Assistant Professor Jesse Miller is leading the charge in creating classes that bring students’ learning to the next level by taking students outside the classroom. He found that incorporating experiential learning into his course “Communication Literacy for Business” worked perfectly, even though it was his first time teaching the course.
Jesse’s goal was to teach students how to write with a purpose and to communicate effectively and efficiently. But simply showing them how to write a business letter wasn’t going to cut it; he wanted students to actually do something with their writing. “I approached [some] organizations and asked them if they had some sort of communication problem that they could pose to the class as an open, live problem for them to solve.” He ended up partnering with four local organizations, with each presenting their problem to one of four sections of his class. The students then had free rein to create solutions to these organizations’ problems.
For example, one of the organizations Jesse partnered with was the Learning Disability Association, and they asked the students to revise their volunteer handbook. Through the Experiential Learning Network, Jesse applied for and received course infusion funds to take one of his classes to Starlight Studio, a space associated with the LDA in downtown Buffalo. “We had a [volunteer] come in and talk about what they do, but because this was all about how we can facilitate the movement from someone who wants to be a volunteer to someone who is an effective volunteer, seeing what that looks like in action really made material what they were thinking about in the abstract.”
For the culminating project, the students presented their proposals to representatives of the organizations; the organizations then selected the best proposals and provided feedback. This collaboration also facilitated relationships between the students and the organizations, with one student even being hired to work on the website for one of the companies.
Having this real-world experience is essential to learning in Jesse’s view, “especially for something like business writing where that’s really what it’s all about…Doing this gives [students] the chance to see how communication operates in the real world, and to see how what they’re doing will have an impact.”
Jesse will be teaching this course again in the spring and will bring the success of this model to future classrooms and students. To find out how you can bring the success of experiential learning to your classroom, go to http://www.buffalo.edu/eln/faculty/funding.html to learn more or to apply for course infusion funding through the Experiential Learning Network!
Written by Amanda Hellwig ‘19