Career readiness: How higher education institutions can scale work-based learning.

Looking to scale work-based learning at your higher education institution? Leaders in career readiness at Bay Path University and Georgetown University share tips for success. By Josh Mitchell, VP of Academic Partnerships
January 30, 2024
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Colleges and universities have well-earned reputations as hubs of innovation. But recently there has been increased scrutiny around the ROI of their programs. Are higher education institutions helping students acquire the skills they need to succeed in the workforce? And how are institutions addressing career readiness at scale?  

To answer these questions, Jane Oates, President of Working Nation, moderated a discussion with two university leaders at the forefront of career readiness: Jeremy Anderson, Vice President of Learning, Innovation, Analytics & Technology, Bay Path University, and Jeffrey Warner, Senior Director, Professional Development & Certificates, School of Continuing Studies, Georgetown University

Watch the recording here:

Although these two institutions serve very different populations, both are investing in work-based learning as part of their career readiness initiatives and have chosen Riipen as the platform and ecosystem to help them achieve their goals. Bay Path University’s student body includes local high school graduates preparing for their first career as well as older students looking to improve their career prospects while Georgetown University’s School of Continuing Studies helps professional learners from around the globe, typically working adults with prior college degrees, skill up to change careers. However, leaders at both institutions agree that their students share a common goal: They are looking for more than a degree or certificate. In Anderson’s words, “The ultimate ROI that we are providing is career preparation.”   

Based on their experiences, Jeremy and Jeffrey shared five tips for scaling successful work-based learning programs:

1. Make it accessible anytime, anywhere

Today’s students are extremely busy juggling work, family, and life. At Bay Path, for example, traditional students aged 18-24 work an average of 25 hours per week and adult students work an average of 35 hours a week. “They can’t take time off for a traditional internship experience,” Anderson explained. 

To ensure that all students can benefit from its career development program, Bay Path implemented Riipen, the world’s leading online work-based learning platform and ecosystem. Riipen connects higher education institutions with employers to facilitate real-work projects. Since Riipen projects are virtual, students are able to work on their project when they have the time rather than during specific business hours which may conflict with their individual schedules.  

And since a good proportion of Bay Path’s students have transportation challenges, the online platform also allows students to work remotely. By making the program easily accessible to busy students, they are more likely to engage and benefit from the experience.  

2. Build flexibility into the program

When it comes to higher education, one size does not fit all. So, it is imperative for institutions to build flexibility into their work-based learning programs. 

For example, consider how the program will handle student drops mid-term. At Bay Path, Anderson plans for dropouts by selecting individual over group projects for his population. That way, classmates aren’t impacted if a student needs to drop out before a group project is finished. And to make sure that employers engaging in the projects are not left empty-handed, the Riipen platform allows multiple students to work on the same project individually to increase the likelihood that at least one student completes the project through the final deliverables.

In addition, Riipen allows Bay Path’s administrators to have the flexibility of setting project timelines on the platform. By selecting shorter projects or dividing longer ones into smaller parts, faculty can embed work-based learning into the curriculum to fit the particular constraints and learning objectives of different courses. 

3. Include faculty in career readiness initiatives

To ensure that work-based projects are aligned with skill building, faculty participation is key. Allowing faculty to design the work-based experience to fit the specific objectives of their course, and to select projects that fit their requirements, is an effective way of ensuring projects are aligned with learning outcomes so skills can be validated.

Furthermore, faculty can help students stay on track by defining and monitoring project milestones and deliverables on Riipen. Not only does the platform help students progress, but it creates a central repository for faculty and employer feedback that can be accessed by the student, faculty and administrators.  

4. Introduce students to new career opportunities 

A quality work-based learning program exposes students to real-world projects they might not have had access to on their own. At Georgetown, for example, a data analytics student worked on a project with a start-up company to create an application that analyzes the value of their service in the marketplace. Furthermore, an upcoming project will allow a data science student to support an indigenous community in northwest New York State looking to preserve their native language and dialect.

Through Riipen, Bay Path is able to provide its students in western Massachusetts and those studying online with access to national and international employers. Moreover, at the end of their Riipen project, the platform provides students with a virtual portfolio that they can publish on LinkedIn or add to their resume to show prospective employers what they have accomplished and the feedback they received from actual employers. Project deliverables, like PowerPoints, reports, and apps, can also be added to students’ work portfolios to showcase their skills.  

5. Consider partners to maximize internal resources

When Georgetown started thinking about work-based learning, Warner considered an internal solution. “When we looked at the idea of trying to go out and build a platform or making industry contacts and putting a database together, it was simply prohibitive,” he said.

Instead, the institution partnered with Riipen because its online work-based learning platform included a growing network of 31,000 employers as well as the features and functionality they desired. “Riipen allows us to provide this service which we could not provide before because to do this in-house would have been too expensive,” Warner explained.

Bay Path University and Georgetown University are just two examples of higher education institutions that are finding innovative ways to integrate career readiness into their curriculum. By implementing work-based learning at scale, their students are exposed to new career opportunities and can apply the skills they’ve learned to real-world work projects. 

 “Our students appreciate that they are doing real work for real companies and are seeing a return on their investment,” Warner concluded.

About Riipen

As the world's leading online work-based learning ecosystem, Riipen makes it easy for higher education institutions and industry partners to collaborate on flexible work-based learning experiences by embedding real-life business challenges directly into the curriculum. To learn more about our innovative work-based learning ecosystem and how working with Riipen can result in improved student engagement and employability outcomes, use this link to request a demo with the Riipen team.

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