Relying on business professionals to deliver a portion of the curriculum comes with its own unique challenges. These challenges include: 

  • How to develop good course ideas 
  • How to find course instructors 
  • How to help new instructors be successful 
  • Managing organizational change 

While there may be some obvious skills-based needs that emerge from gaps that exist in the curriculum, practice-based learning is more than just an expanded student tool kit. Developed in a way that fully realizes its potential, the approach provides students with an inside look at which tools are needed and how they are applied in a real business context. Rather than cases from the past or simulations designed to closely approximate some developers idealized concept of business, the practice-based approach is rooted in business professionals who are using those tools on a regular basis and the insights they can offer in terms of how they are actually applied in a real business context. It is about the expertise they can bring from their job as they foster the development of those skills that would promote professional success later in life. 

Many faculty members have extensive professional networks that consist of faculty members at other universities, while having smaller contact with practicing professionals. Administrators on the other hand oversee a professional staff with numerous industry contacts with few, if any points of intersection with the faculty. The implementation of a practice-based curriculum requires the merging of these two spheres so that a strong and vibrant connection can be established between the curriculum and business practice. This requires the construction of some external facing funnel that is designed to capture course ideas and potential instructors. 

To manage the flow of information, we have adapted a traditional CRM (customer relations management) software and have converted it into idea and instructor pipelines. We have harnessed the efforts of our development office, career services and faculty who are engaged in projects-based learning to create a single pipeline designed to keep tract of external contacts, relationships and potential ideas for the development of BiP courses. Participation might include guest speaking, appearing on a panel, supplying a project/problem/data for inclusion in a course or experience and all the way up to a fully fleshed out idea for a BiP course. 

A similar but separate pipeline keeps track of individuals interested in participating beyond the point of just supplying an idea or concept that can be integrated into the course development process. It is important to provide small opportunities for a potential future BiP instructor so they can see what it is like to address a group of students while at the same time, allow us to assess their potential as an instructor. 

Potential instructors tend to fall into four categories. Each has its own source of motivation and each presents its own unique set of challenges (These personas are discussed in more detail in Appendix A).

These categories include: 

  • Recent Alumni – who feel a commitment to the institution and want help prepare the next generation of student 
  • Experienced Professionals – who are looking to possibly transition to a career in teaching and are looking for an opportunity to dip their toe in the water 
  • Consultants – who are looking to add the university as a client to raise their profile or make new connections 
  • Higher level Managers/Principals – who are looking to develop a higher level of engagement with the university by building a stronger talent pipeline and access to new ideas 

The successful implementation of the concept requires the recruitment of partners who share the vision of the program and are willing to dedicate some of their time. This unfortunately can appear to be quite daunting for someone who has never taught before or, cannot imagine how to fit an additional responsibility into an already full schedule. As a result, the additional commitment that accompanies the responsibility to teach an entire course creates a strong reluctance to make such a commitment. 

One strategy for overcoming resistance is to create a support program that overcomes many of the challenges involved in teaching for the first time. Understanding that support will be there every step of the way is another important factor. Helping prospective instructors visualize themselves at the front of a classroom and providing them with a partner who can help them learn how to teach while working collaboratively to design and develop a course is essential for turning a possible no into a strong yes. 

All of this will only lead to success if the organization can pivot to support this new approach to learning by recognizing that what is required is a major shift in operating processes and procedures. A practice-based approach is premised on the idea that courses will be current and relevant. Hence the course creation and approval process must be modified in order to provide the opportunity to rapidly spin up and down courses/experiences.