John Cooper and Zainab IkpongWays of Knowing students John Cooper and Zainab Ikpong suggest projects promoting clean energy and responsible production to BlackBerry executive Neelam Sandhu, Feb. 14 in the Leddy Library.

Project presentations a learning experience for students

Presenting to the vice-president for business operations of tech giant BlackBerry was a unique learning experience for students in professor Tim Brunet’s course Ways of Knowing – Capabilities Approach, Friday in the Leddy Library Student Collaboratory.

Forty-eight students formed groups to pitch ideas on how the company could meet its commitments in the areas of human rights, labour, environment, and anti-corruption under the United Nations Global Compact.

The BlackBerry vp, Neelam Sandhu, watched all the pitches through a videoconference link to California.

Fourth-year political science student Alexa Wade called the presentation “the closest thing to workplace experience” in her time as a student.

She and her teammates said BlackBerry could help reduce food waste by creating computer applications that would alert volunteer distributors to available items close to expiry in markets and restaurants.

“This class taught me how to apply what I learned from university to my career life,” said Wade. “Applying all of the knowledge is a great transition as I approach graduation.”

Brunet said that the experiential approach is what sets the course apart from traditional higher education.

“Students work within local-global networks where they take on projects that involve social risks, and that focus on well-being,” he said. “No midterms, no multiple-choice exams, no essays — it’s time on task and the tasks are projects and problem-based learning.”

In the course, students propose solutions to complex problems, complete detailed reflections, and actively engage in robust networks that include their peers, community partners, academics, practitioners, and their professors. 

Wade said she appreciated the difference.

“Most professors teach you all the skills that are theoretical, but Tim is giving us the knowledge and skills so that we will be prepared to walk into the workplace,” she said.

Find a list of experiential learning opportunities across programs in arts, humanities and social sciences on the faculty’s website.