RRU Pop Up University brings youth, local community and our faculty together for challenge-based learning

November 25, 2019
Ingrid Kajzer Mitchell, PhD
Royal Roads Pop Up University: A challenge-based learning experience

On Friday, November 15th, Royal Roads' faculty, and staff, along with our community partners, brought our unique RRU learning model and expertise of Design Thinking into the community as part of the Royal Roads Pop Up University event for high school students at the Old Fire Hall in Langford. The vision behind the event was to convert an unlikely venue into a vibrant and innovative 21st-century learning space. And the old decommissioned Langford fire hall was the perfect place to start.

On November 1, the building was being used as a storage space, with oil on the floor and old broken toilets. But, by the time the students arrived on November 15th, the old hall was a fully functional, technology-enabled, studio classroom. The City of Langford had fully renovated and painted the space. Graphic Office donated state-of-the-art agile office furniture, while Microserve provided computer hardware and The Good Party dressed up the space with balloon installations.

It was a truly magical experience in many ways! The 19 high school seniors from Edward Milne, Belmont, and Royal Bay used their insight, creativity and drive to make a real difference solving a real problem facing Langford – how to communicate with residents in wildfire interface areas. They generated real-world solutions that will genuinely benefit not only the Fire Chief but also the community. At the end of the day, students spoke of feeling heard, respected and empowered by their own ideas and helping to solve real problems. 

The event brought out the very best of Design Thinking and project-based learning. “It truly was the best of what design thinking would have to offer. The students shared insights with the fire chief about how feeling embarrassed or intimidated might prevent young people from calling the fire hall if a fire started while they were partying. The fire chief had never considered that the emotional aspect of the challenge and was grateful for the way this could impact his communication strategy.”, says School of Business Associate Prof. Amy Zidulka, who was one of the facilitators.

The challenge: How to communicate with residents in wildfire interface areas?

Co-facilitator and Associate Faculty Michael Pardy was struck right from the start by the students' enthusiasm and their willingness to take a risk with each other and the design process. “It's yet another reminder that youth are passionate and thoughtful members of our community, if only we all listen to and learn from each other" says Pardy.

This was an exciting event for many reasons, according to Todd Thexton, who is leading a project to expand RRU’s undergraduate academic programming.  “First and foremost, it was exciting to share our distinctive teaching and learning approach with young people from the West Shore communities, and to observe how positively they responded” says Thexton.  “It is also a great example of how collaborations between the university and community partners can create win-win outcomes for both students and local businesses, organizations, and governments.”

According to William Holmes, the Dean of the Faculty of Management, “this event really highlights Royal Roads University’s unique role and vision: to provide an innovative learning experience using challenge-based curriculum that informs and empowers students to tackle real-world problems and to make meaningful and positive contributions to their communities”

We are very proud of the School of Business for being part of this unique event. We are also grateful for all the support from RRU Faculty and staff, and the students and community organizations who all came together to make this happen.

Undegraduate students generate real-world solutions at Royal Roads Pop Up University

Read more about this unique experience on our news page, check out Twitter feed, watch the video, and read more at Victoria News.