Research Corner

Using the Archive in the Classroom

So far, the Archive has been used in the classroom in several ways:

1. As an opportunity to talk about the Dot Com Era;

2. As an archival source for historical documents from the Dot Com era; or

3. As a repository of business plans for students to evaluate from a business perspective.

In each instance, firms or documents can either be selected by the instructor or the students.

1. Using the Archive as an opportunity to talk about the Dot Com phenomenon from the historical point of view. Students can browse the firms in the collection or be assigned specific firms, and the instructor can use the artifacts to motivate a lecture about role of the Dot Com Era in the history of technology entrepreneurship. In addition to published sources, I have working papers and other supporting materials to support this task.

2. Critical Edition of a business plan or planning document. Who wrote it? Who was the intended audience? Did the document achieve the desired effect? If not, what happened, and why? The idea of the critical edition is to make the document unfamiliar and force the students to interpret all the signals and codes that are otherwise taken for granted (i.e., the language around the web, users, capitalization, organizational structure, etc). This assignment might also be pitched as “Where are they now?” to focus less on the document and more on the fate of the firm that produced it.

3. Evaluate a business plan. Students evaluate a plan: What is the company proposing to do? Is the plan well structured, comprehensible, and complete? Are the founders and principals qualified to pursue it? Do the financials make sense? If you were a venture capitalist in 1999, would you have funded the plan? Why? Or why not? This assignment requires some outside work, but primarily allows the student to apply critical management tools to a real business plan.