EAPRIL 2022 Best Practice-Based Research Award Nominee: "Student Learning Ambassadors: A Bridge to professional practices"

The rapidly changing business knowledge and its impact on curriculum design are explicitly addressed in previous research (e.g. Denton, et al, 2005). However, despite the dramatic alteration of business practices and cutting-edge advancements in economic theories in the last 25 years, the undergraduate curriculum has lagged in Dutch higher vocational education. On March 11, 2022, the Dutch independent news platform on higher education, ScienceGuide stated the fact that the highly dynamic work field requires flexible curricula in higher vocational education. In practice, however, teachers are constrained by strict school rules, intense work pressure, and a lack of support.

Against this background, we initiated a project called “Student Learning Ambassadors”, aiming at (1) solving the problem that the curriculum cannot keep the same pace with the work field, (2) offering some undergraduate students learning autonomy and letting them practice self-directed learning skills, and (3) sharing knowledge within the school and with business practitioners via the school’s network.

Project Description:

This ongoing project is implemented in an international business school of a Dutch university of applied sciences. It started in September 2021 and has four phases as shown in Table 1.

Table 1. Four phases of the project

Pilot TestSeptember, 2021-February, 2022Three pairs of student learning ambassadors were installed.
ReflectionMarch, 2022Research Activity 1:Research and reflection reports were written, and a formal implementation plan was communicated within the school.
ImplementationApril, 2022-June, 2022Ten pairs of student learning ambassadors were installed.
Research and DevelopmentJuly, 2022Mixed-method research is carried out to reflect on practices and develop a plan.

Firstly, we conducted a pilot study with students in the second year of the bachelor's program. They were randomly paired and offered a list with five Business Research courses such as advanced EXCEL skills at market analysis and Python for beginners, at the LinkedIn Learning site. The list was produced by the expertise leader of the Business Research cluster of the school, with the consideration that the learning content is of urgent need in business practices but beyond the school curriculum.

Each pair was asked to choose one course and accomplish it in the coming 30 days. Then, they needed to reproduce the learning content by making short instructional videos such as TikTok. Videos of good quality were archived in the school digital library with open access to other students and teachers. The process is illustrated in Figure 1.

Figure 1. Work process of Student Learning Ambassadors

Theoretical and Practical Implication

We interviewed six learning ambassadors about their learning experiences. A survey was also administered among 35 internship students to investigate the professional needs. Research showed that students saw the relevance of the knowledge and the connection to their future careers, and they were willing to meet this challenge. Questionnaire results showed that students’ self-directed learning skills are essential at workplace and this project can effectively improve their skills.

All award nominees will present their project to the audience during the Best Practice-Based Research Award Session at the EAPRIL 2022 conference in Nijmegen (23-25 November, 2022). More info on the conference can be found here.