Educator spotlight: Nicholas Kinar, Professor, College of the Rockies.

Discover how a professor of Geology uses the Riipen platform to integrate work-integrated learning into his courses.
July 5, 2024
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We recently sat down with Professor Nicholas Kinar to discuss the role of experiential learning at the College of the Rockies in Cranbrook, a public institution with an enrollment of 9,600. Below Professor Kinar shares his experience using Riipen, a work-integrated learning platform, for his Geology students.

What role does experiential learning play in the classroom?

Many students lack exposure to real-world projects, often unaware that the professional environment is as much about navigating failures as it is about achieving success. Teaching students to handle failure gracefully and develop essential skills is a challenge.

Experiential learning bridges this gap by providing students with hands-on opportunities to apply their knowledge in practical settings. One of the most rewarding aspects of my job has been integrating experiential learning opportunities through platforms like Riipen.

What kind of real-world projects have your students worked on?

Over the years, my students and I have engaged in various exciting projects through Riipen, from creating climate change awareness campaigns to developing carbon footprint calculators for health clinics. 

For instance, one of our collaborations was with Carbon Floor in Vancouver, where a student created a cartoon series to build climate change awareness. Another project involved working with a health and wellness company in Ontario, where students contributed to a handbook on student health, which is now set for publication. 

We’ve also worked with organizations in the United States and Australia, developing tools to fact-check climate change information and compute carbon footprints for businesses.

What did your students learn?

The projects taught students several key lessons:

  • They learned to work with real-world data, extracting key takeaways and insights essential for informed decision-making
  • Students gained experience in training AI models to evaluate the quality of scientific information, enhancing their technical and analytical skills 
  • They understood that making mistakes is a natural part of the learning process and a crucial step toward achieving success

What did you observe with your students?

Many students come from high school where everything is structured and they are told exactly what to do. In my courses, I focus on synthesis, encouraging students to integrate different concepts and ideas into a final product, which could be either tangible or conceptual. 

In the real world, experience is built through both successes and failures. The Riipen platform allows for project refinement, enabling students and companies to clarify project goals before starting. Initially, companies might be unsure about how geology can be applied, but through discussions on the platform, they recognize significant opportunities. This process results in satisfied companies and more mature students. Many students have never worked independently on projects before, and this experience helps them grow significantly over time.

What would you tell a colleague about Riipen?

As educators, our role is crucial in ensuring these opportunities are accessible and beneficial for students. Engaging with companies, facilitating connections, and supporting students throughout the process are key to the success of experiential learning activities. Platforms like Riipen can greatly assist in this process.

I'm grateful for Riipen and the College of the Rockies' support in fostering these experiences.

If you're an educator considering using platforms like Riipen, I highly recommend it—just be prepared to invest time in guiding your students and connecting with companies to maximize the benefits of this invaluable learning approach.

Book a chat with our team to discover how Riipen can help you integrate real-world projects into your classrooms today.

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