Published on 2013/05/08

Using Project-Driven Learning Formats in a Team-Based Environment (Part 3)

Using Project-Driven Learning Formats in a Team-Based Environment (Part 3)
Business Incubation Centers could provide the competency-based learning so many institutions currently strive to achieve.

This is the final article of Robert Wysocki’s three-part series on the Workforce and Business Development Center (WBDC) learning model. In this piece, Wysocki examines the linkages that allow the WBDC model to provide a project/problem-driven delivery format, as well as a team-based learning environment. He concludes by examining the model’s major benefits and challenges.

Introduction

Parts 1 and 2 introduced and described the WBDC model as a confluence of three entities:

  • The Learning Environment
  • The Business & Entrepreneur Environment
  • The Student & Worker Environment

The integrating factor is the Business Integration Center (BIC), which brings all three environments together.

Linkages in the WBDC Model

The three environments described above consist of three linkages that describe how these environments are integrated and how they function. They form a fully integrated and interdependent set.

Learning/Business Linkages

This linkage provides yet another venue for learning and discovery by student teams. It is a two-way linkage. Business executives will be invited to attend and speak in the classroom on topics of interest to the subject matter being studied, or to observe and critique team presentations. They will also invite student teams to visit them in the workplace. To reciprocate, the teams might make presentations during these visits, or they might use the opportunity to observe business activities or gather data for their WBDC project. Through this linkage, business and academe will be fully integrated into the process of learning and discovery.

Learning/Student Linkages

The BIC is a living laboratory for learning and discovery. The needs of the student-staffed business will drive the projects and problems studied in the classroom. Conversely, the concepts learned in the classroom will be applied to the businesses in the BIC. In effect, the BIC businesses become living laboratories for learning, experimentation and discovery for all the students. The BIC functions as the clearinghouse for business projects and problems. It is these projects and problems that drive the learning and discovery processes of the WBDC curriculum.

Business/Student Linkages

The local business community is a resource to the BIC businesses. Their advice and opinions will be actively sought. They have “been there and done that” and will be invaluable to the teams by bringing the real world into the BIC embryonic business and business ideas. Every business in the BIC will have a mentor from the business community as well as a faculty sponsor.

The BIC is a critical component in the business-to-student linkage. It is the place where new business ideas can be tested in a “skunk works” setting. Student teams can be commissioned to research new business ideas, new/revised business processes and other feasible ventures in a low-cost and low-risk setting for any of its business partners. Businesses can also use the BIC as a permanent demo site and a place to hold training for their employees and presentations to their staff and customers.

WBDC Challenges

There are two major challenges to implementing this effective learning model:

  • Create a mass customization learning environment: The environment is a “classroom without walls” environment. Learning can take place anywhere and the student must have the freedom to pursue that learning. A faculty advisor must drive the development and approval of the team’s learning plan. The new faculty role is much less teacher and more heavily facilitator. The plan is usually iterative and delivered using a team-based format.
  • Create or acquire real projects and problems: The WBDC model mitigates this challenge by integrating the learning, student, entrepreneur and business manager environments into the BIC of the WBDC. Entrepreneurs and business managers are the source of the projects and problems. The new faculty role is much less teacher and more heavily that of a missionary.

Benefits

The WBDC model is innovative and adaptive and is clearly:

  • A Win for the Curriculum: A results-oriented learning model is implemented
  • A Win for the Student: Motivated learning and experience acquisition
  • A Win for the Entrepreneur: Research and business development help
  • A Win for the Business: A risk-free look at a potential employee
  • A Win for the Worker: Permanent job creation

Click here for the first article in the series, and here for the series’ second article.

This article has been excerpted from: Wysocki, Robert K., PhD. 2010, Workforce & Business Development Center: A Disruptive Innovation for Sustainable Economic Recovery, 176 pages, Worcester, MA: EII Publications.

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Readers Comments

Ursula V.F. 2013/05/08 at 10:53 am

I’m interested in how Wysocki has described the faculty advisor’s role as one of facilitator and “missionary.” I’m curious to know how these advisors are trained to work with students and the broader business community. I can foresee challenges in terms of determining who should have final say in the project team’s actions in the event that the faculty advisor disagreed with the business/community sponsor. What process is in place to handle issues like this that will inevitably arise?

Jason Bennett 2013/05/08 at 12:40 pm

Strong finish to an excellent three-part series. Thanks for your insight, Mr. Wysocki — you’ve given us a lot to reflect on.

What could have improved this series, for me, were some examples of how this model has been applied. I’m particularly interested to know the types of projects that have been assigned in the Business Incubation Center and what the business community’s feedback has been.

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