Academic journal article Journal of Entrepreneurship Education

The Use of Micro Student Consulting Projects as an Alternative to Traditional Field-Based Student Consulting Projects: An Exploratory Study

Academic journal article Journal of Entrepreneurship Education

The Use of Micro Student Consulting Projects as an Alternative to Traditional Field-Based Student Consulting Projects: An Exploratory Study

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

Entrepreneurship and entrepreneurship education are widely recognized to have made tremendous progress in the U.S. over the past 20 years (Solomon, Winslow, and Tarabishy, 1998). This paper uses a case study to analyze the efforts of a faculty member to introduce a new form of active learning into the classroom experience. Active learning is defined as any strategy "that involves students in doing things and thinking about the things they are doing" (Bonwell and Eison, 1991, p. 2). The introduction of active learning has become increasingly important to schools and colleges of business as they respond to criticisms about the lack of relevancy in the classroom (Bennis and O'Toole, 2005; Porter and McKibben, 1988; Lyman, 1997).

A case study methodology is employed to describe the process used to help students gain a better understanding of the problems facing small business owners through the completion of micro consulting projects. Using field-based student consulting projects as a point of departure, an alternative to traditional field-based consulting projects is presented in the form of micro student consulting projects. Then, the results of a semester's worth of projects are described that were completed by students at a small, public university in the Southeast.

Among the benefits of the micro projects to the student are the confidence gained by selling their abilities as a consultant to a small business owner. The small business owners benefit from the analysis and recommendations that the students make. In addition, the students benefit from offering a professional opinion on a real business problem. We discuss how other instructors might entertain the option of having their students complete micro consulting projects. Then, we conclude by discussing possible directions for future research for faculty who use micro student projects as a form of active learning.

This research provides a unique look into the process of conducting field-based student consulting projects at a school with little or no history of entrepreneurship education. Given the continued interest in entrepreneurship that exists, this study provides the reader with a template for creating and maintaining an alternative pedagogy for entrepreneurship education. More importantly, given the lack of formally trained entrepreneurship educators, this study provides a detailed assessment of the efforts of a faculty member to attempt an alternative pedagogy to help students grasp the challenges of small business management. While the specific objectives and milestones of any academic program are unique to that institution, this study may be used as a benchmark for the efforts of others to teach small business management at their own university or college, especially those institutions with limited resources.

INTRODUCTION

Jim Fiet (2001b) of the University of Louisville said, in 2001, "Today, there are over 800 colleges and universities with entrepreneurship classes, programs, and initiatives." (Fiet, 2001b, 102). He goes on to point out that this figure demonstrates phenomenal growth in the thirty year period since 1971, when only sixteen colleges and universities taught entrepreneurship in the U.S. Entrepreneurship continues to be a popular program of study among college students in the U.S. In fact, the growth rate of entrepreneurship among colleges and universities in the U.S. is nothing short of phenomenal (Katz, 2003). In 1980, fewer than 20 universities and colleges offered courses in entrepreneurship, while today more than 1,200 universities have at least one course in entrepreneurship (Katz, 2006). This paper uses a case study to analyze the efforts of a faculty member to introduce a new form of active learning into the classroom experience. Active learning is defined as any strategy "that involves students in doing things and thinking about the things they are doing" (Bonwell & Eison, 1991, 2). …

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