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Expert Provision, Client Need, or Customer Want?: Some complexities involved in providing entrepreneurship education

Dr William Cooper, University of Strathclyde

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This paper offers some empirical evidence that suggests a need for a holistic approach to decision-making regarding presentational options on the part of those attempting to facilitate entrepreneurship education. The paper discusses the findings of research which addressed approaches to learning revealed by entrepreneurship students undertaking elective classes within an established Scottish university and highlights some important issues for those attempting to facilitate entrepreneurship education.

While it is generally accepted that the provision of entrepreneurship education is of value in higher education, there remains some uncertainty regarding the nature of provision that we should seek to offer. Despite a level of consensus that the development of entrepreneurial knowledge and skills should be a general aim of such provision there remains some ambiguity regarding the level to which we should educate about, or train for entrepreneurship and indeed how best this might be done. We may debate the advantages and disadvantages involved at length, but if we do not take into account the approaches of the learners involved we run the risk of having a mismatch in expectations and a misfit in relation to provision.

A case study approach was adopted, with questionnaires being made available to all students attending the elective classes concerned at the midpoint stage of each semester. Subjects self selected in that students were asked to complete the questionnaires on a voluntary basis, within the class time available. The intention was to gain an understanding of the approach taken to learning and the preferences for teaching and learning delivery modes held by the respondents. In total 87 returns were received and processed using SPSS software. The results obtained show that the vast majority of the respondents adopted an approach to learning which was surface-apathetic and that they preferred an information transmission type of course and teaching.

This paper argues that while there is value to be gained from the use case study materials, work-experience, computer-based learning and the more traditional forms of seminars, tutorials and lectures in entrepreneurship education, it is also increasingly important to recognise the shift from student to customer and exclusivity to inclusion in higher education. The potential impact is highlighted, regarding the range of students studying entrepreneurship, their expectations, and the importance of a holistic approach to the selection and use of educational approaches.

Keywords: entrepreneurship education, client need, customer want

2007, Glasgow

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