The new ‘learn by doing’ MSc has gained approval and will start this September with a second group starting in January. While the degree idea I’ve been pursuing for a while didn’t end up being one where teams would work on projects for other businesses, which is what I thought would be most useful, this didn’t get approval higher up the university. However, a colleague suggested a change, which did make it more acceptable, and indeed possibly more exciting too: instaed of working for others, why not have the students start their own businesses while doing their degree? This makes it a ‘startup degree’, which builds on top of other things we do already, and in some ways is even more suitable for learning by doing. This will not be the traditional entrepreneurship degree where you study other people’s startups. This is you working on your own startup and applying what you learn to your own customer development process. This is you living, breathing, learning and bootstrapping your startup.
We’ll have space set up for the students to work in, and mentor them throughout their year. We’ll also remove the need for exams on almost all courses, and gather their coursework for assessment instead so that we use the artefacts generated by the startup team instead. The coursework could be based on business model canvases, customer journey maps, business plans, prototypes, results and analysis of ‘build-measure-learn’ cycles, and minimum viable product source code too. The choice of what to submit is up to the students, who will also need to keep a journal of their own reflections on the year too, and how they see their team(s) working, or not, and what they learn from the experience. This self-reflection is important so that students demonstrate they are learning suitable habits to help them after graduation, and also to ensure that every course is based as much on individual work as much as group work.
The approach used on the programme will be ‘learn by doing’ so most of the time the students will be working on two applications/products each term. This is so that they all have a good exposure to different types of teams, and also so that they are developing a varliety of different products. The development ideas will be a mixture of ‘lean startup’ and agile informed by service design to provide for the co-creation of the early prototypes so that ideas are validated early. The teaching will be delivered through workshops and seminars most of the time.
This programme should develop students experienced in entrepreneurship with a good understanding of why they use different approaches, and know when to give up on an idea and to learn from failure. Most of their ideas will presumably fail, but that’s ok as they’ll be able to start another idea the next day, and they’ll learn how to build their creativity using a variety of techniques so that they always have many ideas to draw on for possible startups. For them it will just be another ‘learning opportunity on the way to graduation. Graduates will be valuable additions to establised as well as startup firms, who know how to develop, confirm, and grow ideas worth pursuing. If this sounds like someting you might want to do, then find out more and apply here, and if you have questions, then don’t hesitate to get in touch with me.
Oh, and in case you’re wondering, no the university won’t own your business. You will.