Students frequently walk out of Jim Price’s class feeling excited about a new idea for a start-up venture or stimulated by a lively group debate over some aspect of entrepreneurship. They almost forget Price was even present in the classroom. And that’s his whole intention. “During my best class sessions, I don’t stand up and lecture,” explains Price, an entrepreneur-in-residence at the Zell Lurie Institute. “Instead I sit in a seat alongside 35 or 40 students, and together we lead the discussion. I become completely transparent. If students come away feeling they led the discovery process and came up with their own ideas, then I have succeeded.”
This new instructional strategy ─ known as the “flipped classroom” ─ has brought what Price terms “a sea change” to the Ross School and the Institute. Lectures are out. Active listening is in. Didactic teaching methods are being supplanted by action-based learning and the co-creation of knowledge in class. Instructional material is often delivered online through videos and slide presentations, so students can learn at their own pace outside the classroom. Class time then can be reserved for exploring topics in greater depth, problem solving and working individually or in small teams on start-up ventures.
The Ross School and the Zell Lurie Institute provide a safe playing field where BBA and MBA students can learn new models and frameworks, test their skills by launching new ventures and succeed ─ or fail without catastrophic consequences. “We provide a safety net with caring coaches who offer thoughtful answers with perspective,” Price says. “The real world is much harsher and not as nurturing.” As an advisor to student entrepreneurs, Price draws on his own entrepreneurial experience in starting, growing and exiting three successful companies. He also serves as a “sounding board” for Ross alumni who circle back for advice when they launch companies later in their careers, sometimes years after graduation. “We are the coaches in the stands,” Price says. “Our students and graduates are the athletes out on center court. Once the match starts, all we can do is sit back and watch.”