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Pro bono project accelerates graduate level experiential learning

Experiential learning and hands-on experiences for students are critical features and cornerstones of the programs in the Boise State College of Engineering. This summer, students in the Department of Organizational Performance and Workplace Learning demonstrated this with a pro bono project for a nonprofit.

Claudia Achilles, Scott Harrington, Alejandro Maya, Halah Mohammed and Patricia Tjan are five students in Seth Martinez’s Learning Strategy Lab, an homage to Martinez’s previous experience as a learning strategist with Facebook, where students and affiliated researchers are focused on how learning impacts performance in organizations. This project saw the students provide evaluation services to the international nonprofit organization Humentum to help their training courses become more rigorous and robust.

“The Humentum project taught me so much about evaluating courses, cognitive psychology and learning science,” Organizational Performance and Workplace Learning graduate student Claudia Achilles said. “Not only did I learn from and with my peers, but the confidence and knowledge I’ve gained from the whole experience will never leave me.”

Humentum is a global nonprofit that provides humanitarian and development organizations like World Vision, Habitat for Humanity and others with training and consulting services to improve the operation and processes for a more equitable, accountable and resilient community.

Week by week over the summer semester, the students learned various, rigorous instructional design components and then examined and evaluated four courses: two synchronous and two non-synchronous courses provided by Humentum.

“The Humentum project gave me an opportunity to experience courses in a different way,” Achilles said. “I’ve gained so much confidence about bringing ideas to leaders in my company. “Having this experience has made my job easier and made me more comfortable.”

The Learning Strategy Lab group produced an executive report of findings from the four courses evaluated. The team was able to identify areas where Humentum could improve the rigor of their courses to benefit partner organizations. They also applied better learning science strategies, like design accessibility, to improve course outcomes. The team is pursuing journal publication opportunities with their findings.

“There is a need to holistically and creatively design accessibility into every part of e-learning,” Halah Mohammed, a graduate student  who worked on the project said. “Learning objectives are one of the first ways to incite learner readiness, interest and motivation. This evaluation experience encouraged me to ask a lot of questions before making assumptions or relying heavily on my prior knowledge, which I am grateful for.”

-by Jamie Fink