When students enter a competitive job market, proving they can do real-world work is a clear advantage. A new technology platform adapted by Lethbridge College allows students to get that experience while still completing their post-secondary education.
The college has signed a partnership agreement with Riipen, a Canadian technology platform that facilitates micro-experiential learning opportunities by connecting students to industry partners. Students can work directly with an industry partner to complete work that benefits the partner, while also tying into the program curriculum, counting towards their classwork and academic outcomes.
Jaclyn Doherty, Dean of the Centre for Teaching, Learning and Innovation, says the partnership ties in directly to the college’s Student Core Competencies. “We want our students to leave with the subject matter knowledge from their programs as well as the life, professional and employment skills that make them desirable employees,” she says. “This partnership provides students with work-integrated learning, which is a goal for the college, and it allows them to leave the college with tangible employment skills.”
Piloted by Lethbridge College in spring 2020 and adapted fully for the 2020/2021 academic year, Riipen matches students with companies from across Canada and the United States, as well as with local businesses. One of the first pilot projects involved an optional assignment for a marketing class where students created marketing reports for an Alberta-based company.
“One of my students commented about their excitement in being able to work with a real business, saying ‘why isn’t everyone doing this?’” says Dr. Natalie Barfuss, the class instructor in the Centre for Applied Arts and Sciences. “The value of experiential learning has been conclusively shown in research, and as teachers, finding ways to incorporate it into the classroom can be challenging, particularly with introductory-level students. I have found using Riipen to partner with businesses provides customizable, timely and exciting experiential learning.”
Five programs have adopted Riipen as part of their curriculum in the 2020/2021 academic year, including business, geography, marketing, English, and Digital Communications and Media (DCM) classes. Students in DCM will write stories for both the International Indigenous Speakers Bureau and a San Francisco-based group called Dorkaholics.
“I believe nearly every one of our programs would have a way to use Riipen to provide experiential work assignments for their students,” says Lexi Schaerz, a Learning Experience Design specialist at the college. “In addition to matching instructors and students with companies looking for work, we can also use Riipen to help facilitate new partnerships with local businesses to create work placements for students.”
Lethbridge College is one of more than 150 campuses across North America using Riipen. The inaugural year of the college’s partnership is funded through the RBC Future Launch program.
“RBC Future Launch is dedicated to empowering Canadian youth, and ensuring that youth have the tools and experience to thrive in the future world of work,” says Mark Beckles, Senior Director, Youth Strategy and Innovation, RBC. “We know that hands on, experiential learning is critical to getting those all-important first jobs and breaking the ‘no experience, no job’ cycle, and we are excited to expand our partnership with Riipen so that it can positively impact even more young people in Canada.”
Lethbridge College is one of 16 Canadian post-secondary institutions to be funded through the second phase of the RBC Future Launch partnership.