Growing work-based learning at University of California, Riverside Extension
When Dr. Nidhi Shah was completing her MBA in India in 1999, she had the opportunity to gain hands-on experience working on real-world projects as part of her curriculum. This experience had a significant impact on her career, and she has been striving to provide the same opportunities for her own students ever since. In early 2021, when UCR University Extension's Director of International and Professional Programs, Lisa Miller, decided to partner with Riipen, Dr. Shah jumped at the chance to join the introductory Zoom call with her colleagues and the Riipen team. "As soon as they mentioned work-based learning, I knew this was exactly what I had been searching for all these years," she recalls. "I was thrilled to finally have found a way to give my students the same valuable experience that had made such a difference for me."
According to Dr. Shah, "Riipen projects provide students with an unparalleled opportunity to engage with real-world companies and receive valuable feedback that they wouldn't otherwise have access to." She also appreciates the way Riipen aligns work-based learning experiences with course learning outcomes. Even before using Riipen, Dr. Shah had always incorporated projects into her curriculum, recognizing that hands-on experience is crucial to student learning. "I don't believe in assessing students' knowledge solely through quizzes," she explains. "Previously, my students would work on theoretical projects in teams, choosing any company they wanted to or creating a fictional one. But what was missing was the opportunity to interact with and receive feedback from actual industry professionals. With a Riipen project, students establish a connection with a company and gain a deeper understanding of the industry. They perform significantly better on a Riipen project compared to a theoretical project."
Growing work-based learning at UCR University Extension
Dr. Shah is a passionate advocate for the benefits of work-based learning and would love to see more of her colleagues adopt Riipen as a core teaching tool. "Work-based learning is a win-win for everyone involved," she says. "It brings maximum value to students, the university, the educator, and the company. It's a value proposition that can't be ignored." If you're an instructor considering incorporating work-based learning into your curriculum, read on for some tips and insights from Dr. Shah.
Riipen tips for instructors
Collaboration is key
Effective collaboration is crucial to the success of work-based learning. According to Dr. Shah, scheduling a call with the industry partner prior to the start of the project is an important step in aligning the learning objectives of the course with the goals of the employer. This allows her to make adjustments as the project progresses while ensuring that there is a clear understanding from the start. "Having the input of an industry expert can help refine and clarify the course guidelines and objectives for students," she says. Dr. Shah also recommends inviting the employer to join the first day of the course via Zoom, which allows them to better understand the students and the course learning objectives that align with the company deliverables.
Feedback is a must
Dr. Shah ensures that all industry partners she works with are willing to provide real-world feedback to her students. "It doesn't have to be a senior-level representative from the company," she says. "It can be anyone from the company, as long as they are engaged with the students and the project." Dr. Shah believes that feedback is essential for students to understand how their work is perceived by industry professionals and how they can improve their skills.
The possibilities are endless
“Riipen projects allows for the development and application of a multitude of skill sets in students,” says Dr. Shah. Projects may include learners developing and applying skills such as interpersonal communication, attentive listening collaboration, leadership, emotional intelligence, project management, research, creativity, critical thinking, problem-solving, decision making, and time management, among others.
Let Team Riipen be your guide
"Instructors don't have to go it alone," says Dr. Shah. "The Riipen team is here to support you every step of the way, from the initial planning stages to the end of the course. They're available to help with any questions or technical issues you may have, and they can even assist with the matchmaking process, helping you find the right employer to work with."
The more you put in, the more you'll get out of it
Dr. Shah stresses that, like any endeavor, a work-based learning experience requires effort and commitment from all parties involved. "As with anything in life, there will be ups and downs," she says. "But for the experience to be successful, all sides - students, instructors, employers - need to be open and willing to give their best, just as they would in any job." Dr. Shah believes that the more you put into the work-based learning experience, the more you'll get out of it.
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, click here.