International Work-Integrated Experience with Karen Clinkard and the University of Southampton
In 2019, Riipen welcomed the University of Southampton based in England, United Kingdom to our network of academic institutions. Southampton is the first UK university to join our community, and one of the first adopters of the Riipen platform was Principal Teaching Fellow and work-integrated learning champion, Karen Clinkard.
We had the chance to sit down with Karen and learn more about her thoughts on experiential learning as well as her experience bringing international work experience to her students.
Facilitating International Projects
Karen has been bringing real projects into the classroom for her students even prior to being introduced to Riipen by her colleague, Dr. Philip Alford. In order to facilitate these experiences, Karen would personally do email outreach and coordinate with all interested partners.
“I always spent my summers reaching out to past students, alumni, business contacts as I recognise the value work related experience for students,” she explained. Karen believed that the outreach was worth the effort as it gave her students the opportunity to apply theory to real problems and gain feedback from real-world clients.
The first project Karen worked on was a customer experience evaluation with a class of second-year undergraduate students. Students worked to conduct marketing and consumer behaviour research to generate a final report and recommendations to Riipen client firms, based on statistical analyses which Southampton students are experts at.
The interesting thing about this project is that Karen’s class was based in the UK, but all of their industry partners were spread across North America. Riipen enabled students to organise online calls and email catch-ups at times convenient to both sides of the Atlantic with ease.
International Experience for Students
As a UK-based university, we asked Karen about the experience her students had working with industry partners based in North America. As the project took place entirely online, Karen found the process to be seamless and easy to adapt to.
She also expressed how valuable this global experience would be to her students as it pushed them to go beyond their comfort zones and think outside the box. “We want students to try and think of how marketing works in scenarios and places and contexts outside of their home experience,” said Karen. “I want them to go and talk to somebody who’s based in North America and try to understand how does marketing work for them and how is it different in Germany, or Lithuania, Romania, Bulgaria, France, or at home (ie the UK).” [sic]
International experience provided great value to the students and gave them the opportunity to develop foreign contacts while gaining experience with a real company. The time difference was also a learning opportunity as the students had to figure out how to manage their communications. Working with second-year undergraduates that were preparing to go on internships in their senior years, this experience was a valuable introduction to proper communication and etiquette within a real business environment.
As the Riipen platform continues to grow, Karen would love to see even more international opportunities in the marketplace, including countries outside of North America as well.
Student and Employer Response
All students and industry partners involved in Karen’s project were extremely satisfied with the outcomes and had many positive things to say about the experience. Students found the application of the theories learned in class was a valuable experience while industry partners were able to gain new perspectives and move their business forward.
One student said, “I enjoyed putting the assignment together. It was by far the most engaging and enjoyable piece of work I have done at the university. I also wanted to say that I appreciated the tutor’s [Karen’s] enthusiasm in classes and genuine care for our professional development.”
An industry partner was so blown away by the quality of the work produced by the undergraduate students, they compared their work to that of masters and doctoral level students. “The students were easy to work with, had excellent communication skills, and completed their work on time. Their written skills were a wonderful complement to the high-quality technical analysis in their final deliverables. Highly recommended.”
Advice for New Users
Karen was one of the very first adopters of the Riipen platform so we asked if there is anything she would do differently in her future courses or if she had any advice for new users of the platforms.
For many educators, Riipen may feel like yet another platform to learn, but Karen believes that it is well worth the time as the platform provides fantastic value. Within moments, you are able to see a database full of potential matches to your course which was a task Karen had previously done manually through cold contact and prospecting emails. There is also a seamless ability to have all communications and information between students, clients, and the professor in one place. Rather than relying on doing outreach herself, potential clients can see her course page and determine for themselves if they are a potential match.
A huge thank you to Karen for speaking with us and sharing your experience. To learn more about Riipen and how to get started with experiential learning, visit our website and keep up with Riipen on Twitter, Linkedin, Instagram, and Facebook.
Written by: Michelle Wong