In recent years, High-Impact Practices (HIPs) have gained popularity in online education, and it’s easy to see why. Strategies from HIPs encourage student engagement and motivation by going beyond the typical assignment types of essays and multiple-choice quizzes to foster authentic assessments such as portfolios, internships, capstones, and project-based learning. The UW–Parkside Bachelor of Science in Business Administration (BSBA) focuses on project-based learning and is a great example of how HIPs can be used in Competency-Based Education (CBE) to great success.
I sat down with Terry McGovern, DBA, DM, who facilitates several BSBA projects, which includes the BSBA Capstone. We discussed how High-Impact Practices are used in the BSBA program, his insight a faculty member, and personal experiences he had with students. If you are unfamiliar with the BSBA project-based learning, just consider projects as courses. If you want more detail, you can learn more in Eileen Horn’s blog post Developing and Working in Project-based CBE!
The BSBA program aligns with HIPs by focusing on the value of projects, real-world situations, and high levels of feedback. These assignments are authentic and complex, and Terry finds a lot of value in “hands-on activities that reflect what students would see in the working world.” They can approach and work though tasks or problems in a natural manner and work together, all while receiving feedback on multiple occasions instead of only receiving it once which is common in the traditional education model.
The Value of Feedback and Reflection
In competency-based education, students can improve their assignments after they receive feedback and then resubmit it. This also strengthens the connection between students and faculty because they interact with the faculty multiple times through feedback. Terry finds this aspect of working in CBE very meaningful because “the faculty member doesn’t just walk away from it after one grade; I can work with student until they demonstrate mastery.” Another benefit of this model is that students may feel less intimidated by an assignment, especially if they are having trouble with it. Terry said that “if someone turns in a project and it needs a lot of work, choose not to overwhelm them and do it piece meal. I can say, ‘Let’s work on this, and then let’s focus on this next,’ which reduces the chances of students feeling overwhelmed.” Because assignments are broken into smaller pieces, it gives students the ability to gain confidence throughout the process of obtaining mastery.
As a faculty member, CBE assessment exchange is much more meaningful. The faculty member doesn’t just walk away from it after one grade; you work with the student until they demonstrate mastery.
Because there are so many opportunities to work with students in such a close manner, Terry does recognize the time commitment it can take. With multiple iterations of feedback, faculty need to spend more time on review and grading. That said, Terry doesn’t see this as a larger time commitment, saying that “faculty member’s time allocation is set up to allow them to work much more with students on submissions.” This is also offset because a faculty spends less time on the traditional aspects of education such as lectures because of the self-paced model and the utilization of open educational resources.
The multi-step feedback also process ensures that students are on the correct track and that the capstone project is properly framed. Another key element of HIPs that is used in the capstone project is built-in reflection points where students are given time to consider where they are in the project and what they have learned. Terry said that this helps students think strategically on what they’ve seen before, what a company has tried in the past, and what the company’s best ideas were and why. This reflection time is especially important because it gives students the time to make deeper connections and really identify areas of need in their current situation.
Connecting Education to the Real World
In addition to the standard project load, the BSBA Capstone project allows students to display the accumulation of skills mastered within the program. Terry said that the BSBA Capstone is both flexible and strategic because students have the opportunity to examine a case study from a primary industry or even start an initiative at their current work place! Because of this, most students apply their capstone project directly to their workplace. This motivates students because they can examine an issue at their workplace that they may not otherwise have time for and gives them the ability to show how they can critically assess an issue. Terry encourages students to “take the approach that they are consultant to their company by identifying a problem and tackling it as a consultant would. They can apply different models, research elsewhere in industry for best practices, present options for course of action, and recommend an action.” Students can show what they have learned, along with the value they bring to their workplace. As with previous projects and assignments, the capstone involves a multi-step process. Terry works with students through a series of drafts and feedback to produce a “consulting” report.
Students can take the approach that they are a consultant to their company by identifying a problem and tackling it as a consultant would.
Terry found that the projects used in the BSBA program do a wonderful job of gaining student engagement and fostering motivation because students are able to see a clear connection between their assignments and the working world. One success story Terry gave was when one of his students told him how helpful the BSBA program was during interviews. Because of BSBA, they were able to refer to the projects they completed in an interview as well as talk about important topics like strategic thinking, project management, and resource allocation. In addition to the program as a whole, the capstone is especially powerful tool. Terry spoke of a student who he recently worked with on their capstone project. Through this project, “the student was able to identify, real, large dollar savings for his company, which is the type of initiative that could get someone promoted.” These are great examples of how relevant high-impact projects are because students can demonstrate their mastery of a concept by recalling examples from their studies in the BSBA program.
What are some ways you can incorporate High-Impact Practices into your courses and projects to engage your students and help them grow in their careers?