Professor Uses Formstack to Develop Educational Tech Game

Written by Abby Nieten on March 22, 2013

Posted in Case Studies

This guest post is by Gerry Hays, co-founder of Slane and a faculty member at the Indiana University Kelley School of Business

The face of business today is changing – the way we interact with others, the tools we use, and the speed at which information is shared and processed. In order to besttheventuregame prepare for this new future, the nature of education must also change.

Educational gaming is a relatively new trend in post-secondary education. However, it has proven to be one of the most effective methods of material and concept transfer to students, with dramatically increased retention, application, and engagement as compared to more traditional methods.

That’s why I created The Venture Game™ (TVG). an interactive learning game to teach students how to raise capital for their startups. TVG is a six-week simulation in which students in my Venture Capital and Entrepreneurial Finance courses go through the process of raising capital for a fictional high-potential startup company. Through several rounds, entrepreneur teams must raise capital for their ventures, and venture capital teams must decide which ventures to invest in. This back and forth process mimics the real-life capital raising process…meaning that students learn how to create cap tables and structure deals that would be feasible in real life. At the end of the course, students don’t only know the common phrases and actions that might be tested in a typical classroom – they know how to apply those lessons in real-life venture capital situations, which is oftentimes a make or break situation for fledgling companies.

The development and improvement of this tool for my classroom would not have been possible without Formstack. Here’s why:

  • Loose papers are a hassle – I wanted to implement an aspect of automation into the simulation
  • Students started the game by using forms to rank and vote on each team’s presentation in order to determine strength of idea and beginning capital received
  • During each round, students in 3 classes submitted all answers and materials through round-, team-, and class- specific forms
  • Data from each form was exported into Excel to help simplify the algorithm-based calculations to determine the winner of each round (and, ultimately, the entire game)

If not for the easy-to-use nature of Formstack, my students wouldn’t have had half the experience they do today (and those that have gone on to start their own successful ventures after graduations would have paid the price). If not for the effortless editing capabilities of the technology, and I wouldn’t have been able to consistently iterate the game and improve upon it semester after semester.

Currently, the platform is in the process of becoming even more turnkey so that any entrepreneurial finance / VC professor across the country can plug this into their classroom effectively.

It’s a different form of “online” education – it doesn’t rely on one-way videos of lectures or boring problem sets. It makes the students immerse themselves in the process and teaches them how to apply what they’ve learned because they are actually DOING it … a method that more of our schools need to implement.

There is no large-scale gaming platform for higher education…but based on the way our students, technology, and work force is changing, platforms such as The Venture Game™ will most certainly influence the future of higher education.

This post is part of the Build Indy blog series. Between February 20 and May 16, Formstack will be providing Indianapolis small businesses and nonprofits with resources and education about cloud computing solutions. Join us as give a $5,000 grant to an Indianapolis company. For more information, visit

Photo credit: 401(K) 2013 / / CC BY-SA