For over 20 years, Big Picture Learning (BPL) has been propelling the idea that learning happens best when we allow student interest to guide their academic journey and when we pair students with strong and engaging mentors.
There is a burgeoning reform movement in K12, forged in part by a move toward competency-based, real world learning. This is driving broader integration of internships into “traditional” school curriculum and increased student engagement for a growing number of students, not just across the country, but across the globe.
BPL’s ‘One-Student-At-A-Time’ approach emphasizes the need for rigorous, project-based work, with the partnership of strong mentors. A key component to this success is that students step out of the classroom and spend time in the real world – at internships working with mentors in the fields or professions that align with their interests. In most Big Picture Learning schools, students attend internships two days per week, during school hours, starting in their freshmen year and lasting through the duration of their high school experience. Students seek out these real-world learning opportunities based on their interests and curiosities. There are over 100 Big Picture schools worldwide, primarily in underserved and academically struggling communities.
While this innovative movement is creating real change in communities around the world, it also comes with an increased need for scalable solutions for managing student centered internships. As one might imagine, attending to the hundreds of internship requests made by students can create significant logistical and relational challenges for schools. How do we track and nurture relationships with mentors over time? How do we ensure that internships sites are appropriate? How do we log attendance? How do we ensure that three kids are not pursuing the same site at the same time? How do we honor businesses ‘do not solicit’ requests?
One of the biggest challenges for schools seeking to build an interest-driven internship program is finding ways to engage students in the search process and tracking data. Building a vibrant, sustainable, high-school internship program is all about managing relationships. How schools nurture community relationships, how students search for opportunities, how we curate the process of students reaching out to potential mentors, and how we facilitate strong academic internships are all key components to ensuring success.
Because there is tremendous demand to grow internship learning, many existing schools, districts and education advocates are looking to Big Picture Learning to provide the tools to meet the need. As a mission-driven nonprofit, we are able to provide the program design support, but have not had a tool to streamline the logistics, compliance and management of internships; unless you count piles of post-it notes, multiple spreadsheets, and countless dog-eared copies of local Yellow Pages as tools. And while the EdTech sector is both vibrant and ever expanding, there simply has been no purpose-built tools enabling schools to manage a program like this.
Fortunately, managing relationships is as core to Salesforce as it is to Big Picture Learning.
In partnership with ECHO Technology Solutions, a Salesforce Partner, Big Picture Learning leveraged the Salesforce Community Cloud to create a flexible and intuitive management platform for any school to create Real World Learning — ImBlaze. Built entirely upon Salesforce’s infrastructure, ImBlaze gives schools all the tools they need in order to curate a dataset of potential internship opportunities. Students can search for opportunities based upon their interests and professional goals. Local Learning Through Interests & Internships (LTI) coordinators use ImBlaze to act as gatekeeper, preventing students from selecting–shall we say–inappropriate internships and respecting the wishes of local businesses that have chosen to opt out. Once an internship is secured, students can use the mobile platform to record attendance and provide daily insights to the LTI coordinators into their learning, journaling extensively as real world learning and social-emotional growth are occurring.
Schools are able to define and manage compliance documentation (such as mentor background checks) and track attendance. Schools can also use reporting and analytics to record academic progress, and track the overall success of their internship learning program. While this experience is an entirely ImBlaze and Big Picture Learning branded experience, our data and workflow operations relies on Salesforce. Having such a flexible platform and partner in this enterprise was essential to ensuring our students, advisors, and mentors can go about the process of building relationships while having the technology handle the data management and compliance.
Data Tells the Story
For the first time, we will now be able to track the values and successes of real-world learning across our entire network. We will know how many students attend internships, how long those experiences last and what key ‘social-emotional’ competencies are gained from the experience. Schools will be able to keep an institutional memory of the internship opportunities that exist in their community and students will be able to see how their internship learning has evolved during their time in school. By leveraging LinkedIn integration, we will see how student internships align to their career trajectory over time. As an organization, Big Picture Learning will now be able to use data to tell a compelling story about how effective internship learning plants the seeds for career opportunity and therefore creates an entirely relevant learning experience.
By leveraging Salesforce and its community, ImBlaze enables us to significantly scale internship learning to communities around the globe.