Education News South Africa

Action learning: Preparing students for the real world of the creative industries

Old ways of preparing students for the world of work no longer suffice and it has become a non-negotiable for students to immerse themselves in their studies in a way that replicates and mimics the environment they will encounter upon graduation.
Source: ©Vega  Brand activations and brand challenges engage multi-disciplinary student teams in the development and execution of solutions to real world brand problems
Source: ©Vega Vega Brand activations and brand challenges engage multi-disciplinary student teams in the development and execution of solutions to real world brand problems

In a world where the creative industry is becoming ever more competitive, combined with a drastically changed landscape as a result of the advancement of technology, there is no better way to achieve this than by action learning, says Dr Carla Enslin, head of academics at IIE-Vega, a brand of The Independent Institute of Education, one of the country’s private higher education providers.

What is action lLearning?

Action learning is a novel experiential learning approach that requires students to tackle problems with curiosity and active exploration by determining the exact nature of a problem and answer the question as to how the stakeholders involved experience it in real terms.

Students collaborate with one another, and the user groups involved, while sound boarding with their lecturers to develop original and meaningful solutions to challenges.

The aim is to graduate resilient yet respectful creative strategists and strategic creatives – individuals who are creative solution seekers and value the significance of collective wisdom.

Knowledge without understanding is dangerous

“While the building of foundational knowledge is of course critical to strategic development and implementation, the digital world provides access to all available knowledge. Any student today can research and acquire the basics of ‘Anything and Everything 101’, even without a formal education,” notes Enslin.

“Knowledge without understanding is however both ineffective and, frequently, dangerous.

“In the spirit of resilience and lifelong learning, students need to take ownership of their own learning by utilising both customised interactive learning platforms, and whichever platforms the individual student feels most comfortable with. Using ‘lecture’ time to discuss, debate, and ‘do’ provides the opportunity to interpret foundational knowledge under the guidance of seasoned academics and industry practitioners and practice application, rather than regurgitation,” adds Enslin.

A safe environment to practice and fail

In the fast-paced world of brand building, where it is imperative that brands are constantly ahead of the competition, employers seek individuals who can hit the ground running – individuals who know what to do without extensive additional training.

It is therefore crucial that students are given the opportunity to practice, and fail, in a safe environment that develops the skills and confidence required to quickly become functional members of efficient workplace teams.

A minimum requirement

She says at a minimum, competent graduates must, upon entering the workforce, be able to:

  • Critically explore and assess a situation to identify the real challenges.
  • Think strategically and creatively to develop original and meaningful solutions.
  • Collaborate productively in multi-disciplinary teams.
  • Create and add value, mindful of resources and the dynamics of developing markets.

Brand activations and challenges

IIE-Vega has been pushing investment in and development of action learning over the past few years. Real-life briefs and case challenges from real-world clients are explored during all programmes and course years.

The annual IIE-Vega Brand Activations and Brand Challenges represent the pinnacle of this practice.

“Brand activations and brand challenges engage multi-disciplinary student teams in the development and execution of solutions to real world brand problems.

“Students are encouraged to investigate the brand situation from a zero-base and to address issues with the development of original and meaningful brand and business plans and activations or strategies and full-scale creative communication executions,” says Enslin.

In addition to the annual brand activations and brand challenges, IIE-Vega implements Action Learning in many other ways such as Business Simulations in the BCom (Hons) and MCom degrees.

Here, IIE-Vega students experience complex challenges and all the moving parts in navigating business scenarios.

Preparation for exit-level students to the job market

Action Learning throughout their studies also helps prepare exit-level design students to enter the jobs market or launch their own ventures with an industry-aligned design portfolio that shows individual strengths, versatility and their unique creative voice – a distinct advantage in a highly competitive field.

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