Evolution of Riipen: McMaster University
McMaster University has a long history of innovation. Over 30 years ago, its medical school pioneered the use of problem-based learning, which is now used in medical training worldwide. McMaster also applied problem-based learning to undergraduate education; the university’s Arts and Science program, which uses this approach, is one of the most prestigious undergraduate programs in the country.
So it was no surprise that Riipen’s approach, which emphasizes inquiry and applied skills development (just like problem-based learning), attracted the interest of instructors at McMaster University. In 2017, McMaster’s Continuing Education department became the first department of its kind in Canada to partner with Riipen.
McMaster decided to move to experiential learning for a number of reasons. Most importantly, they wanted more real-life opportunities for students. Second, they were interested in creating networking opportunities for students, who were often in career transitions. Third, they were excited about the possibility of developing students’ teamwork and collaboration skills. As an additional attraction, using Riipen allowed the final exam (which wasn’t appropriate to the material) to be removed in favour of project-based learning opportunities as capstones to courses. This was felt to be more relevant to students, the majority of whom are taking continuing education courses to upgrade their skills and actively seek employment.
In their first year, McMaster started with 2 pilot courses in Human Resources Management that were highly successful. They then added two more additional courses the following year. In 2017/2018, four courses included Riipen projects; students were connected with 12 different off-campus partners. As they expanded the Riipen offering, McMaster gathered feedback from students, educators, and industry partners to inform adjustments and get the most out of Riipen’s platform. For example, based on the feedback, McMaster made changes such as clarifying expectations upfront with students and revising the experiential learning project components.
In the third year, McMaster added another four courses, expanding into new areas like Marketing and Web Design. In 2018/2019, instructors and students completed 34 different projects with 31 different off campus partners. This year, McMaster is incorporating Riipen into three new courses in Digital Marketing.
In the past three years, McMaster and Riipen have created more than 1000 student experiences. This is a great example of how post-secondary institutions can scale their offering of experiential learning, enabling students to reach their full potential. For institutions looking to introduce experiential learning into their classrooms or companies looking to interact with upcoming talent, Riipen can help. With a marketplace that connects students and academic institutions with companies, students can gain hands-on experience right in the classroom while networking with industry professionals.
To learn more about Riipen and how you can get started with experiential learning, click HERE.
Special thanks to Experiential Learning Coordinator Heather Pollex, Program Manager Nathalie Vallee, and Instructional Designer Nidia Cerna who created a phenomenal team at McMaster supporting Riipen and continue to look for ways to improve the student experience!