Teaching Through Real World Learning: Using Business to Business Consultancy to Develop Students’ Research, Mentoring and Training Skills

    Research output: Published contribution to conferencePaper


    In 2018 Solent University, Southampton won a joint bid with Crawley College to deliver a programme of workshops to help independent businesses to examine their position and learn techniques and theories they could utilise. The client was Crawley Town Council. Work placements to lead the training were taken up by students from Solent’s School of Art, Design and Fashion, reporting to the Senior Lecturer.
    Students were briefed to develop and ultimately lead the training sessions – in Crawley - working within their specialisms. For Solent, the aim of the project was to offer Real World Learning in a unique professional environment.

    Session outline:

    This case study of innovative teaching and learning by means of a unique live project will be delivered as a 15 minute presentation with questions. The project is still in progress and is due for completion at the end of March 2019.
    Crawley Town Council was one of four councils in Sussex running training programmes for independent retail businesses across 2018 and 2019. These were a mix of product based and service providers. The requirement was to run six group training sessions and then to deliver ‘Rapid Sessions’ whereby businesses booked a one hour slot for the trainers to visit and give first impressions, identify ‘quick fixes’ and feed back with longer term goals/suggestions in report form.
    The Solent Senior Lecturer was originally approached to work as the trainer on the tender as a consultant for Crawley College. The College were leading the bid, but having recently become a full time member of the Solent teaching staff, the Senior Lecturer proposed an educational collaboration between the two institutions. The academic aim was to offer facilitated live and unique business-to-business experience to Solent students as placement opportunities at level 5 and level 6 (some of whom have to take a compulsory unit entitled ‘Work Based Learning’ at level 6). Crawley Town Council expressed that the uniqueness of the collaboration and the students’ ongoing current research were deciding factors in awarding the joint bid. Solent’s Research, Innovation and Enterprise Department awarded the project as ‘Innovative Learning’.
    The project allowed for a unique scenario and blend of learning styles. The innovative teaching and learning was a mix of some students being able to attend an early-stage Council meeting, some conducting primary research in Crawley prior to the training sessions, drawing on their existing research skills but shaping them towards particular industries they had not considered before in academia, leading training sessions attended by independent business owners, one to one in-business visits and creating follow up tailored reports. The knowledge that the Council was the client (not the University or College) drove the students to work in a highly professional and timely manner with regular liaison with the Senior Lecturer during the process of researching and writing the training sessions. Thus an enhanced attitude towards the work was in place early on as it stood apart from more typical University assignments.
    Solent’s School of Art, Design and Fashion run a ‘Living CV’ initiative, which is “A CV that takes the Learning Outcomes of each of their units and translates it into CV language. A CV that literally grows with the student” (Solent University, n.d, p. 5). With Real World Learning being key, particularly from levels 5 to 6, the emphasis is on learning new skills in new ways, as one would in industry whereby different industries apply different methodologies. The Crawley project enabled students to experiment and input into these methodologies as they saw appropriate.
    The Council has already expressed that in their new financial year (April 2019, after the project has reached completion) they wish to continue the collaboration, due to the positive feedback from the business owners. The inclusion of Real World Learning and employability is high on Solent University’s agenda and strengthens the students’ career prospects.
    It is anticipated that this session will interest teaching staff involved in, or interested in Real World Learning, business and retail related subjects, and staff looking to add real life dimensions to teaching. Methodologies from the process can be drawn upon for those looking for, or creating, opportunities that link to live projects.

    Participants will be engaged by the sharing of feedback from the participating students about the experience and what - and how - they learned, as will feedback from the client and business owners’ perspectives. Additionally, the timeline of the project will be shown. Much of the early research and student placement engagement was in summer 2018 – between semesters. The students that took the opportunity during this non-teaching time saw the potential it had to add to their experience and to enhance their CVs. Some linked it to their level 6 Work Based Learning unit and some (level 5) took it on as extra-curricular learning that was non-compulsory.
    The project and its outcomes are to be the basis for the Senior Lecturer’s application to become a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication statusIn preparation - 20 Feb 2019
    EventAdvance HE: Teaching in the spotlight: Innovation for teaching excellence - Northumbria University, Newcastle, United Kingdom
    Duration: 2 Jul 20194 Jul 2019


    ConferenceAdvance HE
    CountryUnited Kingdom
    Internet address

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