We had the final two feasibility analysis report presentations in ENT 300 yesterday. One team studied the feasibility of a food truck selling kabobs. The other studied (on behalf of a local entrepreneur working with SCORE) the feasibility of a truck stop offering a unique service niche; the entrepreneur and her SCORE mentor were in attendance and contributed to the discussion afterwards. At the end of class the presenting students also turned in their final reports (thick, carefully-designed binders with 50 pages of text and APA citations for the many research exhibits included) and their CD of financial reports. A gratifying conclusion to the semester! (Although the students still have a final exam to take.)
For this class I ended up providing two 75-minute research workshops as well as a 15-minute follow-up. In other class days Professor Welsh also asked me to provide a few quick demonstrations of specific research strategies as part of her lectures. Through Blackboard I emailed the students some research notes and links based on their upcoming deadlines. Finally, my colleague Nataly Blas provided a 15-minute introduction to trade journals and searching for trade articles in article databases.
Beyond the research instruction, I often participated in the class discussions and was solo in charge a total of four class days when Professor Welsh made two trips overseas to speak. Those days included one of the research workshops plus team work days and guest speakers whom I introduced.
Finally, I met with the team I was asked to mentor every Thursday evening at 6pm. The late hour was a bit of a burden, but I enjoyed getting to know those students and they appreciated my involvement. I have their thank-you card stuck to my bulletin board for whenever I need a little pick-me up at work.
So here are some things I learned from helping teach ENT 300 this semester for the first time:
1. Professors handle team formation in different ways. Professor Welsh had the students create and sign a team memorandum & social contract regarding how the team will work together, expectations of behavior and productivity, and the mediation process when those expectations are not met. Neat idea.
2. You can start class before the first day of classes. By early August Prof. Welsh was contacting the students through Blackboard to make sure they understood the intense nature of this class (her past students recommended she tell the incoming students that). She also required the students to introduce themselves in a Blackboard forum and describe a possible entrepreneurial idea for a team to tackle. By the second day of classes, there were 181 posts from the 40 students. I had to work hard to keep up! (Eventually I decided I didn’t need to read every post.)
3. Not all commercial textbooks suck when it comes to research strategies and sources. Their book (Entrepreneurship by Barringer and Ireland) regularly touts the value of libraries, librarians, and business databases — including newer ones like BizMiner. But I had some opportunities to provide updated statistics for data provided in the book.
4. When you assume the role of a class instructor and not just a visiting librarian you really have to be careful about what you say to the students. For example: on the first day of class in our discussion of the team project, I mentioned that a non-profit was fair game for the feasibility analysis and that usually each past section of ENT 300 had a non-profit team. Many students in Blackboard had already posted about their interest creating in a non-profit, some with an international reach. Well, Prof. Welsh emailed me later that week:
“[One student] decided to start a non-profit group due to you telling her the class needed at least one. I thought you’d get a kick out of that. Then she started recruiting and the groups started getting dismantled at the last minute which led to my emails Thursday night. I had 2 student calls and 10 emails that they didn’t have a group anymore. Anyway, something for your book chapter.”
5. And from both Professor Welsh and the students I learned a lot about entrepreneurship, particularly the financial aspects – the most challenging part of writing feasibility analyses and business plans. I should be better able to serve the research needs of all ENT students now.