Herding cats to co-create cross-university courses in record time

An example of how 8 academics across 4 universities, supported by staff at Sydney School of Entrepreneurship co-developed a world-first course about entrepreneurial ecosystems.

M.Bliemel, J.Schweitzer, A.Mery-Keitel, R.Green, L.Nicolas

Morgan Miles
Charles Sturt University

L.Moroko, L.Groeger
Macquarie University

UNSW Sydney

Background and objectives of the case
Understanding the context of this course and its learning objectives requires understanding the context of the new Sydney School of Entrepreneurship (SSE) through which it was designed and delivered. The interdependent set of objectives include:
- Introducing the Sydney School of Entrepreneurship to the Australian startup ecosystem
- Piloting a process of co-designing new courses across 4 universities
- Developing a world first course about entrepreneurial ecosystems

Background and objectives to SSE: In February 2016, Nick Kaye was invited to give a talk to the NSW chief scientist Mary O'Kane about his decade long experience in running the Stockholm School of Entrepreneurship. The school’s claim to fame was that it had been a key contributor to the formation of multiple multi-million or even billion dollar companies, and thus was positioned as a policy instrument for economic development. Within 5 months AUD$25m was allocated by the NSW government to create a Sydney-based version of the same, with Nick as the inaugural CEO.

Background and objectives to the educational development process via SSE: There were two important differences between Stockholm and Sydney’s SSE. In Stockholm, SSE represented a collaboration of 5 universities that were all local. And each university was effectively mono-disciplinary (e.g. Konstfack is focused on arts and design, Karolinska Institutet is focused on medicine) who lacked offerings in entrepreneurship, especially from a multi-disciplinary approach. In comparison, the NSW version of SSE was to be “Sydney in name only” and to represent a collaboration of all 11 NSW-based universities plus TAFE. And, each of these institutions is comprehensive with existing offerings in entrepreneurship, many of which already had multidisciplinary cohorts. So, there was a risk of SSE (in Sydney) creating further competition and redundancy in NSW higher education.

By mid-2017, a decision was made that SSE’s inaugural course was to be a topic related to entrepreneurship, that was not already on offer at any of the 11 universities or TAFE, and that the course was to be co-designed by two lead universities, supported by 2 more universities to enact the espoused collaborative purpose of SSE. Simultaneously to the launch of SSE, there was a rise in state government support for incubators, accelerators, hubs and other manifestations of entrepreneurial ecosystem support. Likewise, research on entrepreneurial ecosystems was climbing dramatically. However there were, as yet, not courses for anyone to learn about entrepreneurial ecosystems.

Thus, the course design was set to be about entrepreneurial ecosystems. This also played into the research interests of several team members. The birth of “The Navigator” in July 2017 coincided with one lead academic moving from UNSW to UTS, and a potential lead academic from University of Sydney suddenly passing away. While this created a UTS-dominated team of lead academics (albeit spread across two faculties), and supporting faculty members from other universities were pulled in, including from the regional Charles Sturt University, the suburban Macquarie University and UNSW Sydney, totaling 7 academics including several learning and teaching award winners.

Background and objectives to The Navigator: The inaugural cohort of The Navigator was entirely co-curricular, as each university’s administrative structure could not quickly accommodate to the introduction of a new cross-institutional course. While students were asked to complete exercises, formal assessments were first introduced for the second cohort in early 2018, including expanding the teaching team by one more UTS member, to a total of 8 academics. All the while, SSE was growing and had a team of their own staff supporting the course, and SSE had employed OpenLearning to host the Learning Management System. A key ethos of SSE was that learning should be experiential, flipped (or blended) and at the forefront of educational design.