Educator spotlight: Robert Warren, Senior Instructor, University of North Dakota in Grand Forks.

Professor expands experiential learning opportunities, increasing student engagement and career readiness.
June 25, 2024
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We recently sat down with Professor Robert Warren to discuss the role of experiential learning at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks, a public institution with an enrollment of 14,192. Below Professor Warren shares his experience using Riipen, a work-integrated learning platform, in his Marketing 311: Professional Selling course that included 40 students.

Why do you incorporate experiential learning into your courses?

Experiential learning gives students the opportunity to take classroom lessons and apply them in a real-world environment. It allows them to discover that theory is important, but as soon as it hits reality it has to be adjusted. And it’s better for them to learn this lesson while they are still in school and the stakes are low than when they are in the workplace.

What real-world project did your students work on this term?

The Professional Selling class is part of our Sales minor program so our goal for this project was to teach students how to prospect and qualify sales leads. We worked with two employers to determine their target audiences and had the students pull together a list of companies to contact. Students then either called the potential leads or sent them emails, using ChatGPT to create the first draft.

What did students learn from this experience?

The project taught students several key lessons:

  • Not every prospect is going to say “yes”, and it takes more sales calls than they originally anticipated.
  • Targeting customers is tough and they need to research their audience in advance.
  • Goals need to be constantly adjusted based on what is happening.
  • Technology like ChatGPT is a tool, not a magic solution. 
  • Sometimes they need to push outside their comfort zone, like being more aggressive even if their natural inclination is to be reserved.

Why did you partner with Riipen for this initiative?

We work with the local business community in Grand Forks, a city of 70,000 people, so it doesn’t take us long to contact every business that wants to work with us. 

Riipen allows us to go outside of our local area to find work-integrated learning opportunities that our students are really interested in, like search engines, websites, and AI. It also gives us access to businesses that are international, women- or minority-owned. This term students were excited to work with two Canadian-based employers.

What did you observe with your students?

My students were all really interested in what they were working on. They understood that they were gaining skills they could use in their internships, summer jobs, and throughout their career.

One of my students was particularly engaged in the project. He is an African American student that I’ve had in multiple classes, and he was working on a project with a leader of a minority-owned business. During the project, he started coming to class which was highly unusual for him, asking questions, and authoring the reports. He took the lead in running the group and giving me feedback. The opportunity to work with a role model made a huge difference for him and he is returning to campus in the fall for a master’s program.

What would you tell a colleague about Riipen?

Give Riipen a try. It’s going to improve your course. And students love it.

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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