Developing entrepreneurship in students studying in the creative industries

Case Studies

Institution:

University of Canberra

Discipline:

  • Creative Industries

Model/s of WIL activity:

  • Industry/community based projects

Level the activity is delivered:

Through an individual unit/course of study

Developing entrepreneurship in students studying in the creative industries

Venture Studio supports students to develop products and services to launch a creative business.

Venture Studio is a 12 week program designed to help students in the Faculty of Arts and Design (FAD) grow entrepreneurial mindsets, explore creative business ideas, and develop products and services through a series of hands-on workshops and activities. Running through a Professional Practice unit at the University of Canberra, Venture Studio increases students’ confidence to see themselves as creative entrepreneurs, allowing them to test their products with real customers at a pop-up market on campus. At program’s end, students have officially launched their business, complete with an ABN and brand strategy to carry them forward in their entrepreneurial endeavours.

Length of time the WIL activity has been/was in operation

The pilot program was launched in 2021 with 8 fresh businesses launched by students. Following this we ran the unit again in 2022 with double the number of businesses launched. The intention is to continue running the unit each year in Semester 1 with an increase in student numbers, with potential to expand across other semesters with short-courses and other offerings.

How does the WIL activity demonstrate good practice and/or innovation?

Venture Studio utilises multiple innovative teaching practices anchored in experiential learning. Students explore their business ideas through a series of creative activities and exercises designed to build confidence and recognise opportunities, whilst encouraging students to fail early and often. This allows them to pivot, iterate and evolve, becoming agile critical thinkers.

Our classroom is flipped with theories and concepts (such as business models, marketing, operations and customer relationships) introduced prior to collaborative engagement in activities during tutorial sessions. Digital extension activities are also offered to allow students to deepen their knowledge and understanding of concepts. Importantly, we use language common to the creative industries and limit the use of business jargon, which allows students to feel “at home” in the entrepreneurial space.

At all times throughout the unit students are encouraged to learn collaboratively through discussion, exploration of ideas, and product testing with each other. Strong peer relationships are encouraged and fostered through online communication using the messaging application Slack to complement the time spent in class to improve interpersonal skills. This enables students to give and receive quality peer feedback throughout the program, enhancing their critical reflection, communication and presentation skills.

The unit is delivered in a blended learning model – students are periodically given the choice to attend class face-to-face for in-depth personalised feedback or engage with the relevant content through prescribed digital exercises. Given the inherently personal nature of the activities, the unit could be delivered fully online or face-to-face, allowing for adaptation of offerings across multiple formats.

Who benefits from the WIL activity and how?

Students are the primary benefactors, building their communication skills through authentic engagement with the community, applying previous classroom learning to real world situations. Trouble-shooting problems in real-time and adapting as necessary, students develop confidence in their capabilities, with immediate opportunities to earn incomes through their business ventures.

This activity serves the university and faculty through community engagement and contribution to ongoing research activities and professional projects in the creative industries.

The general public benefits from solutions developed by students that address customer needs, with the market providing an opportunity to engage with students’ study through an inviting and enjoyable experience.

How does the activity embed successful evaluation processes?

Personal feedback is provided weekly to students, along with formal assessment evaluation at three points throughout the semester. Students gain verbal feedback from potential customers about their products and services in real-time at their market stall. These feedback touch-points give students information for reflection, in order to analyse and evaluate their concepts toward improving them.

In the final assessment students are asked to reflect on the unit as a whole. These insights, along with three university-driven survey results throughout the semester and a review of the unit by academic staff after each iteration, guide updates for quality improvement each year.

What are the broader/longer term impacts for stakeholders?

Venture Studio aims to provide students with flexible career prospects upon graduation, also providing industry with business-savvy students for graduate positions. UC’s priority to connect education and research with communities by fostering entrepreneurship is enhanced, through developing an entrepreneurial mindset in students and facilitating future research around entrepreneurial education in the creative industries. The unit is readily adaptable for a community short course or micro-credential course, helping the university to broaden its offerings. Entrepreneurial organisations in Canberra will have the opportunity to form partnerships with the University, giving them access to students early in their entrepreneurial journey.

How is the WIL activity integrated into curricula? Include how it incorporates the preparation, implementation and reflection/debriefing phases of WIL.

WIL activities are scaffolded across two units completed before this program commences. Venture Studio is streamed within the level 3 Professional Practice: Industry and Studio Projects unit, which is a core WIL unit delivered across the Faculty of Arts and Design at UC. Once students enrol in the Professional Practice unit, EOIs are invited for those interested in pursuing a business venture, to ensure suitability. Selected students are guided through planning, implementing and reflecting on their entrepreneurial learning activities every week, attend a debrief session after the market and submit a final reflection of the unit in their final assessment.

Describe how the case study is informed by relevant theoretical or empirical literature, research and/or scholarship.

Despite the proliferation of micro-businesses within the creative industries and the importance placed on entrepreneurship for the future development of economies, it is shown that higher education degrees in the arts, design and crafts sector have little to no business or entrepreneurship training available that students find beneficial to their business practice (Taylor & Luckman, 2020). This unit is exploratory in design, aiming to discover effective learning and teaching pedagogy for students studying in the creative industries through experiential learning (Higgins & Elliot, 2011) and development of confidence through building peer relationships with blending learning (Headlam-Wells & Gosland, 2005).

What are the plans for the WIL activity in the future?

The evolution of Venture Studio includes engaging industry mentors with students throughout the semester, along with developing opportunities for students to hold stalls at larger, public markets. A design agency website (www.viscomm.design/agency ) is being developed that will provide a link between student ventures and real world clients, with the potential extension of an online marketplace for student products to be sold. Strategic collaborative partnerships with entrepreneurial organisations in Canberra will be explored. A plan to embed a longitudinal study of students and their endeavours, exploring the efficacy of entrepreneurial education programs in the creative industries is underway.

References

Headlam-Wells, J., & Gosland, J. (2005). ‘There’s Magic in the Web’: E-Mentoring for Women’s Career Development. Career Development. https://www.emeraldinsight.com/doi/abs/10.1108/13620430510620548.

Higgins, D., & Elliott, C. (2011). Learning to Make Sense: What Works in Entrepreneurial Education? Journal of European Industrial Training 35 (4): 345–67.

Taylor, S., & Luckman, S. (2020). “New Pathways into Creative Work?” In Pathways into Creative Working Lives, edited by Stephanie Taylor and Susan Luckman, 267–81. Cham: Springer International Publishing.

Case Study Team Leader

Associate Professor Denise Jackson (ECU)

Mikaela Danvers

University of Canberra