Project-based Learning: More Opportunities to Experience Business Reality
What is project-based learning in the study programmes of Vilnius Business College? It seems simple: you get a task, you do it and you check it off with a calm heart. But is what sounds simple really easy to implement in education? Andrejus Račkovskis, Head of Learning Innovation, and Virgilija Zinkevičiūtė, Associate Professor and Project Based Learning Manager, talk about the development, results and benefits of project-based learning.
Project-based learning is about designing business ideas here and now
Project-based learning is learning from the concretization of an idea and its development using project principles, with a clear goal, deadline, timeline and outcome. The project is carried out by a team of students from different disciplines and is supervised by lecturers. “Each member makes a plan of what they will do and in what time frame. Together they learn how to communicate with the team, share responsibilities and plan. In this way, project-based activities bring students much closer to the reality they will face when they graduate, because this way of learning is based on practice,” explained Mr Račkovskis.
Project-based learning is used by the world’s best business schools and has been consistently applied at our College since 2015, following the adoption of the methodology by Finnish educational leaders. Implementing an idea, attracting business, learning how to work in a team, the opportunity to experience change management in business, applying knowledge, the opportunity to go beyond the boundaries of a single subject, stepping out of the comfort zone – these are the reasons why project-based learning has become an effective way of teaching.
Raczkowski observes, “There is a lot of uncertainty in the implementation of a project: whether you will manage the process, whether you will get along with your team members, whether you will calculate the finances correctly, whether you will be able to divide the work, and, if somebody has not done their job, to take over, because a project is considered to have been implemented when the result is achieved. In this activity – as in business – students experience being dependent on others. It is a rewarding experience.”
How does it work?
According to Associate Professor Dr Virgilija Zinkevičiūtė, at Vilnius Business College, the project activity is combined with the teaching of subjects and lasts for 3 months.
- Students choose the topic, the problems their project will address, and clearly formulate the idea.
- A teamwork agreement is signed. It defines the contribution of each member, sets (and then scores) a percentage of the goal each member has set, so that the students are assessing each other.
- A project where students learn to integrate knowledge and skills from different subjects, work in a team and get practice.
- Presentation and public defence of the project results. This is a real-life skill, as at work it is often necessary to present and defend the results achieved. For students, it is also a rehearsal for defending their thesis and future projects. The project is marked by teachers from different disciplines.
- An individual reflection, written by each student after the defence, on their contribution to the project. This helps him/her to understand what went well/not so well, what could have been done better or differently, etc.
Successful projects become functioning businesses
Vilnius Business College has a number of students who have turned project activities into real businesses. A group of Business Management and Marketing students opened a summer café in Palanga, A. Rubinsky prepared a project for his own business – a smart phone repair shop “Can’t stop”, and the owners of the bakery “Crustum” prepared a project for their business. A successful social project “Consolation” (an event for children with oncological diseases) was implemented by IT students together with the then tourism and events students. Students studying business and management under the Team academy method successfully collaborated with the solar energy company Saulės grąža.
Another model of project-based activities is the continuous project, where students carry out the same project in different phases throughout the academic year. Each phase is related to the learning subjects that the project complements. The e-Business study programme is distinguished by the development of project activities in this way. If a student has a business idea, he or she has a fully developed or even functioning project after the studies.
Student projects bring significant benefits to businesses
“The College strengthens project-based learning and aims to have as many outsourced projects as possible, where a business approaches us with a specific need, the students create a solution and are rewarded. In this case, teams compete to see whose solution wins. This way, learning becomes part of the business, the value of the projects increases and the motivation of the students increases, the funding is available, and the students are working under real conditions,” explained Andrej Račkovski.
Vilnius Business College regularly cooperates closely with entrepreneurs, whose projects help them to find solutions, new ideas and even potential employees. There is always a mentor teacher who supervises the students’ work, advises them and guarantees that the project results are of high quality. And for the students, it is an opportunity to act, to be noticed and appreciated outside the college, to get a placement or a job.