June 10, 2020

Online Classrooms, An Opportunity for Entrepreneurial Learning

By: Nic Houle

 

As technology and global economies advance and change, education must adapt to prepare our students for an uncertain future. Meanwhile, in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, some of these adaptations are becoming all the more relevant and important. Providing “space” for learning, unlearning, and relearning is already a difficult task, but it can feel insurmountable when you are unable to meet in-person as we have traditionally. 

Online learning was once seen as inadequate or second-rate but is now at the forefront of many teachers’ and professors’ minds. As an option for schools that are otherwise closed due to the pandemic, and as a part of plans moving forward as we phase out of lockdowns around the world, we are seeing more and more blended or completely online classes being offered. For many educators, an online learning experience becomes as much about the “how” as it is meant to be about the “what,” of learning.

This piece is meant to better prepare teachers for the immense opportunities of online learning, and therefore how online learning can be an integral part of developing more innovative, creative, and entrepreneurial learners for the future. From there, we will look at some key takeaways for teaching using the Ice House Entrepreneurship Programs as an online class.

How to Be a Better Online Teacher

An article published by The Chronicle of Higher Education, How to Be a Better Online Teacher, is a comprehensive guide that can be helpful for any educator. In the article, there are ten key concepts discussed;

  1. Show Up to Class
  2. Be Yourself
  3. Put Yourself in Their Shoes
  4. Organize Course Content Intuitively
  5. Add Visual Appeal
  6. Explain Your Expectations
  7. Scaffold Learning Activities
  8. Provide Examples
  9. Make Class an Inviting, Pleasant Place to Be
  10. Commit to Continuous Improvement

All ten points help give a clear way to structure a course, regardless of the subject, and offer strategies for creating truly engaging learning experiences for your students. These range from technical to theoretical, but all are universal themes necessary for facilitating better learning through a virtual setting.  

The problem many facilitators fall into is seeing a new teaching format as fundamentally different from how they are comfortable teaching. What the Chronicle of Higher Education piece offers is a way for educators to reflect on what they do well as a teacher, and apply the same concepts to an online classroom. Whether you are teaching a class of 10 or 10,000, the learning experience can be as compelling as ever. 

Our Insights for Online Learning

We highly recommend reading the original piece in its entirety for a deeper understanding of online teaching and learning, but here are some highlights from the piece that we think are essential to an entrepreneurial classroom:

Be present for your online learners.

  • Even in a self-paced (asynchronous) classroom, feeling connected to the facilitator helps keep students engaged. As such, whether you are posting weekly short videos reminding your participants of key concepts, hosting virtual “office hours”, or participating in online written discussions, your interactions with students will certainly help to bridge the gap between an in-person learning experience and an online one. “Many academics seem to believe that students should be able to walk themselves through an online course without much active guidance from the instructor. That is a recipe for disaster.”

Empathize with your students, see the learning experience from their perspective.

  • “In a physical classroom, you can pick up on nonverbal cues. When students are taking class at home, you can’t observe when you’ve lost their attention or when your instructions aren’t clear.” Plan for this when setting up your course schedule, as well as identifying requirements and class procedures early and often. Ambiguous expectations will only lead to isolation and frustration.

Connect with those in your network about their successes and failures.

  • Reach out to someone you know who has taught an online course, taken an online course, or knows someone that has. Learn from their experiences.

Model the concepts for your students whenever possible. 

  • Provide examples of how you reach a conclusion or find videos of an expert doing the same thing. These help students see the logic behind a concept. “Look for ways to break down complex tasks so that students make timely progress and receive feedback while there is still time to adjust their approach.”

Connect the classroom to the real world with examples. 

  • In-person learning provides teachers the opportunity to come up with on the spot examples of concepts, to make analogies, or explain an idea from a different perspective. Online, where students may not be having as much face-to-face interaction with you, means you need to weave those examples into the course structure.

Always look for ways to improve.

  • Online learning requires a lot of work for a facilitator. However,  it can be one of the most rewarding and impactful experiences for your students when done effectively. The best way to make sure that you are giving your students what they need is to create a dialogue with your class. When you are accepting feedback and making improvements wherever possible, students will notice. If an idea can’t be acted on realistically during a course, make sure that you do what you can to make the changes in future courses.

Now, let’s think about applying these concepts to specific programming, namely, the Ice House Entrepreneurship Programs.

Using the Ice House Entrepreneurship Programs Online

The following points are meant to help anyone who is thinking about using Ice House as a fully online course. Whether you are considering adopting the programs in your classroom or organization for the first time or a facilitator who has been using them for years, there is something here for you. 

Don’t worry about being a “sage on the stage.”

  • Your job using the Who Owns the Ice House? book and course materials are to facilitate conversations, rather than lecturing about the concepts. Ice House is designed for both students and facilitators to:
    • Consume written and video content 
    • Discuss the concepts they observe 
    • Share experiences and their progress going through the course
    • Review their understanding of the materials
    • Apply their learning to the real world
    • And reflect on their learning experience to shift their mindsets towards entrepreneurial thinking and action

Utilize a video conference platform and all it has to offer. 

  • Most video conferencing platforms allow you to share your screen, create polls, chat with viewers, and even share videos. Some also offer breakout rooms for small group discussions. We have had success with the Zoom platform to create more dynamic and impactful learning opportunities with courses and webinars.

Incorporate guest lecturers and speakers.

  • Within the Ice House course, there are 10+ hours of video case studies from interviews with everyday entrepreneurs. Most importantly, these videos are designed to show students a diverse mix of stories, backgrounds, and ventures that have succeeded despite immense obstacles. Regardless of how you are delivering the course, we always recommend connecting the classroom to the community. This may look like having guest entrepreneurs join a video call, or recording conversations with entrepreneurial thinkers from the community that your students watch or listen to. Remember that the more relatable the person is to your students, the more impactful the learning experience will be. 

Utilize a learning management system (LMS).

  • ELI offers all four editions of our programs on an in-house LMS, lms.elimindset.com. The programs can also be integrated into your institution’s LMS for seamless, single sign-on access for students.
    • Add supplemental resources and customize your course shell
      • Don’t take the Ice House Programs as prescriptive. Make it your own! Incorporate other favorite teaching tools, books, and videos. If you’re looking for our favorite supplemental resources that expand on the concepts of the course, check out our list here.
    • Engage with participants
      • Are you engaging in the dialogue and discussion forums you are asking participants to submit to? Contribute to the conversation! As we discussed above, the more you contribute, the more heard and engaged the students will feel.

Refer to Facilitator Resources

  • As a trained facilitator, you have access to:
    • Facilitator manuals for all program editions
    • Syllabi and course schedules
    • Lesson guides with multiple-choice assessments, discussion questions, application and reflection assignments
    • Printable classroom activities and posters 
    • Certificate of completion template for participants
    • Marketing materials

Conclusions

To wrap up, online learning can be an opportunity for educators to expand their reach and try new techniques for conveying their message. That is not to say that it is as simple as making content available online, however. Above all, we as educators must be mindful of the learning experience. However, we also need to make sure we don’t bite off more than we can chew. Starting small, with one shift in your strategy, then another, you will master the process and moving to an online classroom will be all the easier. 

In the same vein, the Ice House Entrepreneurship Programs do not have to be a mountain of work to begin teaching online. Our available resources are there to assist you. As the course is robust, so are the resources. Take your time. Read through them. And remember, we are always here to help!

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