The Entrepreneurial Learning Initiative
Issue 4 | April 2022


“A ‘Stunning’ Level of Student Disconnection”

Over the last two years, we’ve seen significant shifts in policy around COVID-19. Changes to school, work, and public life were all topped off with extreme ambiguity about when things would get back to normal. For many college students, this constant state of the unknown seems to have had more significant impacts than we first realized. Across the country, higher education faculty are reporting devastating rates of disengagement. 

One student said of her return to campus for virtual learning, “I didn’t even realize how depressed I was…It felt normal because everyone was feeling the same way. If you walked up to someone and they were happy, it felt strange.” 

“That feeling of ineffectualness has led to a more existential anxiety — specifically, a loss of confidence in themselves and their futures,” according to a psychologist and faculty member at one university. 

What is interesting from our perspective is how these results are not necessarily new. COVID-19 and current affairs have created new challenges for teachers and learners at all levels, but we have seen a trend for over ten years of waning student engagement. Unfortunately, this trend seems related to the existential anxiety prevalent in current college students. Feelings of futility are often associated with a lack of autonomy. Long-time followers will note that autonomy is a keystone of an entrepreneurial mindset.

So, perhaps the path forward for students struggling in this uncertain time is not more rigidity. Rather, maybe it is all about embracing new options for flexibility and autonomous, self-directed learning.

How to reengage

“College students often don’t know when they’re learning”

In school, did you dread group work? Whether it was a research paper or group work on a set of problems in science class, many people report feeling frustrated, confused, and annoyed. However, many studies over the years have shown that this type of work yields much better learning outcomes. 

While we all have experienced a boring lecture, when you’re lucky enough to attend a talk with a compelling speaker, we often feel like we are more engaged, totally understanding the topics they are discussing. Interestingly, this feels like we are learning more, but the same studies showing the results of active group learning state that lectures are not nearly as effective. “Real learning is hard work, and it often doesn’t feel good. When you’re struggling to solve a problem in an active learning classroom, it may feel frustrating. Making mistakes and getting feedback to correct misunderstandings is where the learning happens.” 

Active learning is indeed a component of entrepreneurial discovery learning. Entrepreneurs are constantly learning about opportunities to solve problems for others and learning about the needs of others. However, what helps entrepreneurs persevere through the frustrations of active learning is their commitment to creating value. This more purpose-driven approach creates a level of altruism that enables them to keep going and rise to new levels of engagement.

When do we learn?



“What every US college should teach their students”

Continuing from the role active learning (with an entrepreneurial lens) can have on student engagement, we turn to an opinion piece from the founder of Best Buy, Richard M. Schulze. Schulze describes how the skillset and mindset of entrepreneurs equip students of any discipline with the drive, passion, and purpose needed to get the most out of their education.

According to Schulze, calculated risk-taking is another value of entrepreneurship from which anyone can benefit. At ELI, we describe this as micro-experimentation, a means of mitigating risk by testing small solutions before you make a big, bold bet.

As Schulze says, “learning to think and act like an entrepreneur emboldens students to take charge of their own destinies.”

Hat tip to newly certified Entrepreneurial Mindset Facilitator Steve Rice for sharing this article with us.

How can entrepreneurship benefit college?

Radio Segment

Radio Segment

“School's Out Forever”

The landscape of learning and school has changed. And even with things beginning to open up, something isn’t quite the same. For example, in this piece from This American Life back in March 2022, we hear honest stories from the key players of public schools. What’s different about these interviews than much of the articles and videos we often see is the focus on how much may never return to normal.

From a principal in Wyoming to math and English teachers across the country, we hear stories of how the typical flow of school isn’t simply disrupted; it’s gone. “I think our relationship to what school is [is broken],” one teacher said. Another family shared their workaround for a mom working during the school day while her daughter stayed home for school online.

The common thread between these stories is the total paradigm shift, despite wishes for a return to the past. The numerous alternatives we have found out of necessity, positive or negative, make the future of learning and the institution of school uncertain. 

So, what does this have to do with entrepreneurship or mindsets? As we’ve discussed in previous Top of Mind issues, school structures are not always conducive to entrepreneurial discovery. They also are not always creating space for students to reflect on why they are learning or how they best learn. So perhaps, if school really is out forever, we can find a more flexible, engaging path for each student to flourish. Perhaps, as we think of new paradigms in education, we can consider the benefits of entrepreneurship, for all, in our plans.

Listen in


Top of Mind  


You received this email because you are subscribed to our ELI Newsletter from The Entrepreneurial Learning Initiative.

Update your email preferences to choose the types of emails you receive.

Unsubscribe from all future emails