Elizabeth Gerber, Curriculum Development

Curriculum Innovation Award, 2014

In a climate of global competition and economic uncertainty, students in diverse disciplines must be equipped with entrepreneurial skills to pursue careers in research and technology. Yet educating students about entrepreneurship can be difficult in a rapidly changing entrepreneurial landscape and alongside already-intensive core curricula. While engineering and business programs increasingly offer entrepreneurship courses as campus-wide electives, these classes typically focus on traditional fundraising approaches, eg. face-to-face pitches to expert panels. Today, however, crowdfunding has made it possible to practice entrepreneurial skills in real world environments through online platforms (ex. Kickstarter). This is particularly attractive to novice entrepreneurs, who otherwise have limited access to traditional financial backing, such as banks or venture capitalists. Because most of the most widely-disseminated crowdfunding platforms only started in 2008 or later, and without existing, tested curricula, it is difficult for faculty to devote development time to such a curriculum. Consequently, few major universities have developed empirically grounded curricula to train students in the use of online crowdfunding in support of entrepreneurial projects. In response to this need, my students and I iteratively developed a self-directed, disseminable curriculum, based on our empirical research, to train Northwestern students to prepare pitch videos for crowdfunding campaigns. We are grateful to the Northwestern Alumnae for making this important work possible.