Since 2019, EduSourced conducts an annual benchmarking survey for postsecondary programs with employer project-based learning. The 2020 results paint a picture of a rapidly maturing approach to experiential learning and the handling of the employer partners who provide these powerful and unique learning opportunities. The biggest change from 2019 to 2020? A less ad-hoc and a more formal approach to experiential learning (defined by having a dedicated office and/or a director of experiential).
Schools institutionalizing their support for experiential learning
In one year, business programs rose from 29% being formally organized to 43% and engineering grew from 18% to 33%. When you include multidisciplinary programs in the mix, nearly half of programs surveyed now involve formal leadership. We have no survey data from this time, but when EduSourced entered the market in 2014 we did not come into contact with a single director of experiential learning. It appears the college level (as opposed to the entire university or simply a single department) is fast developing as the sweet spot for organizing and overseeing experiential project-based learning.
Through hundreds of conversations per year, the EduSourced sales team has observed the growth of dedicated directors and offices of experiential learning learning. With the significant year over year increase, it looks likely that ad-hoc experiential PBL’s days are numbered. We believe this is great news as industry projects in the classroom represent a tremendous branding opportunity for universities, a key element of career preparation for their students and a differentiated recruitment point for a school's employer network. For all of these reasons, anything less than a holistic and orchestrated approach to experiential learning is a missed opportunity.
Where projects coming from is changing
Third-party vendors as a source of project sourcing is ranked lowest of all 7 potential sources for projects across all disciplines surveyed. While schools may need supplemental external sourcing from time to time, to fully benefit from the branding and community engagement opportunities that experiential presents, existing school relationships are a better long-term source for projects. Alumni, faculty networks, career offices and experiential office staff whose job is to source each reflect a useful recruitment opportunity.
With third-party vendors down as a source for project recruitment, the biggest winner, year over year, are centralized Offices of Experiential Learning. There was also a slight gain from alumni networks.
Industry projects are a major needle-mover for careers
Experiential project-based learning remains the worst kept secret for positioning students for their careers. Much is said and written of internships and, to a lesser degree, coops, but it is project-based learning where schools can best move the needle. 91 Survey participants rated industry projects 2.8 out of 3 for helping students land their first job.