Experiential learning site matches students with researchers

WEB-Living campus-Mark Burnham

A recently launched SFU-based website is hoping to find you the perfect match — but we’re not talking about a love connection. Campus as a Living Lab aims to pair students and faculty with projects and people in order to gain experiential learning as well as course credit.

Helen Luo, a work-study student from SFU Teaching and Learning Centre, had the idea for the site last May. Working alongside Vivian Neal, her supervisor and an educational consultant for SFU in the Applied Sciences and Environment faculties, Luo hopes to expand the university’s offerings to include more experiential learning in its course curriculum.

Neal explained that this site is meant to fill a gap in what is offered at SFU. She said, “There’s lots of co-op student job planning sites and there’s volunteer project sites [ . . . ] but there seems to be very little to match action learning with credit based courses.”

The site encourages students who are looking for projects to fulfill course credit — either as individuals or groups — to post ideas on the site. There, they can be connected with researchers or companies with similar goals.

Eventually, Luo hopes the site will act as a project database, where both students and researchers can scroll through listings, choose projects in which they are interested, and form partnerships based on research compatability.

According to Neal, inspiration for the project came from the university population’s own desire for greater opportunities. “Instructors were looking for projects for their students, and students in project courses were looking for good projects, and they didn’t know where to find them,” Neal said. “They didn’t know what were useful things to do, on campus or near campus, that would have a real world outcome.”

Luo extolled the site’s accessibility as one of its most attractive features. “As you can see on the site, anyone can post a project, whether you are a student or staff,” she said. She explained that this provides a vehicle for those who may have a vision, but not necessarily the resources to put a project into action.

Although the current project listings are mainly related to sustainability, Luo and Neal feel that all faculties at SFU could benefit from the site. “There’s probably lots of hidden histories at SFU which would be interesting to dig up,” Neal said. “[There could be] real life, campus based research for history students.”

Anyone can find their scholarly soul mate: Neal continued, “Pretty much for students in any discipline, there is going to be something on or near campus which could be studied or managed or proposed.”

Although the two anticipate challenges, such as getting students to engage with the site, Neal is optimistic that students will use this opportunity “to engage in real world problems and problem solving through programs and research so they can make real changes on campus.”

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3 COMMENTS

  1. This is great! The need for project collaborations (Research or non-research based) is definitely there. Students gain real-world experience and companies tap into innovative creative minds and get work done. It’s truly a win-win. We have been developing our own offerings to help facilitate experiential learning collaborations and it’s exciting to see a student create a site specifically for research-based projects. Is there a site for Campus as a Living Lab? Tried searching for it, but had no luck.