Over the past 3 years, the Riipen team has facilitated thousands of experiential learning projects. Through working with educators, students and industry partners, we’ve learned a thing or two about what makes or breaks industry student project experiences. To help your organization be successful during your future collaborations, we’ve compiled 3 pro-tips to help you maximize the value obtained from these experiences.
1. LAY THE GROUNDWORK FOR SUCCESS
Before starting any experiential learning project with an academic partner and their students, make sure you understand the required commitments and can properly support the project throughout. Every project we run it, it’s commitments, and all other information can be accessed by clicking and individual project when visiting our Industry Project Library.
Once you have identified the right course to engage with, it’s best to have a clear and concise top-level project scope in mind. Through our process, we connect all industry partners directly the educator of the class for a quick phone call once they’ve completed our short online instructor project application. Make sure to provide enough detail in this submission and ensure your organization profile on Riipen looks sharp as all our users, view these profiles daily!
By connecting you to the instructor, this allows you to build rapport with the educator and school, as well as ensure your project scope is a good fit for everyone before getting connected to the students. Once approved, our system then matches you with students who are not only motivated and interested in your business, but also feel like they can provide tangible value to your proposed project scope.
The best project scopes should have elements of the following;
- Company Overview (e.g. what does your company do, why do you do it and how does your business model work?)
- Project Outline/Scope – create a short one-page document that communicates what your project is all about. Include things like background information, challenges/opportunities you want addressed, if it’s a broad topic like “Marketing” include specific components you want students to focus on (e.g. digital marketing campaign to connect with a specific customer segment to drive product awareness and increase sales)
- Clear Project Goals & Deliverables (make sure you have clearly communicated to students what you are hoping to get out of the engagement. Experiential learning is a two-way street and in order for it to be a true win-win, students must know what will make the industry partner happy!
- Make Resources Available (every experiential learning engagement is different and has it’s own unique requirements. However, to enable high-performance, it’s good to communicate what available resources the industry partner can dedicate to the student team. Some examples include;
- access to specific employees
- access to relevant data for analysis
- financial budget to test and prototype ideas
- access to relevant tools (Hubspot, Unbounce, Hootsuite, etc.)
2. HIT THE GROUND RUNNING!
First impressions are a big deal, and getting off on the right foot is critical for successful engagements. Every experiential learning project has some sort of kick-off meeting or interaction, whether it’s in person, virtual, or simply over the phone. This meeting is designed to set the entire project up for success, follow these key points to ensure the engagement hits the ground running.
- Recap Project Scope – take the necessary time to give the students a proper overview of your organization and how it works. Answer the students questions and provide more context to what your project scope is all about, what success looks like, etc. Trust us, this will pay off big time as the project gets going!
- Ask Questions – get to know the students and their backgrounds. Identify any constraints they may have for the project and be proactive about potential roadblocks that might come up.
- Set Clear Expectations – reiterate what your organization’s goals are for the project and what will provide you with the most value so the students have a clear idea of what to aim for.
- Communications is Key – it’s critical to define how you want to communicate with the students and how often throughout the engagement. In the first meeting identify what tools you will use to communicate (slack, email, skype etc.) and it’s never a bad idea to schedule a few checkpoint meetings well in advance so everyone can prepare adequately.
3. STAY ENGAGED
Experiential learning projects can last as little as a few weeks, right up to a whole year. It may sound cliche, but you really do get out what you put into it. Keep your student team engaged through consistent communication and following through on commitments (this goes both ways!). The more context and direction that you as the industry partner can provide to the students, the better their deliverables are going to be.
Every project is slightly different and depending on the project topic and nature of your scope, you may prefer to let the students be more autonomous in their work (e.g. Market Research to Understand New Segments project) or you may wish to be more collaborative and hand-ons (e.g. Systems Operations Audit & Recommendations project). That said, the above still holds through, the more time you dedicate to the initiative, the better the outcome will be. Ultimately, you and student will determine what makes most sense for everyone during your initial meet.
There you have it! Three simple tips to consider during your next Riipen project so that you can maximize the value you and your organization obtain from the engagement — all while supporting student learning of course!
Comments, questions or ideas on how to make industry project experiences even more successful? Let us know below!