Creating big change through micro-experiences

An alternative to traditional models of work-integrated learning are micro-experiences. A micro-experiential learning opportunity still provides students with the ability to gain hands-on experience, but on a fewer-scale that requires less resources and is more sustainable in the long run.
January 22, 2020
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Cooperative Education and Work Integrated Learning Canada (CEWIL Canada), formerly the Canadian Association for Cooperative Education (CAFCE), defines work-integrated learning as “a model and process of experiential education which formally and intentionally integrates a student’s academic studies with learning in a workplace or practice setting”.Work-integrated learning is meant to better prepare students to transition into the workforce with all the skills that will help them succeed. These experiences can help students develop essential workplace skills while giving them a better understanding of course work by applying it to a real problem. To learn more about what is experiential learning and its various benefits, see Experiential Learning: Shaping the Future of Work. Traditional Models of Work-Integrated LearningThere are many variations of work-integrated learning, but two traditional models that are well known are: (1) co-op placements and (2) internships.

According to Virginia Tech, a co-op refers to a “multi-work term agreement with one employer; traditionally with at least three work terms alternated with school terms, resulting in a five-year degree program for what would otherwise take four years. While Co-ops are traditionally full-time, paid positions. Internships on the other hand refer to a “one-term work assignment .. can be full- or part-time, paid or unpaid”.

Though both traditional models offer excellent learning opportunities for students there are some downsides and we have identified 3 of the most pressing ones below:

Micro-experiential learning

So what can be done to fill in the gaps left by traditional models of work-integrated learning, without sacrificing any opportunities for students?

An alternative to traditional models of work-integrated learning are micro-experiences. A micro-experiential learning opportunity still provides students with the ability to gain hands-on experience, but on a fewer-scale that requires less resources and is more sustainable in the long run.

A micro-experience is essentially a mini-project conducted in partnership with an external industry partner embedded directly into the course curriculum. Within the context of the course, students complete these mini-projects, or micro-experiences, that align with course goals and the needs of the external partner.

Benefits of a micro-experience include:

  • Hands on learning and the ability to apply course materials to a real-world situation.
  • Happens directly in the classroom using projects already in the curriculum meaning there is no need to take a semester off, extend your degree, or take up time outside of class.
  • Rather than hiring a single student, an entire classroom of students can participate at once.
  • The companies working with students will also gain access to a much larger pool of potential talent they can recruit from.

Case Study - Concordia University x Toronto Police Services

The following case study is an example of a micro-experiential learning experience that occurred between Concordia University’s John Molson School of Business and the Toronto Police Services. Professor Danielle Morin, instructor of Supply Chain and Business Technology Management, was the first to adopt the Riipen platform in her classroom to facilitate a micro-experiential learning experience.

Dr. Morin’s MBA course in Managerial Analytics was partnered with the Toronto Police Services. The project enabled students to apply data analytics to a real situation and for many this was their first consulting experience. Students worked on developing and designing additional metrics for the Business Intelligence Analytics Unit with the goal of improving Toronto safety.

“I thought that putting the theory from class towards an actual research project using real data provided me with a learning experience that is immensely greater than anything a classroom can provide,” said Christina Marcoux, a student in the class.  

After this experience, Dr. Morin continued to use Riipen in her future courses to supplement student learning.

How to get started:

Professor Morin’s collaboration with the Toronto Police Services was facilitated by Riipen, North America’s largest marketplace for project-based experiential learning. Riipen makes it easy for higher education institutions and industry partners to collaborate on short-term project-based engagement to complement the existing curriculum of students.

To learn more about Riipen and how to get started with experiential learning, visit our website or click here to connect with a team member. Also keep up with Riipen on Twitter, Linkedin, Instagram, and Facebook.

  1. Student Enrollment in Canadian Post-Secondary Schools Statistic
  2. Small and Medium Business Statistic

About the author:

Michelle Wong is a Toronto-based marketing and communications professional leading content marketing efforts at Riipen. She is a technology, social media, and marketing enthusiast with a passion for making connections and building community. She is an advocate for personal development and can often be found searching for new music, binge watching K-Dramas, or reading a good book.

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