March 20, 2024

NMC Audio Technology program students view a music production studio in East Lansing
NMC Audio Technology program students check out a music production studio in East Lansing.

Imagine a classroom where “sticky” experiences occur regularly, the kind that students remember for years and develop skills they’ll draw upon in the future, like solving problems and communicating more clearly, whether in their work, family or civic lives.

More and more of those classrooms now exist at NMC, as the college marks a giant leap toward its goal of offering experiential learning opportunities (ELOs) to every degree-seeking student by September 2024.

The latest tracking update shows that in the fall 2023 semester, 92 percent of students had ELOs, the often hands-on activities designed to engage them in a cycle of experience, reflection and action. That’s up from 66 percent in spring 2023 and 54 percent in fall 2022.

“It’s about intentionally changing the fundamental student experience in the classroom,” said faculty member Brandon Everest, who has co-directed the Institute with business faculty member Kristy McDonald since 2016.

Some 113 instructors offered ELOs in 263 classes last fall, reaching 2,685 students. The method has been so well received that Everest and McDonald are considering a future EL endorsement students could add to their degree or certificate that would help distinguish them in the job market and NMC among other colleges.

“This is a real differentiator for us here at the college,” Everest told NMC trustees at a board meeting Monday. ELOs, which can occur in courses, internships, apprenticeships, community research, service learning, international services and extracurricular activities also reinforce the material learned, and improve student retention, meaning it’s more likely students will complete their goal.

Trustees wholeheartedly support the ELI, board chair Laura Oblinger said.

“You have the same enthusiasm among this board of trustees. We’ll be continuing to root for you,” she said.

Examples of ELOs include:

  • The NMC Motor Sports Club’s participation in Baja endurance races, which involved automotive, engineering and welding students. 
  • The ninth annual Big Little Hero Race, organized by McDonald’s  professional communications students and set for April 20
  • The Lunch and Learn held today for Holi, a Hindu festival celebrating the arrival of spring and love. (See slides 12-16)

In addition to ELOs, which can be as short as a single assignment, NMC began offering Experiential Learning Designated courses, where at least 80 percent of the course it taught through experiential learning.  McDonald’s Professional Communications class is one of them. A “co-curricular mapping” project is now underway to identify ELOs in every degree and certificate program, class and section, with a goal of providing ELOs as early as possible to students.

The proposed voluntary endorsement would be a credential students could earn in addition to a degree or certificate. It would also enable students to easily choose EL classes when they register.

“It would be a real clear pathway for them to select,” said McDonald, who added that she and Everest often field inquiries from colleges around the country about how to implement ELOs. They will present at a teaching conference in New Orleans this summer.

“One of our goals is to showcase that we are that leader,” she said.