In today’s workforce environment, employers actively seek out candidates who have attained hands-on, relevant work experience. No matter the industry, they want to see tangible projects and outcomes that demonstrate an employee’s ability to work in a team setting and produce results. In addition to learning the educational basics of an area of study, it is beneficial for students to attain industry-relevant knowledge through real-world projects to succeed in their field.

For students who are earning their degree in a fully online program, which includes many nontraditional learners such as working adults, parents, and service members, how can they still receive the same experiential opportunities awarded to traditional on-campus students? How can they collaborate with classmates when they are located across the country and not able to meet up at the student center or library? Institutions of higher education, both fully online and hybrid, must start implementing inventive solutions to incorporate experiential coursework into their online programs.

Recognizing this need, Colorado State University Global (CSU Global) is ramping up its efforts in experiential offerings through multiple avenues including partnering with innovative platforms, designing new programs from the ground up with fewer textbooks, and working with industry organizations to accept internship credits.

CSU Global partnered with Riipen, a leading experiential learning platform, in early 2022 on a pilot run of its Social Media Marketing course with the goal to introduce this type of learning to marketing students. During the course, students worked in groups with a real employer on a real project and gained the employer’s feedback. For the project, students were tasked with building social media strategy plans to generate awareness for a company’s upcoming event. The employer received copies of the plans and has already begun to implement student ideas across their website and social channels.

In addition to this pilot, CSU Global is designing some of its new programs with project-based learning at the forefront. For example, the recently launched online Master of Science in Marketing program, with classes beginning July 2022, is putting textbooks and essays in the backseat and hands-on projects at the forefront. Students will work in teams, functioning as a “mini agency,” to create a campaign for an employer. The program creates a high-impact collaborative experience in a completely virtual environment.

Further, CSU Global partners with industry associations to provide new pipelines for students to ensure that learning they have done through their employer “counts” as learning toward a degree. For example, CSU Global engaged with the Independent Electrical Contractors Rocky Mountain chapter (IECRM) to inspire degree attainment. Upon completion of the IECRM apprenticeship training program, students receive up to 53 credit hours toward their CSU Global bachelor’s degree. These types of partnerships allow people who need an immediate skill or trade certificate the ability to receive a job-related skill, while also promoting that next step toward earning a college degree, which will have more long-term career benefits.

CSU Global is committed to continuing to build opportunities for students to engage in experiential learning and offer industry-relevant coursework that keeps up with today’s ever-changing workforce.