Using Immersive Learning to Eliminate Student Access Barriers

Knowing that immersive learning experiences are critical to students’ education, higher education institutions aim to increase student access to valuable work-based learning experiences in their desired career pathways. Ensuring equitable access to these vital opportunities is no easy feat, and so higher education institutions seek out partnerships to help facilitate career connections and link students to more learning opportunities.

The Council of Independent Colleges recently announced their selection of 24 member institutions to participate in the inaugural cohort of the Work-Based Learning (WBL) Consortium. The goal of the WBL Consortium is to provide a national community of practice to support institutions in dismantling student barriers to internship access and job market preparation. The WBL aims to specifically provide more access to opportunities for students from under-represented groups.

In partnership with Riipen, a work-based learning platform helping educators, organizations, and learners collaborate on real industry projects, the WLB experiential learning platform will incorporate real-world, employer-designed projects into existing courses. By doing so, the platform not only equips students with skills, real-world experiences, and professional connections to support their future careers, it also actively works to bridge the gap between higher education and employment. 

“Riipen is excited to partner to provide authentic skill-building experiences for CIC’s Work-Based Learning Consortium,” commented Dave Savory, co-founder and vice president of experiential learning at Riipen. “Our mission compels us to seek out such partnerships to provide equitable access for all learners to gain employability skills required for career success. We congratulate the CIC institutions selected for this important initiative and look forward to delivering meaningful results for their learners.”

The multi-year program is projected to reach over 11,000 students from Council of Independent Colleges  member institutions. WLB has an estimated value of over $65,000 per institution and the program will be administered free of charge to the colleges and universities selected, listed below:

  • Albion College 
  • Allegheny College 
  • Alma College 
  • Brenau University 
  • Centenary College of Louisiana 
  • Coe College 
  • Concordia College 
  • Drew University 
  • Elms College 
  • Franklin University 
  • Holy Cross College 
  • Keuka College 
  • Lane College 
  • Lindenwood University 
  • Mercy College 
  • Morningside University 
  • Nazareth College 
  • Ohio Northern University
  •  Point University
  • Roanoke College 
  • St. Ambrose University 
  • The College of Wooster 
  • Viterbo University 
  • Waynesburg University

The WBL outlines that the Council of Independent Colleges and Riipen will closely work with a team of five faculty members, one career services administrator, and the chief academic officer or designee at each campus. Together, the team will update curricula and integrate experiential learning into course materials, set to roll out Spring 2024. 

While the program is underway, the Council of Independent Colleges will collect data and curate reports on the work-based learning landscape at each institution, using the data to then study the impact of the projects on students, faculty members, and employers. Future directions and best practices can then be gleaned from the results, highlighting the value and impact of this network.

“This is an exciting opportunity for students to gain valuable hands-on experience through internships embedded in their courses,” said Titi Ufomata, Council of Independent Colleges senior vice president for academic programs. “That these internships are available to all students regardless of where they are located levels the playing field for all students. We are grateful to our funders for making this possible.”

This CIC initiative is funded by Ascendium Education Group and Strada Education Foundation.