When a Plan Comes Together: Smeal Lion's Cage Competition

Concurrent Session 9

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

Learn how we designed engaging learning content that interactively guides students as they create and deliver team-based business plan presentations in a real-world context for students who compete in Penn State’s Smeal College of Business Lion’s Cage Competition, presenting to a panel of judges as if pitching to an investor.


Renee Ford is a learning designer at Penn State’s Smeal College of Business. She is the lead designer of numerous hybrid and online programs and courses offered at the Smeal College of Business in University Park, PA and at Penn State’s World Campus, globally. Her portfolio includes courses that range in size from under 50 students to over 2000 students and are delivered to over 5000 Penn State students per year. Renee completed her Ph.D. in Education at Penn State in 2015. Her dissertation researched factors that influence leadership effectiveness. She has a background in teaching and learning, training, human resource development, and organization development and is passionate about design, innovation, and educational equity. Renee believes that teaching and learning experiences, when designed well, provide opportunities for students and instructors to participate in excellent, engaging learning experiences that meet the needs of diverse learners.
Professor Nancy McClure has taught a broad spectrum of accounting and business courses at the Penn State University, including financial and managerial accounting, auditing, taxation, commercial banking, and business and industry analysis. She is currently the instructor for Smeal College’s capstone course, which is delivered to 1,800 students each year. Nancy specializes in entrepreneurship with a focus on sustainability and social ventures. She was awarded Smeal College’s 2017 faculty sustainability award for the advancement of the teaching of sustainability and applied learning opportunities for students. Nancy founded the Consurgo Initiative at Penn State, which provides Smeal students with an opportunity to develop business plans in partnership with entrepreneurs in lesser developed countries. At the conclusion of each semester, student teams present their business plans to a panel of executive judges in the Lion’s Cage, a Shark Tank type competition. The Consurgo Initiative has launched sustainable small businesses in Guatemala and Haiti.

Extended Abstract

Accelerated students from Penn State's Smeal College of Business BA 411 (Analyzing Business and Industry) class compete in a Lion’s Cage Business Plan Competition, presenting to a panel of judges as though they were pitching an investor (much like the television show, "Shark Tank").  During the semester, Students are divided into 5 teams who develop their business plans in a mentoring process with Smeal MBA students.  Students record elevator pitches, video reflection blogs, and complete all aspects of a business plan in a competitive environment.  Each team is given 30 minutes to present its business plan to a panel of judges from the business community, many of whom are Smeal alumi.  One team of students during the Spring 2017 semester partnered with the nonprofit organization, Poverty Resolutions, to help solve hunger issues in Haiti.  One team’s video documentary, “Dear Old State” even aired on PBS (http://www.boustanyfilm.com/dear-old-state/).  Many of the teams have launched the entrepreneurial ventures pitched in this class.  

This will be an interactive presentation that explores how we tackled the design challenge of creating engaging learning content that interactively guides students through every aspect of creating and delivering a business plan in a real-world context.  Come hear how the instructor, Nancy McClure, partnered with a learning designer as well as business executives, outside organizations, and Smeal’s IT & ID teams to meet student needs and improve learning outcomes while fostering innovation, creativity, student-engagement, and building life-long business skills.  

At the end of this session, participants will be able to:

1. Discuss key design challenges and opportunities we faced from the Lion's Cage Competition as well as lessons learned.

2. Explore the teaching and learning solutions employed at Smeal to meet student needs and improve learning outcomes.

3.  Identify the pedagogical benefits of connecting learning by building a collaborative partnership between the instructor, MBA student mentors, students, learning design team, multimedia specialists, programmers, external partners, and business executives.​