Designing the Entrepreneurship Course

Note: Starting today, I will recommend the use of “Entrepreneurship” in place of “Technopreneurship” for a number of reasons. First is that I’ve come to realize that they are one and the same. Second is that there is a tendency for some individuals, especially the techie types (that includes me), to focus too much on the technology side and forget about the entrepreneurial aspects when the word “technopreneurship” is used.

First off, I need to acknowledge that an elective course on entrepreneurship (currently labeled technopreneurship) has been designed and integrated within computer science and I.T.(?) programs across a number of universities in Davao City. I’d like to clarify that this post is not intended as a criticism of those courses: I haven’t seen the design of those courses. Rather, I’d like to offer this post as a contribution as well as a means to start a discussion with the relevant individuals responsible for implementing this course. I’ll start by discussing some ideas that have been floating in my head since early last year.

What should be the objectives of the elective?
It’s important, when setting the elective’s objectives, to always keep in mind that its audience does not have a background on management and entrepreneurship. Therefore, to expect them to be entrepreneurial experts able to produce top quality business plans by the end of the elective would be too ambitious. We must note that even MBA students need to go through a number of courses spanning and integrating Finance, Marketing, Operations, and HR before they can effectively take on the new venture planning course. Squeezing this much learning into one tiny elective is too ambitious and will only end up frustrating both the teacher and the learner. Secondly, we also need to keep in mind that some of these students may not at all be interested in entrepreneurship. After all, this is probably why they chose Computer Science or I.T. instead of Business Administration (I realize that we’re talking about students taking an elective here, but I’ve heard that for some schools, this is the only elective available). So we would be doing them a disservice if we forced them into something they didn’t sign up to when they chose the program.

Keeping these two realizations in mind what then should be the course’s objectives?

Produce entrepreneurial experts? No.

Produce business planning experts? No.

Produce businessmen and women? No.

The course’s objective should be simply to produce students who know their place in a business. The course only needs to teach the student the significance of each “pillar” (i.e. Finance, Marketing, Operations, HR) of the organization, but not the intricacies of each. That is, she should understand by the end of the course the purpose of Finance, Marketing, Operations, and HR, but not necessarily how they go about fulfilling that purpose.

At the end of the elective, if the student becomes interested in acquiring more knowledge on entrepreneurship, then very good! She can learn more by enrolling in management programs or joining business planning competitions (provided they team up with business-minded individuals) on their own free will. If, however, at the end of the elective the student still is not interested in entrepreneurship, then so be it. Like I said, It’s not, after all, what she signed up for when he chose C.S. or I.T. for his program.

What should be required of the students to pass the course?
As I’ve hinted above, requiring the students to produce business plans by the end of the course is unrealistic. We can’t expect them to effectively undertake market research, market segmentation, discounted cash flow analysis, organizational planning, etc. after taking just one elective. The only requirement that I see fit for this kind of course and for the kind of students it intends to teach is a final written exam testing them on their understanding of a business and its pillars.

Who should design and manage the course?
With all due respect to the C.S. and I.T. faculty of the universities here in Davao (I know you are all knowledgeable in the fields that you are in), I believe that the course would be better designed by the faculty of management. Just as a software programming course is better designed and implemented by someone who knows programming, so must an elective on entrepreneurship be designed by someone who knows business management. These are just some of my initial thoughts on the course’s design. My hope is that it somehow starts a discussion among the relevant individuals in the Davao academe. Any comments and suggestions are more than welcome. You may use the comment box below for now.

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8 Comments

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8 responses to “Designing the Entrepreneurship Course

  1. randy s. gamboa, phd

    i agree with your thoughts mark …

  2. Edwin V. Marañon

    I believe that SEED (self mastery, environment mastery, enterprise mastery, development of business plan) can still be the overall structure of the technopreneurship course but the expectations can be tempered considering the limitations of the students in terms of business background and experience. We actually faced these obstacles during the first-run of the course last year. The quality of the business plans did not meet the standards of a good business plan — the reason why not a single entry from Davao was recommended to move forward to the final round. And you’re right, a deeper grasp of the “pillars” of a business (marketing, finance, operations, HR) is imperative if we expect business plans that meet the grade.

    From my own evaluation, the first two components (self mastery and environment mastery) are quite alright (although refinements can still be done). The self mastery component is an internal journey into an alternative mindset (which is technopreneurship) from the default employment mindset. Assessment exercises on inclinations towards technopreneurship are done as well as business idea generation exercises springing from what the participants personally love, hate, and are good at. The environment mastery component is like an environmental scan which is another source of business opportunities (with a certain bias on technology-enabled ideas). Exercises on business idea generation, evaluation and presentation are done (i.e., elevator pitch). An overview of a full business plan is also discussed. The main output of this component (aside from the elevator pitch) is a business concept (following the PESO format). This is a stripped down version of a business plan (without the financials and other hard-core business elements) and can be contained in 3 pages.

    The weakness of the SEED technopreneurship course is the enterprise mastery component (the third component). This is where the business “pillars” (marketing mgt, finance mgt, operations mgt, HR mgt, risk mgt) as well as tips on creating a business are discussed. These are supposed to aid the students in making a good business plan (also following the PESO format). This is where people from the business school and business community can come in. However, in the first-run, the IT teacher also had to take care of these things. With a weak enterprise mastery component, then the development of the business plan (the fourth component) is greatly affected.

    One pressure point that also affected the course is the effort to follow the deadlines of the PESO-Davao business plan competition, which came earlier than the national competition. We may have to look into more feasible schedules. We were successful in coming up with good business concepts but we somehow failed in the development of full-blown business plans. I am actually considering the offering of a follow-up “elective” during the second semester to sharpen the business plans (through seminars, bootcamps, exposures with the business community). In this way, the students may consider pursuing their business plans in spite of the many offers from recruiting IT companies. However, this requires the support of an “external ecosystem” (such as incubators, venture capitalists, etc.) to strengthen their resolve to make the plunge. For those who don’t, at least the seed has been planted — who knows, it will grow as they experience being employed first.

    I agree that expecting the students to come up with business plans after the elective is ambitious. But with proper guidance and support from the business school and business community (especially on enterprise mastery), I believe it can be done. And it should not stop there. A followup elective may be advisable and an “external ecosystem” has to be in place. We can hopefully get our acts together in working on these concerns…

  3. Hello Edwin,

    Thanks for commenting on my post. 🙂 My reply is as follows.

    Same as your evaluation, I also think that the first two components are great tools to learn. They are actually patterned against strategic planning best practices. I think it’s important, however, to avoid self-evaluation forms (during the self mastery phase) that “tests” whether the individual has an entrepreneurial inclination or not. I believe that this kind of test is misleading as it relies on incomplete information. I would rather see exercises that make the student analyze her strengths and weaknesses. Only after she has done this along with the environmental scanning activity should she evaluate whether pursuing an entrepreneurial life is for her. It is also important to note that even if the exercise reveals that entrepreneurship is not the way to go at the moment, this might change in the future.

    As for the enterprise mastery component, I believe that this should not be the objective of the elective. The elective should only focus on enterprise “familiarization” and “understanding”. The mastery part should be reserved for after the elective, when (and if) the student decides to take business courses or foray straight into entrepreneurship.

    As for the business planning component, I don’t think that coming up with a business plan after the elective is ambitious. I think it’s possible especially if the student teams up with an able group (of business-minded individuals). What I see as ambitious, however, is expecting the student to pass a business plan as a final requirement of the elective.

    So, in summary, I believe that the SEED format is great. However, we must be careful to pace ourselves and our students: The elective should only aim to cover self, environment, and part of enterprise. All the rest should be done outside of the elective.

  4. Edwin

    From the start, I had reservations using the word “mastery” in the first three components but I just kept them to myself… 🙂 It sounded good then and I gave it the benefit of a doubt since we have not tested the course yet. Now that the first-run has been done, I find using the word “mastery” as a misnomer. Mastery could not be achieved in so short a span of time.

    The way the SEED technopreneurship course was structured, self mastery and environment mastery were allocated 4 weeks each (a full semester has 18 weeks). Environment mastery was allocated 8 weeks (with the understanding that the business plan was being developed gradually as each business pillar was tackled) and the remaining 2 weeks was allocated for the development of the full business plan.

    The first component can be named “self appraisal” or “self awareness”or just plain SELF. The second component can be named as “environment scan” or just plain ENVIRONMENT. The third component can be named “enterprise fundamentals” or “enterprise pillars” or “enterprise
    cornerstones” or just plain ENTERPRISE. We might as well do away with the word “mastery” which can be deceiving… 🙂 The fourth component can still be “development of the business plan” or plain DEVELOPMENT.

    I agree that mastery can be achieved through a second follow-up course or seminar-workshop series perhaps — of which the structure, process and content are still to be hammered out.

    The regional business plan competition has to take into account the preparation and readiness of the students taking the course. We don’t have to be “pressured” by the schedules of the PESO national competition. I guess we have to sit down and thresh these things out. I believe that the quality of the desired business plans is a function of the quality of the “journey” the students undergo in developing the said business plans. There are no shortcuts.

  5. As academician, we all knew that one course/subject is not enough to learn everything about the degree/program. However, each course/subject is being offered to supplement other courses in the program. In addition, every course has these three learning objectives: cognitive (comprehension), affective (appreciation/feeling), and psychomotor (skills).

    For “Technopreneurship”, as an elective course, I presumed it is offered to help the students appreciate and learn something about the ‘business side” of their field. As a way of evaluating the students about their learning, an examination is always given (cognitive domain). Moreover, in practice, every student is required to submit a project at the end of each semester (this will test the three domains of learning.

    But, this is something debatable, is it practical to require the students to submit business plans at the end of the semester? In my opinion, YES.

    Why YES? It is an academic exercise, and it is the academic freedom of each instructor to require it. However, we do not expect that the students will integrate everything that a business plan needs to have. Or, we are not expecting students to produce a business plan that could be funded by the Venture Capitalists (maybe by his/her parents). We only wanted them to know what is in the business plan and how to do it.

    Various researches had been conducted on the importance of integrating at least one business related course to science and technology degrees. It was found that technologists who were enrolled in at least one course in “business related course” put up their own businesses after at least three years of employment.

    The issue I see unfit at this point in time, is about the content of the Technopreneurship syllabus (not curriculum). By the time the syllabus was developed, we have little idea about entrepreneurship. A couple of year had passed already, and we learned so many things. My wish now is to help develop a syllabus that will help not only our students but the instructors and practitioners as well.

    • Thanks for your inputs, Dell. Right now, I’m going to lie low on the issue of entrepreneurship education. One year of being a practitioner right after I finished my postgrad, the one thing I learned is that I still have so much to learn. 🙂 I expect that it will take a few more years before I will be confident enough to actively participate in the academic world. I will continue though to do a brain dump of what I’ve learned so far via this blog.

  6. Learning is a journey. We all learn new things along the way. Sometimes we learn it the hard way, and sometimes the hardest way. One good thing when we learn is that the schema of our ‘dumb brain’ is being configured to make us more ‘dumb’ or ‘dull’… What I mean by ‘dull’ is that we start asking when we start learning something. One indication of learning is ‘confusion’.

    Back in Australia, we have had talked significant things related to ‘Technopreneurship tse tse…’. As an academician, I learned so many things from you; you have a unique way of transmitting or instigating learning. Moreover, most of us here in ICT Davao learned a lot of things from this BLOG. Your ideas were, are and will always be good. But, of course, your (our) ideas will be challenged by the learned people who wanted to learn more.

    The Academic world needs people from the business world. I know you can be of great help in developing or updating the ‘Entrepreneurship Syllabus’. With the return of VIC and CHRIS, I believe we can create not only a syllabus but also a ‘system’ that will help entice our ICT (and other fields) students, professionals, and practitioners put up their own businesses in the nearest future.

    Do not dump your ideas, help us learn more… Confused!

  7. VALIANT

    Can a combination of degrees in Computer Science/Engineering and a Masters in Business (MBA maybe?) be a good career path? I heard a lot about Enterprise Architect? is it similar to Tehnopreneurship?

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