Expanding opportunities for international and continuing education students at UCR University Extension
University of California, Riverside Extension (UCR University Extension) is dedicated to providing exceptional opportunities for international and continuing education students. As the Director of International and Professional Programs at UCR University Extension, Lisa Miller has been instrumental in spearheading these initiatives. Through her innovative approach, she has successfully integrated Riipen, a platform that offers project-based learning experiences, into the curriculum.
Addressing challenges for international students and continuing education students
One of the primary pain points for international students coming to the US on short-term visas is their ineligibility for internships. “Students would always ask if they could do internships and we had to tell them no,” says Lisa. “What was so appealing about Riipen is we could tell international students that even though they couldn’t do a traditional internship in an office, we can provide them work-based learning experiences within their course curriculum. Real experiences that will be part of their assignment and can be added to their CV.”
Domestic continuing education students also benefit from Riipen. These students often have full-time jobs and are not necessarily seeking traditional internships. They enroll in continuing education programs to upskill or switch careers. Says Lisa, “Our domestic continuing education students are able to try out a career that they’re thinking of transitioning into and walk away at the end either saying, I love this and want to do this as a career, or, this was a great experience, but it’s not actually something I want to pursue now that I’ve seen it up close. It’s creating access for our continuing ed students that they wouldn’t have otherwise because of their full-time work or family commitments.”
Overcoming challenges for educators
One challenge Lisa faced was convincing educators to adopt Riipen, as many were comfortable with their current teaching methods and mock case studies. However, once they saw the benefits of the platform and its ability to bring in a diverse range of employers, they were more open to the idea. Riipen's intuitive platform and hands-on onboarding process also helped instructors get started with ease.
The first UCR University Extension Riipen champion, instructor Dr. Nidhi Shah, played a significant role in encouraging other instructors to use the platform. As an instructor who had already incorporated work-based learning into her courses, Nidhi was enthusiastic about the opportunities Riipen offered and shared her experiences with her colleagues.
“She was so enthusiastic with her colleagues, telling them the types of projects she was working on, and the kinds of employers she was working with,” Lisa says about Nidhi. “This has been so beneficial because instructor champions can speak better to other instructors about what the Riipen journey looks like from their side and the time it takes to build it out, rather than me coming in and saying, ‘hey, I really want you to do this’.”
Adapting to the changing landscape of internships
The pandemic has shifted the concept of internships, making remote project-based learning more acceptable. These flexible, diverse, and stackable experiences make students more marketable in the workforce. By working with Riipen, UCR University Extension international students can gain unique and innovative experiences that set them apart from other recent graduates.
“Experiences that are unique and innovative, that involve learning a variety of different skills in a variety of different formats are going to catch employers’ attention,” says Lisa. “Being able to show that they’ve worked under a variety of organizational parameters and timelines. This is all leading to the new skills that are going to be needed to be developed around the 21st century for our students.”
Moreover, industry partners benefit from the insights and perspectives of international students. For instance, European marketing students can offer valuable input to companies looking to expand into European markets.
A gradual rollout strategy for success
Lisa's Riipen rollout strategy focused on capstone courses, classes with obvious work-based learning fits, and those with high international enrollment. With the quarter system at UCR University Extension, the rollout began with one instructor, then expanded to three instructors in the fall, and eventually six in the winter of 2023. This gradual approach allowed for a successful implementation of Riipen.
By incorporating Riipen into UCR University Extension programs, Lisa has been able to offer work-related experiences to international students who would not have been eligible for internships due to their visa status. This innovative approach aligns with UCR University Extension's vision of providing experiential, work-based curriculum for their students and has proven to be a huge benefit to both international and continuing education students alike.
“It’s been a huge benefit,” says Lisa. “I felt this was the best way for me to give international students something work-related because they’re ultimately looking for some sort of American work experience they can put on their resume. Riipen fit in perfectly with our vision of how we wanted to have this experiential, work-based curriculum for our international students. The instructors, the learners, the employers - everyone benefits from this.”
As the world's largest online work-based learning marketplace, Riipen makes it easy for higher education institutions and industry partners to collaborate on flexible project-based experiential learning opportunities embedding real-life business challenges directly into the curriculum. To learn more about our innovative work-based learning platform and how working with Riipen can result in improved student engagement and student employability outcomes, please use this link to request a call with the Riipen team.