This 2013-14 project aimed to enable experiential learning for entrepreneurial students across the University of Bath, and develop competence in a fast-growing means of financing new ventures – crowdsourcing. We created a crowdfunding platform where students were be able to upload their own business ideas, then evaluate and “vote” on which ideas get funded. Our aim was to help nurture the entrepreneurial talents of students, by further developing skills in communicating business ideas, evaluating prospects and pitching their ideas through images and videos. The platform (StudentStarter) was used within the Entrepreneurship and Innovation MSc unit, the Zurich Community Challenge and the Operations Management unit in the School of Management.
Mr Robert Chokr, Student in MSc International Management, School of Management
Mr Paul Caulfield, Teaching Fellow, School of Management
Ms Siobain Hone, Enterprise Coordinator, Students' Union
Aims & Rationale
According to a report from Massolution , a research firm, crowdfunding platforms have raised £1 billion in 2011, while also increasing their number by 60% the same year. Now, people that want to pursue their personal projects, either in art, technology or business, have easier access to capital than ever through such crowdfunding platforms. Furthermore, companies have already started seeing the business applications of crowdfunding, Google crowdfunding the development of new fonts, while GM considering to implement such a platform in order to see what tweaks customers want to their vehicles (The Economist, 2011) .
Thus, we see that crowdfunding has two important applications. First, it can be used by individuals or entrepreneurs to gain easy, equity free capital via websites (e.g. Kickstarter.com, Indiegogo.com etc.), thus disrupting traditional models of financing (Christensen & Overdorf, 2000). Second, it can be used by large companies as a tool to engage with customers and get applicable feedback, slowly leading to a market where only products that are desired by the customers get built. This is disruptive of existing customer feedback loops that companies usually employ.
Both of the prior arguments have important implications for students entering the workplace, and by extension the wider business environment. Entrepreneurial students need to be prepared to face the challenges of communicating and acquiring funds by crowdsourcing, and be prepared to take advantage of the opportunities that this new financing model entails. By building a crowdsourcing app/website to be used as a learning tool we aimed to develop entrepreneurial thinking and project management skills within participating students.
To enhance the learning experience and to make students achieve their potential, learning activities were designed as part of the project, and they were be based on the principles of active learning (Bonwell & Eison, 1991). Furthermore, the gamification of active learning through our crowfunding platform encouraged students to try new things and to act on what they have learned. The controlled environment that the platform provided, gave students the freedom to not be be afraid of failing and to achieve outcomes that would not be otherwise possible (see past projects currently hosted on the website for specific examples).
“In recent years educational gaming has been progressively perceived as a very effective tool for improving teaching-learning activities in higher education. The use of such play-based methodologies for engineering education can promote several practical and communication skills of great value for students’ future professional development.” (Lantada, Guest Editorial for the International Journal of Engineering Education, p. 480)
Outcomes / Outputs
- Students find it easier to interact with their peers and provide online feedback submitted in the form of comment threads (just like on Stackexchange, Quora, Facebook etc.);
- Lecturers have an easier (and arguably more pleasant) time evaluating student assignments if they are all in the same place (website), project-based and using rich media (images, videos etc.).
Quotes from both lecturers and students:
Professor Brian Squire, School of Management, University of Bath
“StudentStarter provides a simple platform for us to manage the feedback process to many students. We particularly like the single platform that enables us to log in, view videos and text, and provide detailed feedback. We are very impressed with the professionalism and response time from Robert and his team and are seeking to expand the range of functions next semester.”
Ann Linfield & Gemma Bridges, SEO School of Management, University of Bath
“StudentStarter provided an excellent platform for students to upload material their projects. Mentors found it easy to view assignments and make comments. There was comprehensive support for the system from the administrator, and changes we wanted made to the design were implemented very quickly.”
Dr Anthony Roath:
"Student Starter worked out well and I’d like to try that again. A few participated and provided feedback (as you saw) but all thought it was a good idea. We had many resource issues including and not limited to – staff leaving. Overall, however, Student Starter is very good."
Fabian Ruhmannseder (Student):
"I think Student Starter is a very useful platform, which really increases the students' experience by enabling quality feedback. I hope this gets implemented a lot more often."
Therese Østby Rensel (Student):
"It was really easy to create a new account. And I think it is a good platform. It is interesting to use and the feedback I received helped me improve my dissertation plan."