From his first venture creating high-tech solutions for the hospitality industry to leading within an innovative outdoor adventure company, Brian Maxfield’s entrepreneurship journey has been a wild ride. Now, he’s wading through uncharted waters, navigating the educational technology space and guiding students on new adventures.
In partnership with Sarnia entrepreneurs Ryan Lindsay and Joseph Gorzeman, Maxfield founded the Online Digital Education Academy (ODEA). “We asked ourselves, ‘Can we make a video game that teaches students the concepts of business through education that meets college criteria?’ And that’s what we’ve done.”
The product that ODEA has created fully meets the collegiate education standards of a 45-hour, 3-credit general elective course, where students experience their own entrepreneurial journey through a simulated world built on business foundations and expert knowledge.
‘The Foundations of Business’ was created to mirror the fundamental steps to starting a business. Though a handful of academic courses have integrated gamification components into their regularly scheduled syllabi, ODEA’s course represents the first thoroughly gamified academic course. The use of this digital medium, Maxfield insists, is entirely intentional.
“Video games engage people in a way that disrupts a pattern. Think about the addictive nature of the video game cycle. It was clear that the foundations of business – including components like tax law, legal rights, sole proprietorship, incorporation – can be difficult to jazz up. We wanted to harness the power that games have to release endorphins and create excitement at specific points of achievement and keep students interested.”
Featuring interviews with subject-matter experts that are leaders in their industries, this “Masters Series” element allows students to learn from experienced entrepreneurs who have built businesses and know their specializations intimately.
It’s this pairing of subject-matter expertise and application of theory that will produce real learning outcomes. It means that students won’t simply be clicking through to the end of the course, but proving true retention of knowledge. “We truly believe we’re creating something that can change the face of education and be disruptive.”
After a successful pilot semester at Lambton College, the beginning of 2020 marked ODEA’s debut on OntarioLearn, the platform that houses online courseware for all 24 of Ontario’s publicly-funded colleges. Now, any student in Ontario will be able to access the game and choose to take the course as a general elective.
On entrepreneurship, Maxfield insists that opportunity can present itself anywhere. “It doesn’t come down to geographical location or population — it comes down to energy, work and love. If you can master those three things and put everything you have into it, there are no roadblocks you can’t clear.”
As a believer in what he calls the “power of proximity,” Maxfield is part of a network of entrepreneurs and industry leaders that collectively own and operate multiple companies, from SaaS to smart products. He says that weaving through different industries is made possible by being aware of strengths and non-strengths in himself and others.
“It’s not about resources, it’s about resourcefulness.”
To learn more about ODEA and ‘The Foundations of Business’ course, visit their website.