Steve Blank teaches Lean innovation in the pandemic

Distance education during the pandemic has been difficult for everyone. Difficult for students who have to deal with a variety of distance education methods. Difficult for parents with K-12 students at home trying to keep pace with distance learning, and difficult for instructors trying to master new, barely functional tools and technologies while still trying to keep students engaged to look them through Hollywood Squares-style boxes.

A sub-segment of these instructors – those trying to teach Lean LaunchPad, whether in I-Corps or Hacking for Defense – have an added burden of knowing how to teach a class that depends on students coming out of the building. and talking to 10 to 15 clients per week.

400 Lean Educators came together online for a three hour session to share what we learned about distance learning. We got information from each other on tools, tips, techniques and best practices.

Here is what we learned.

When I designed the Lean LaunchPad / I-Corps / Hacking for Defense course, my goal was to replace the traditional method of teaching case studies and immerse students in a hands-on experiential process that modeled this that entrepreneurs really did. It would be guided from week to week using the Business Model Canvas and testing hypotheses as it exits the building and builds Minimum Viable Products (MVPs). After trial and error, we found that having eight teams showing up in a three hour block was the maximum without exhausting instructors and students. This format, unwieldy as it was, remained the norm for a decade. Over time, we started to experiment with separating the three hour block with breakout rooms and other activities so that not all students needed to go through all of the presentations.

When the pandemic forced us to switch to online education, this experimentation became a necessity. Three hours staring at a Zoom screen while listening to the team after the team's presence is simply untenable and insatiable. Client discovery can be done remotely but different. The teams are scattered around the world. And the instructor's load to handle all of that is probably 3X what it is in person.

While we were changing our classes at Stanford, Jerry Engel was smart enough to point out that hundreds of instructors at every university were having the same issues adjusting the class to the pandemic. He suggested that as a follow-up to our Lean Innovation Educator Summit here in Silicon Valley last December, we should create a mid-year online summit so that we can all come together and share what we have learned and shared. how we adapt. And that's how it started.

In July, 400 educators from over 200 universities in 22 countries gathered online for a Lean Innovation Educator Summit to share best practices.

We started the summit with five of us sharing our experiences of how we tackled the online challenges of:

If you can't see the presentation slides, click here

But the heart of the summit was to bring together the collective wisdom and experience of the 400 attendees as we split into 22 breakout rooms. The hour-long discussion in each of the rooms focused on:

  • What are your the biggest challenges under COVID-19?
  • How is this challenge different now that during 'in person' learning?
  • What solutions did you try?
  • What was the most efficient?

The result of the breakout sessions provided a wealth of data, a ton of helpful suggestions, tips and educational tools. I have summarized the collective notes from the breakout session.

Discovery of minimal viable customers and products
The consensus was, yes, you can "get out of the building" when you can't physically. And that’s almost enough.

  • Discovery can be done via Zoom or similar remote platforms and is in some ways more efficient – see here
  • During Covid, most people no longer have caretakers around them
    • Cold sending lots of emails works (at least in COVID times)
  • You might find the best mentors and the best sponsor for a given project
  • Building and demonstrating hardware MVPs is a challenge
    • One solution is to send a design file to a fab lab to be printed.
    • If you want your potential customer to remember, feel, or use the product, be sure to film a demo of someone doing it.
  • For MVP software, create demo video clips of less than 1 minute to illustrate each of your features
  • It is essential to offer a workshop "How to discover customers remotely" and "How to create MVPs remotely"

Class structure
The 3 hour classes are tough in person and require an overhaul to be taught online.

  • Keep students engaged by having no more than four teams in a presentation room at a time
    • Have other teams in the sub-committee rooms and / or with other instructors
      • The sub-committee rooms must be well thought out and organized
      • They should have a task and a deliverable
  • Separate classes so they don't last longer than 15 minutes
    • Incorporate them into interactive exercises (Alex Osterwalder is a genius here, offering great suggestions for keeping students engaged)
    • Work on an exercise in class and talk more about it during office hours
    • Avoid canned video conferencing
  • Be more prescriptive about 'what is required' in team presentations
  • What is the purpose of the class?
    • Do you want them to test the entire canvas or …
    • Do you want them to work on product market fit?
      • Teams will naturally gravitate to work on product / market fit
  • Vary the voices at the 'front' of the room
  • Guest speakers – previously strangers but now needed to break the monotony
    • But if you are using guests, get the students' summaries on the whiteboard of what they learned
    • And ask guests to be relevant to the topic of the week on the business model
  • Understand that while students attend your class, they really pay attention to their mentors
    • Recruit mentors whose primary passion is to help students, not to recruit or invest in them
    • Make sure to train and integrate mentors into the program
    • Ask mentors to sit on office hours and class
  • Invite observers, advisers and other "invited" people to introduce themselves and intervene
  • Be prepared for the intensity of preparation required compared to pre-COVID times
    • Recruiting students and forming teams is particularly difficult from a distance
    • Double or triple emails and other awareness campaigns
    • Host info sessions and online mixers

Teaching assistant
Having a teaching assistant is essential

  • If your school doesn't pay for one, hire unofficial "co-instructors"
    • He doesn't have to be a teacher – use an admin or student intern
  • They are essential for handling the administrative side of marketing, recruiting, team training, communications, and overall pedagogical team support.
  • Team building requires heavy tech support from email / team mixers / team mixers
    • as well as the networking by technical assistants and instructors
  • During lessons, TAs should focus on the chat, breakout room and presentation logistics
  • Don't assume (or let your technical assistant assume) that past practices will work in a virtual environment.
  • Be prepared to try different approaches to keep the class moving and engaged
  • Pre-class write a manual "How to do TA in a distance course"
    • Review with your tech assistant before class
  • Use security in advance; avoid open entrances (Zoom Bombing)

Student engagement
Zoom fatigue appeared in almost all of the breakout sessions. Some of the solutions included:

  • Play music when students arrive and depart
  • Recognize that some may be in different time zones – take a survey in the first class session
  • Start each class session with an activity
    • Summarize key information / lessons learned from their office hours and customer discovery
    • For those who use Zoom – use the Whiteboard feature for these summaries
  • Have students turn on their cameras to make sure the class they are attending
    • And have their microphone turned off, their full name visible, and a virtual background with their Team ID
  • Create a deeper connection with students
    • ask them to anonymously submit a statement or two about what they would like to know about them
    • ask students to bring something to class that tells us something about them
      • ask them to bring it to the breakout rooms to share with their teammates and others
  • Random cold call
    • Don't be afraid to call students by name, as the Zoom format makes it more difficult to raise your hand or ask a question
    • Ask their opinion on what someone else just presented or what they learned from the other team
    • After doing this several times, everyone will become active (not to be called out)
  • Require additional comments from students in the chat – essential to maintain high engagement
    • Focus on the quality of the comments rather than the quantity.
    • Have students and mentors use chat during team presentations to share contacts and ideas
  • Reestablish the drastic franchise – take advantage because students are already stressed out
  • Offer longer office hours to teams

(All the slides from the breakout session are here.)

When the National Science Foundation stopped holding its annual I-Corps Instructors Conference, it gave us the opportunity to embrace a larger community beyond the NSF – now to include Hacking Educators for Defense, NSIN, and Lean LaunchPad.

When we decided to hold the summit online, we had three assumptions:

  1. Educators would like not only to attend but also to volunteer, help each other and learn from each other – valid
  2. Instructors would care most about effective communication with students (no tools or frameworks but the quality of engagement with students) – valid
  3. Our community of teachers valued the ongoing and recurring opportunities for collaboration and open source ideas and tools – valid

The Joint Mission Project coordinates the group's efforts to create an open forum where these instructors can share best practices and curate the best content and solutions.

Many thanks to Jerry Engel of U.C. Berkeley, the dean of this program. And thank you to the Common Mission Project who provided all the flawless logistical support, and to each of the committee room managers: Tom Bedecarré – Stanford University, John Blaho – City College of New York, Philip Bouchard – TrustedPeer, Dave Chapman – University College London, James Chung – George Washington University, Bob Dorf – Columbia University, Jeff Epstein – Stanford University, Paul Fox – LaSalle University Barcelona, ​​Ali Hawks – Common Mission Project UK, Jim Hornthal – UC Berkeley, Victoria Larke – University of Toronto, Radhika Malpani – Google, Michael Marasco – Northwestern University, Stephanie Marrus – University of California, San Francisco, Pete Newell – BMNT / Common Mission Project US, Thomas O & # 39; Neal – University of Central Florida, Alexander Osterwalder – Strategyzer, Kim Polese – UC Berkeley, Jeff Reid – Georgetown University, Sid Saleh – Colorado School of Mines, Chris Taylor – Georgetown University, Grant Warner – Universe ity Howard, Todd Warren – Northwestern University, Phil Weilerstein – VentureWell, Steve Weinstein – Stanford University, Naeem Zafar – U.C. Berkeley, and the 400 of you who attended.

Looking forward to our next Educators' Summit on December 16e online.

Video of the entire summit can be seen here

Filed under: Defense Hacking, Lean LaunchPad, NSF (National Science Foundation), Education |