Students begin preparing for life after graduation the moment they step on campus in their first year. Their time as undergraduates is just as valuable as it is limited, and it’s the responsibility of higher education institutions to prepare them for a successful future, both professionally and personally.
The goal is clear, but the question remains: What’s the most effective method of delivering a meaningful education to students? How can colleges and universities ensure that their students are ready for life after graduation, to tackle new challenges, passions, and problems? Research suggests that active learning in higher education, as well as repeated exposure to high-impact practices such as project-based learning, is the answer.
While it’s been proven that PBL in higher education is an effective method of preparing students for life after graduation, beginning the process of its implementation—potentially even revamping an entire curriculum—may be overwhelming. Where do you start? How do you start? How does teaching in higher education need to change? Maybe most important, what difference will it make? WPI’s Center for Project-Based Learning (CPBL) offers a wealth of project-based learning resources and expertise to help make this pedagogy a reality in academic institutions around the world.
Benefits of Project-based Learning
In a curriculum built around project work, students—guided, rather than directed, by faculty—take responsibility for their own learning by tackling real, tangible problems through open-ended projects. This form of active learning in higher education leads students to develop key skills and abilities—collaboration, communication, problem solving, confidence, leadership, and more—that will prove invaluable professionally and personally.
Is Project-based Learning Effective?
PBL in higher education involves changing the traditional academic roles that students and faculty may be used to, taking them out of their comfort zones in some cases. Such changes are not easy, but decades of research have shown that PBL and other high-impact practices result in greater student learning gains than traditional teaching in higher education, particularly for students in underrepresented groups.
Why Does Project-based Learning Matter?
More than ever, higher education needs to prepare students not just for their first jobs, but for lives and careers that, much like open-ended projects, are difficult to predict. Students who have experienced active learning in higher education through PBL are primed to take the skills they’ve learned through project work and transfer them seamlessly to their professional lives. Thanks to these high-impact practices, students not only graduate with confidence and a sense of purpose, but are fully prepared for anything the world throws at them.
WPI Presents at SXSW EDU
WPI’s panel proposal for the SXSW EDU 2022 (South by Southwest) conference was accepted, putting the university on a national stage alongside fellow thought-leaders and innovators in higher education.
Moderated by President Leshin, the session––titled Educating Changemakers for Global Impact––showcased WPI's leadership in project-based learning and how this and other high-impact practices prepare tomorrow's global changemakers. She was joined by leadership from Agnes Scott College, Miami Dade College, and Bellevue College, institutions that have engaged with the Center for Project-Based Learning and have integrated project-based learning and other high-impact practices into their own curricula.
Neil Heffernan, professor of computer science and developer of the online learning tool ASSISTments, also participated as a panelist for Revolutionizing Assessment Through Research, focusing on how research and technology can impact student