Randy Pausch is the inspiring professor behind “The Last Lecture“, the Entertainment Technology Center, and many other impressive accomplishments. Along the way he knew he wanted to empower students to follow their creative dreams.
At first he mentored individual students. Not satisfied to help only a handful of students at a time, he next crafted a powerful, non-traditional course that proved a sensation. Soon he was helping hundreds of students. Again he was not satisfied, so he partnered with others to create a masters degree program that used his inspiration course as an introduction. The program has spread to five other colleges from around the world. But he still wasn’t satisfied.
Before his untimely death, Prof. Pausch co-founded Alice, a video game where kids get to create their own “movies” – and along the way they are secretly taught computer programming, graphics, modern audio… did I mention these are elementary school kids?
Clearly, Prof. Pausch and his compatriots were social entrepreneurs of staggering ability. And what’s more, the very thing they were teaching looks a LOT like entrepreneurship education to my eyes. Why not borrow from their success to help teach entrepreneurship?
Here are some ideas on how one might map the Pausch (and friends) successes to UMass EI. If these ideas gain some traction, then an in-depth review of exactly what Prof. Pausch did (as opposed to my 1 hour of web research).
Step 1 – Make a 3-credit class that looks like Prof. Pausch’s.
- Initial weeks – Orientation & training to prepare students for…
- Project 1 – Split the students into randomly assigned teams. Give them two weeks of training in class, but outside class they must work on developing a poster-session + elevator pitch for their idea. On the last class of the second week, every team must deliver their pitch. Each student must evaluate their teammates via anonymous written feedback.
- Project 2 – Randomly re-assign people to completely new teams. Repeat the process above, except that the in-class content they learn is different (the next content in the syllabus).
- Repeat this for 4-6 projects (until semester is over).
- At end of semester show students the cumulative feedback they have received from their peers (a graph showing who is easiest to work with/adds most value all the way down to who is the hardest to work with).
This kind of course design stresses students getting their hands dirty with the practical skills of entrepreneurship – team building, idea generation, evaluation, and communication. The practical nature of the class, and the student’s ability to build on an idea of their own design, will hopefully provide additional passion to fuel student participation.
Step 2 – Take the project-based nature of the flagship/intro course and expand upon it. Now students would form their own teams around their own ideas and invest an entire semester into taking that idea to the next level. Each succeeding semester would see them move the idea further up the development curve. By the end of the program, they should have everything they need to launch their business on their own. That doesn’t mean that they have the money, it means they have the relationships and skills to try and raise the money. It doesn’t mean they have the whole team, but it does mean they have enough of the team to start, and enough relationships to start recruiting the rest of the people they need.
Step 3 – Create an “Alice for entrepreneurship.” Create a video game that seems to be about something fantastically engaging and accessible – but is really teaching students the core skills of entrepreneurship. A game like this teaches the basics, inspires vast numbers of kids (pre-college) to take interest in the entrepreneurial career path. When they get to college, hopefully they’ll sign up for entrepreneurship courses like those described above (or ones better designed :)).
Here is a link describing the curriculum of the the master’s program Prof. Pausch helped create: http://www.etc.cmu.edu/curriculum/index.html