In April 2019, after a year of development and 5 weeks of intense teaching work, the LISTO consortium has successfully completed the first series of courses, or as we call them – pilots – of the International Virtual Classroom (IVC) on Entrepreneurship. The program aims to enable students from Argentina, Brazil, The Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and Uruguay to share their experiences and learn about entrepreneurship in an international, virtual environment.
The IVCs focused on using entrepreneurship and innovation as mechanisms to address global societal challenges using three different perspectives: Design Thinking and Entrepreneurship, Recognizing Global Opportunities and Navigating Global Networks and Ecosystems. With 50 students in each of them, LISTO has just graduated 150 students all over the world!
?Finalizó el Curso “Navigating between International Entrepreneurial Networks and Ecosystems”,incluido en la programación de los Cursos internacionales de formación en emprendedorismo e innovación en el marco de #listoproject, cofinanciado por el Programa @Erasmus_Project pic.twitter.com/OkINlkHkyK
— FIQ-UNL (@FIQUNL) 16. April 2019
Each course had an online international format with five virtual weekly meetings during March and April. Although the format is online, it is not a MOOC, but a live interaction across six or seven local classrooms connected into a virtual large class. A combination of varying platforms, such as Polycom, Zoom, Bluejeans, Moodle, Whatsapp, and Google, was used to provide an enriching environment for interaction, learning, smiles and jokes among students and teachers. Although technology is of course not 100% bullet (or, Brazilian rain!) proof, the teachers and students got used to it very quickly and found it very inspiring to see how technologies can be combined on university, classroom and work group levels: during the class the students had to make assignments both, in the local and in international teams, combine paper and media deliverables, and participate in online class conversations across seven universities.
The results of the pilots for both, teachers and students, were impressive. The design thinking pilot started with societal problems and used design thinking to translate them into specific apps or browser extensions targeting sustainability, migration, food waste or even fake news! It was great to see how students integrated their own backgrounds and experiences into the project and could come up with very well designed and argued projects in the very short time. In the global opportunities forecast pilot, the groups had to choose among predefined themes – agriculture, education, healthcare, sustainability and smart cities –and got to analyze the trends in technology and society in order to come up with both, technology, and business roadmaps. Despite the very challenging task, all groups finalized their business presentations and could argue why they are engaging into this or that business and how this business will promote a future vision for cities without traffic jams, education without borders or large scale irrigation with minimal water consumption. The International networks and ecosystem pilot asked students to select an existing startup in the area of renewable energy and develop analysis of varying ecosystems for this startup’s internationalization. Some groups even reached out and worked with real startups on the solutions, thus not only making the class assignment, but contributing to the decision making of a firm.
Although five weeks may appear too short, it allowed for a great learning among the LISTO consortium participants. As one teacher put it: “It is something magic about being “together” with people from all over the world simultaneously, being able to wave at each other and talk to each other. My students found it very interesting, and I think we all just fell in love with the whole thing!”
After the course, students wrote:
“At the end of this project I feel that I learned a lot, not only concerning the theoretical information, but also on the cultural and team-work sphere. I’m enjoying the distance team-work and the different point of views from my teammates. There are still some problems related to the time differences, but we get along very well. I hope to follow a master program related to this experience in the near future.”
“The course had provided us with new information about entrepreneurial development and some tools to be used which are really helpful when writing down an idea. … I have my own project and […] this experience has provided me with new tools and methods to face the project and develop it, whether here in Argentina or in other place, once I get my degree.”
This was, of course, not the end of the journey! In May the consortium will present the first results at the 3E – ECSB Entrepreneurship Education Conference in Gotheburg, Sweden, and will continue on reflection, improvement and dissemination of the project results at a workshop in Sao Paulo, Brazil in June 2019, designing how this experience can be replicated and integrated in the ongoing teaching curriculum of the involved universities.