COMPSCI 420S Software Entrepreneurship (3 credits)

Professor: Neena Thota



What you’ll learn

Course Description:

COMPSCI 420S Software Entrepreneurship is geared towards students interested in developing software that moves from early stage proof-of-concept ideas towards marketable products with societal benefit. The course leverages the expertise of the Entrepreneurs in Residence (EIR) of the Ventures @ CICS initiative at CICS. The course is grounded in Challenge Based Learning (CBL), an active, student-directed instructional framework that was developed by Apple Inc. and educators.

Prerequisite: COMPSCI 326 Web Programming or 320 Software Engineering – open to COMPSCI and Informatics majors.


Course Objectives:

COMPSCI 420S focuses on providing real world experiences for students by simulating a startup development process. A Challenge Based Learning (CBL) framework combines Lean Startup and Customer Development concepts in a project-based course. Using the CBL framework, students participate in Scrum cycles that focus on activities: Engage-Investigate-Act-Reflect. Professional skills are gained through working on real-world problems that require students to develop solutions and implement them in authentic environments


Learning Outcomes:

At the end of the course, working in groups, the student should be able to:

·         define a challenge or broad concept to explore after customer and market analysis

·        investigate resources to develop a solution and write a business plan (including business costs, funding, and revenue projections).

·         implement and verify a minimum viable product (MVP) that addresses the challenge.

·         demonstrate collaboration, communication, reflection, and learning-aware learning skills.


How you’ll learn

Course Structure:

The course is flipped with students completing readings, assignments, and online discussions ahead of each class. Class time is used for sprint activities. Sprint lengths are set to 2 weeks to enable project teams to work on the deliverables in the CBL framework. CICS Entrepreneurs in Residence ( are invited to participate in class activities.

A text book is not required. We will use Microsoft Teams and Moodle (as necessary).


This is a project-based course with group work in teams. Lectures (with group activities) and discussion classes (group work with feedback from TA) are held during class times. Additionally, there are guest talks by entrepreneurs with live Q&A. It is not possible to attend another course with overlapping class times.

Office hours will be provided by the professor and TA. There are no quizzes or exams, instead there is semester-long group project with milestone deliverables.


Course Topics (the instructor reserves the right to modify the list):

Customer and market analysis:

1.       Identification of a Big Idea: A broad concept that can be explored in multiple ways, is engaging, and has importance to students and the larger community.

2.       Defining Essential Question: Process of personalizing and pinpointing the important concepts within the big idea.

Writing a business plan:

1.       Creating Challenge: A call to action designed to create a business plan that can result in concrete action.

2.       Guiding Questions: A series of questions developed by the learning community, identifying and representing the knowledge and skills needed in order to develop a successful solution.

3.       Guiding Activities and Resources: The activities and resources that learners identify, participate in and utilize to answer the guiding questions.

4.       Analysis: A process for exploring the answers to the guiding questions and identifying overarching themes and concepts.

Implement and verify an MVP

1.       Solution: A concrete, actionable and clearly articulated idea to solve the challenge.

2.       Implementation: Solutions are put into action with an authentic audience.

3.       Evaluation: Learners evaluate their process through the results of the implementation and refine their solution


How you’ll know that you are learning

Course Deliverables:

Students work in teams on a number of deliverables and a final project presentation.

1.           Application: Minimum Viable Product (MVP) with scrum artefacts, test data, and pivot plans.

2.           Business Plan: Minimum Viable Business Plan (MVBP) including business costs, funding, and revenue projections.

3.           Pitch deck: final project presentation.


Course Grading:

Grades will be assigned for:

·    attendance and participation in class discussions and activities: 20%

·    completing evaluations and submitting reflections: 10%

·    creating a minimum viable product and business plan, and completing peer evaluations as part of a group project: 70%


How learning is accessible to you

Accommodation Statement

Any student who requires an accommodation due to a disability is directed to contact the UMASS Disability Services: to obtain the appropriate accommodation forms. If you have a documented disability that requires an accommodation, please notify me within the first week of the semester. My goal is to provide every student with a high-quality learning experience. Please contact me if you have any questions or concerns about disabilities or any issue that may impact the quality of your learning.


Getting Excused for Attendance

This is a discussion and activity-based class. Participation, in addition to attendance, is an expectation of students enrolled in the course. Should you need to miss a class, please let me know in advance. If you miss more than two class/discussion sessions, we need to meet to figure out how you can still pass the course as attendance counts towards your grade. Medical conditions, religious or funerary events, university-related event (athletic event, field trip, or performance), extenuating non-academic reasons (military obligation, family illness, jury duty, automobile collision) will be accommodated with written documentation.


Getting Extensions for Assignments

It is possible that you may need an extension for a submission. Contact me at least 24 hours before the assignment is due. Medical conditions, religious or funerary events, university-related event (conference visit, athletic event, field trip, or performance), or extenuating non-academic reasons (military obligation, family illness, jury duty, automobile collision) that need extension will be accommodated with written documentation.


Academic Honesty: Why it matters what you do

In general, collaborative work is encouraged. For individual assignments, please refer to UMASS Academic Honesty Policy and Procedures for guidelines on what constitutes academic dishonesty and the sanctions that may be imposed on any student who has committed an act of academic dishonesty:


Inclusive Learning: Why you are welcome

Your success in this class is important to me. We all learn differently and bring different strengths and needs to the class. If there are aspects of the course that prevent you from learning or make you feel excluded, please let me know as soon as possible. Together we’ll develop strategies to meet both your needs and the requirements of the course. There are also a range of resources on campus, including:

·      Writing Center -

·      Learning Resource Center -

·      Center for Counseling and Psychological Health (CCPH) -

·      English as a Second Language (ESL) Program -


Classroom conduct: Why you matter

In this course, each voice in the classroom is valued. We honor UMass’s commitment to embrace diverse people, ideas, and perspectives to create a vibrant learning and working environment. You are welcome regardless of age, background, citizenship, disability, sex, education, ethnicity, family status, gender, gender identity, geographical origin, language, military experience, political views, race, religion, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, and work experience.

This course requires students to work in groups and to present material in class. As such, it is expected that all students will observe a “workplace” level of social decorum at all times when interacting with peers. You are expected to treat your work in this class in a professional manner and to treat all individuals with dignity and respect. Please consult the UMass Guidelines for Classroom Civility and Respect:


Course Syllabus