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Experiential Learning Buy-In from Decision Makers

Last month, LX and BYU hosted three sessions in the BYU/LX Experiential Learning Summit Series. In our second November webinar, we discussed how faculty can engage stakeholders to buy-in to experiential learning curriculum with panelists Susan McCracken (DeGroote School of Business, McMaster University) and Spencer Magleby (Mechanical Engineering, BYU).

Building Buy-In and Creating Ambassadors

Susan McCracken started off our discussion with some key steps to build buy-in. The most critical thing faculty can do when pitching experiential learning is to listen- listen to faculty members, to other universities with similar programs and values, listen to students and young alumni. Getting feedback and ideas for how to set students up for success is how programs are taken to the next level. Once programs are created and improved, the next key step is making the curriculum real- teaching soft or transferrable skills that are built on each year and ensure that experiential learning will benefit students, not just in school, but later in the workforce. When faculty have initial buy-in from their university or institution, then it is time to embrace obstacles. Other faculty may be skeptical to change at first, but as experiential learning gets more and more buy-in, people will join in as change happens. These faculty members and the students will become ambassadors for experiential learning- word of mouth from students and increasing amounts of faculty working on similar curriculum will be the biggest help in expansion and in recruiting more buy-in from stakeholders.

Developing Meaningful Credit

Institutions and students often have a lot of reservations when it comes to experiential learning programs. Experiential learning can be expensive in resources and staff, especially when these classes are smaller than average lecture halls. Dr. Spencer Magleby presented some insight into how to resolve these reservations. Most importantly, stakeholders need to see the value of the experiential learning process, not so much the specific content. Courses will have variability and will always be developing, but the buy-in from institutions will come from seeing students grow and reflect back positively on their experience. The value of the program needs to also be demonstrated through credit for students. If students perceive experiential learning as more work or more of a challenge than traditional learning, and faculty members perceive experiential learning as less work than their traditional classes, there is a clear discrepancy in value. Establishing credit for these programs is important to show faculty and students that this work is as valuable as traditional learning. When faculty and students are invested, it becomes something people want to buy into and invest in.

Action Steps for Encouraging Buy-In

Buy-in requires both urgency and vision to convince stakeholders to invest in the value of these programs. But urgency does not equal speeding through the process- having incremental, tangible steps to reach your institution’s goals is necessary for success. Rather, you can create the same sense of urgency through the excitement and passion of the people involved. Passion about the learning outcomes students will get and the structure of the courses will convince decision-makers to buy-in and want to get started on the process immediately. Buy-in can also be built through short term wins to create momentum and fuel excitement for the project or courses.

Our next webinar in the BYU/LX Experiential Learning Summit Series will take place on January 15th to discuss how to find and work with internal and external partners for capstones, consulting, and other projects in order to tap funding resources and expand higher learning. Registration links can be found at


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