Can we start from the university classroom?

The step-by-step experience ecosystem of co-innovation in EmprendeClass in Peru



The Peruvian education system does not have the ability to provide the professionals needed by employers in this time of rapid technological advance.  The undergraduate system is weak in imparting the concept of innovation and in developing cutting-edge skills, making it unlikely that a Peruvian Triple-Helix model will emerge any time soon.  Given this situation, authorities in government, industry, and the universities who think it is important to create Peru’s own technology instead of importing it from abroad, have been developing a Peruvian information and communication technology (ICT) tool named EmprendeClass for use in the university classroom.  This tool creates an environment that gives professors and students opportunities inside and outside the classroom to work with industry and government on innovative and cooperative projects.

In this article we discuss three positive outcomes from the work of EmprendeClass thus far: (1) applying EmprendeClass in the classroom improves the acquisition of knowledge and raises the awareness of the need to develop twenty-first century skills; (2) having undergraduates buy-in to the program is key to constructing a co-innovative environment – once inspired they motivate their peers to join the cooperative network with academics; and (3) it is possible to construct a co-innovative ecosystem without a lot of resources.  The budget for our study grew out of a new venture that was created to support the project.  This capital-creation venture is only in its introductory phase and already it is able to offer its services to private schools so they can develop their entrepreneurial spirit and set Peru on a course where its future citizens can make change.

Introduction: The General Context of the Peruvian Triple Helix Model

Despite the fact that Peru is a country with attractions like Machu Picchu, the Amazon River, and a celebrated national cuisine, it remains relatively stagnant in terms of development.  Although Peruvians have an entrepreneurial spirit (GEM, 2018), the country itself is not known for innovation (WEF, 2018).  The three partners considered integral to the Triple Helix model of innovation continue to work separately.  Neither industry, nor government, nor academia, has earned a high level of trust.  With industry and government, corruption has been endemic since the beginning of the republic (Quiroz, A, 2016).  Among the most recent scandals was the one tied to the Brazilian firm “Odebrecht.”  It involved prestigious construction companies, former Presidents of Peru, and every Mayor of Lima from the twenty-first century.  These scandals do not differ in any significant way from those in other Latin American countries (Durand, 2018).

At the same time, the Peruvian university system is weak.  Students are not trained in important concepts during their undergraduate program, and they finish their education with noticeable gaps in their competence.  Employers have been known to remark on this situation (ManpowerGroup, 2018).  Although some universities are expending effort to adopt some Triple Helix practices, historically their forms of governance allow for only very slow change and a minimal acceptance of new ideas (Ismodes, E, 2014).  Because the Triple Helix model highlights the university as an important entity that can initiate change in society and impel an ecosystem of innovation (Etzkowitz, H and Leydesdorff, L, 2000), the question becomes: what can we do in the Peruvian context?

Creating an Educative Co-Innovation Ecosystem from Classrooms

In grappling with this question, a team of academics started to work around a fundamental idea: create an environment of collaboration and cooperation within the classroom that will eventually impel students to transform education for themselves.  An Ecosystem of Co-Innovation!  This is a vision-in-progress, and thus far, has defined three developmental stages for the work.  We would like to thank the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru (PUCP), Academic Department of Professorate, for the grant that funded the exploratory phase of the project.

The academic PUCP team involved in this proposal started with a flexible plan.  With a nod to the launch of Wikipedia, they believed it was feasible to drive important intrinsic motivators and obtain great results even if resources were limited (Pink, 2009).  Some of the steps they followed are explained in this article.


First Step:

Planning the Active Methodology with a Peruvian ICT

The first experimental ICT at PUCP was organized with the aim of generating active classrooms in this prestigious institution.  The academic PUCP team took into account research on the outcomes of applied ICT in the classroom (Breslow, L, et al, 2013).  They based their methodology on selected “peer instruction,” which has proven successful in the learning of concepts generally, (Crouch and Mazur, 2001), and in the absorption of concepts from different subject areas (Smith, et al 2009).  They found that with very little guidance or training up-front, their design could easily be reproduced in different disciplines or fields (Vickrey, et al 2014).

The team created an ICT tool adapted to the Peruvian context.  In this way they tried to align with the notion expressed more or less as: “we need to create our own technology and not rely on foreign imports.”  The ICT that was created was initially called InnovaClass, but after a validation process it was changed to ProfePlus.  It can be found on the Google Play website.  This educative tool permits the participation of every student in class and is easy for professors to use.

Feeling a sense of urgency with regard to changing the educative model of the Peruvian university system, the team utilized the “Force Concept Inventory” (FCI), a standardized test that assesses physics knowledge.  The FCI contains thirty questions on Newtonian physics that must be answered in thirty minutes (Hestenes, et al, 1992).  The ProfePlus team analyzed the results of more than 750 engineering undergraduates from the most prestigious universities in the seven Peruvian regions.  The results show that only six percent of the 750 could correctly answer more than the half of the test questions (Moscoso, et al, 2016).  This outcome reflects the grave difficulty one encounters in trying to reform or improve the quality of education in Peru – a country that occupies one of the lowest positions in the ranking of schools done by the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA).  Clearly, without talent produced by Peruvian schools and universities, it is, and will remain difficult to supply businesses with professionals who have strong skills and the self-confidence to enter the innovation funnel and obtain success (Guerra, et al 2017).

An analysis of the first stage of implementation of the ProfePlus program yielded satisfactory results.  Using PUCP’s designated outcomes for Physics from their Rector’s Handbook on general competencies (2015), we looked at team work, effective communication, project participation, autonomous learning, ethics and citizenship, research, logic and math reasoning, and critical thinking.  The outcomes demonstrated both improvement in the acquisition of concepts and in the development of higher-level skills (Moscoso, et al 2017).  The students reported self-satisfaction with their education, and considering that Latin America generally has low marks for the perception of self-satisfaction (Vila, et al, 2010), this was significant news.  It is strongly believed that enhancing self-efficacy enables the entrepreneurial spirit for the future (Lucas and Cooper, 2004).

During this stage the PUCP team founded the Teamwork and Entrepreneurship Research Group with other PUCP academics from different universities in various regions of Peru (GITEE, 2017).  By expanding the vision and creating this interdisciplinary team, it became clear that if our journey was to continue and be successful, it would require creating an Ecosystem of Co-Innovation.


Second Step:

Forming a Co-Innovative Environment with Undergraduates

The second stage of the project began in the second half of 2017 and ran into the first six months of 2018.  During this time the academic team established which professors and undergraduate students might want to engage with us to change education in a collaborative and cooperative direction using Smartphones in the classroom.  These two main groups took part in parallel activities, one group working to integrate professors, and the other, the undergraduates.

PUCP created an academic activity for professors: “Colloquium for Co-Innovation and Team-Building in the Classroom.”  Its initial meeting was held at the beginning of March 2018 with Peruvian academics from different regions of Peru.  After their two-day meeting, where they analyzed the first steps of the proposal, they recognized the value of applying ProfePlus in the classroom.  The general feeling was that ProfePlus raised the students’ level of intrinsic motivation, and generated a “natural critical learning environment” – both seen as important characteristics in good pedagogy (Bain, K, 2004).  This analysis of ProfePlus was promoted as a valuable tool for academics.  In a statement that included input for improving the product from each participant (PUCP, 2019), the growth of ProfePlus was propelled forward, qualifying for placement in Google Play (4.4 out of 5) and reaching almost 10,000 users (Google Play analytics, 2018).

At the same time, undergraduate students were working on an innovative idea with the support of the academic PUCP team.  The students organized an academic activity where they created questions designed to motivate students and help professors better use ProfePlus.  In creating questions to motivate others, the students were in fact, already using ProfePlus to raise their own level of engagement with learning.  This in turn, generated the workshop known as Creathon, begun in March 2018 by undergraduates from National University Federico Villarreal (UNFV) and the Catholic University of Santa Maria (UCSM) (see notes).  A third Creathon was co-organized by a team of PUCP undergraduates in April 2018.  Only very limited marketing was used for all of these events.  Organizers focused on generating enthusiasm simply by visiting classrooms of the professors involved in the project two weeks prior to the Creathon workshops.

The Creathon workshops were based on tapping into undergraduate’s previous experiences in workshops called Hackathons.  In a Hackathon, students meet to share knowledge in a collaborative environment in order to solve computer programming problems or other technological issues.  These workshops typically begin Friday 6pm and run to Saturday 10am.  During those hours the students had only a Facebook page for communications (Creathon Peru, 2018).  The UNFV undergraduates asked themselves: Can we create something similar?  And from these new activities, and encouragement from the Department of Science, a new academic PUCP team emerged.

Our academic PUCP team believes that the Creathon triggers a process that motivates creativity.  Furthermore, we think it can be easily replicated in other universities because it has standardized, anonymous, and comparative surveys that track the level of satisfaction of the participants at the beginning and end of the colloquium.  All results from these surveys are available in the photos section of the Creathon Facebook page.  They show that seventy percent of participants finish the workshop highly satisfied that they have contributed to education and certain that they have gained important skills.  What is more, the undergraduates leave the meeting with a greater facility to communicate and with a belief that their activities result in a more rapid response than the bureaucratic steps demanded by the universities.

All the information analyzed thus far reinforces the belief that a collaborative and cooperative environment can spring from our classrooms.  We have seen that students want to be involved in their learning and they yearn to support their peers and professors.  Why not work to turn this dream into reality?


Third Step:

From an academic project to a co-innovative ecosystem

 The funds that were provided to the project in its beginning phase came from a grant from DAP PUCP.  Eventually it was time for this co-innovative ecosystem to secure a permanent budget in order to grow and benefit more people.  Given this, in the latter half of 2018, the academic PUCP team started the fourth stage and it continues to the present.  The objective of the fourth stage was to establish a business model that could provide enough income to sustain the endeavor.  This was done through launching a spinoff called “Society of Co-Innovator Entrepreneurship.”  Initially the proposal was to offer a service to private schools in the form of a course on Entrepreneurial Development.  The course would require students to read a PDF document each week that is sent through their teacher.  The reading typically takes forty-five minutes, and they do this at home.  Then they use a ProfePlus quiz to find out if they have understood the content of the reading.  Later, in the classroom, students reinforce the concepts they have studied along with the teacher who has his/her own PDF document for guiding the class – a document that involves some reflexive dynamics.  To make sure students have grasped the text and to promote peer interaction, the teacher uses ProfePlus for the in-class discussion, engaging the students through the use of wireless devices like Smartphone, tablet or computer.  With ProfePlus, the spin-off can verify the level of learning taking place in this course.

Many criticize the use of Smartphones in education.  Their critiques center around the claim that students cannot sustain attention when engaged with devices like electronic phones and tablets (NSW Government, 2018).  Some, who are more open to experimenting, find that the use of Smartphones and other new technologies in the classroom makes it easier for students to familiarize themselves with the latest technology (Canarias 7, 2019; El Pais, 2015).  The academics involved in the ProfePlus effort think that using technology is very important and it can, in fact, be very useful for learning and develop skills.  During the test period at Institución Educativa Santísimo Corazón de Jesús, Puente Piedra, in Lima, Peru, the results were rewarding.  It was seen that students acquired concepts and gained the self-confidence necessary for developing an entrepreneurial proposal.  These results are available at the webpage of the spinoff: Sociedad del Emprendimiento Coinnovador, 2019.

At the time when the academic PUCP team tried to link formally with established institutions, unfortunately, the school year had not begun.  They decided to reinforce ProfePlus by looking at other educative tools being tested in other countries.  Thanks to recommendations from other academics and external IT professionals, and based on this inter-country collaboration, ProfePlus’s evolved into EmprendeClass, an educative tool that was created in December 2018.

By the beginning of 2019, the PUCP students structured a formal team called Club EmprendeClass and, working together with academics, they organized a fourth iteration of Creathon in April, 2019 – also with only a minimal marketing campaign.  The results from this venture were beyond expectations and again they were published on the Facebook page in the photo section.  One thing of note here is that there were student participants from other cities who travelled to be part of this collaborative event for change in education.


Future Perspective

Currently, the academic PUCP team has three main objectives. The first is to support Club EmprendeClass in order to generate a standardized version of Creathon that can be easily transferred to other groups in different regions of Peru.  The second is to join efforts so that our spinoff can pass the tipping point in public awareness/acceptance and we might say: Ok, maybe this is going to work!  The third objective is to establish a solid connection between PUCP and our spinoff; this kind of venture it is not common in Peruvian universities and needs to grow in strength.

The future of Peruvian education is at a crossroads and that is why we think today there are two alternatives: Alternative A joins together students’ and professors’ efforts to create a new scenario where the academic community, outside of the formal structure, can work together in a collaborative and cooperative way to change education.  Alternative B is to put our hope in politicians and authorities.  From all we have learned from our work with EmprendeClass, and from all the energy we have unleashed for change in education, we think that a good choice – and arguably the only choice – is Alternative A.



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Co-Innovator Team


Ronnie GUERRA PORTOCARRERO. Founder of EmprendeClass. Member of Research Group of Teamwork and Entrepreneurship (GITEE), Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú (PUCP – Lima): *email address protected*

Richard MOSCOSO BULLÓN. Professor and Member of Research Group of Teamwork and Entrepreneurship (GITEE), Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú (PUCP – Lima): *email address protected*

Carlos VERA GUTIÉRREZ. Principal Professor and Member of Research Group of Teamwork and Entrepreneurship (GITEE), Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú (PUCP – Lima): *email address protected*

Milagros ECHEGARAY MAYORGA. Member of Research Group of Teamwork and Entrepreneurship (GITEE), Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú (PUCP – Lima): *email address protected*

Carmen QUIROZ FERNÁNDEZ. Professor and Head of Continuing Education at Department of Engineering, Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú (PUCP – Lima): *email address protected*

Norberto CHAU PÉREZ. Professor of Math, Academic Department of Science, Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú (PUCP – Lima): *email address protected*

Miguel GONZAGA RAMÍREZ. Professor of Math, Academic Department of Science, Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú (PUCP – Lima): *email address protected*

Roy SÁNCHEZ GUTIÉRREZ. Professor of Math, Academic Department of Science, Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú (PUCP – Lima): *email address protected*

Mijail CHOQUE HUAMÁN. Member of Research Group of Teamwork and Entrepreneurship (GITEE), Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú (PUCP – Lima): *email address protected*

Arístides TÁVARA APONTE. Principal Professor of Physics, Universidad Nacional de Trujillo (UNT – Trujillo): *email address protected*

Alfredo GUZMÁN VALDIVIA. Professor of Physics, Universidad Católica de Santa María (UCSM –Arequipa): *email address protected*

Whinders FERNANDEZ GRANDA. Professor of Physics, Universidad Católica de Santa María (UCSM – Arequipa): *email address protected*

José PORTUGAL SALINAS. Professor of Physics, Universidad Católica de Santa María (UCSM – Arequipa): *email address protected*

Myriam FIGUEROA CRUZ. Professor of Physics, Universidad Nacional Santiago Antunez de Mayolo (UNASAM – Áncash): *email address protected*

Wilson CAMACHO MAMANI. Professor of Physics, Universidad Nacional Santiago Antunez de Mayolo (UNASAM – Áncash): *email address protected*

Luis MORENO RUBIÑOS. Professor, Universidad Nacional Santiago Antunez de Mayolo (UNASAM – Áncash): *email address protected*

Wilfredo VALDIVIA ROJAS. Professor, Universidad Nacional Santiago Antunez de Mayolo (UNASAM – Áncash): *email address protected*

Julio ORÉ GARCÍA. Professor of Physics, Universidad Nacional de San Cristóbal de Huamanga (UNSCH – Ayacucho): *email address protected*

Fernando VÁSQUEZ VÁSQUEZ. Professor of Physics, Universidad Nacional de San Martín (UNSAM – San Martín): *email address protected*

César COSTA POLO. Professor of Physics, Universidad Nacional de San Martín (UNSAM – San Martín): *email address protected*

Manuel ESTEVES PAIRAZAMÁN. Professor of Physics, Universidad Nacional de Huancavelica (UNH – Huancavelica): *email address protected*


                                                                                                                     Published by the Triple Helix Association  –  ISSN 2281-4515


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