associations or clubs. The Gründerstudie 06/07 carried out at the University of Siegen in Germany by Welter and Heinemann (2007) came to similar results: in the students’ opinion individual expert advice such as mentoring, coaching, and consulting as well as relevant workshops were more important than business plan competitions. First, a secure, supportive, but rather experimental environment helps to reduce the fear of failure (Volkmann, Wilson, Mariotti, Rabuzzi, Vyakarnam, & Sepulveda, 2009; Jones, 2010b). Second, if this support structure stays available for students after graduation, it will help in fostering a good contact network with graduates, which can then be turned into a strong alumni network (Kailer, 2010; Heinonen & Akola, 2007b).
2 Findings in Entrepreneurship Education Literature
2.1 Organizational and Contextual Factors Impacting EE
2.2 Teaching Practices and the Pedagogical Side of EE
2.3 Suggested Exercises, Activities, and Tasks for EE
3.1 Asymmetries in the Objectives of EE Stakeholders
3.2 The Divergence of EE Theory and Practice
3.3 A Need for Clear Objectives
3.4 The Importance of Clear Program Descriptions
3.5 Who Studies EE?
3.6 Fundamental Concepts in EE
3.7 Evaluating EE and the Need for True Alumni Networks
4 Suggestions on Innovative Teaching Tools
4.1 A Module on Business Models
4.2 Business Simulation 2.0
4.3 Venture Creation and Competency Based Team Building
5 Concluding Remarks
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