Project-Based Learning is taking education’s traditional role to a new level. General education sets a broad foundation to support the depth and focus of a major. Project-Based Learning aims to build the knowledge and skills of a student through a long-term comprehensive project, engaging the student with a complex question or challenge. The project refines "soft skills" and integrates within general education and the major.
At Southern Utah University, the EDGE Program ideally spans the entire length of a student's academic career, with key milestones at the beginning, middle, and end of the degree. The end result is more than just a transcript; it's personal brand that gives students an edge over the competition.
Dr. Todd Petersen, Director of Project-Based Learning at SUU, recently shared his experiences with the EDGE program on Solutions for Higher Education:
“We hope that EDGE means that this education places students on the edge of school and going into the world, they are on the edge of their knowledge, the edge of their discipline and joining up with another one.”
“This is the best part of my job. Once we get out of the way, students constantly blow our minds and amaze us. Honoring the entire spectrum of students’ reasons for wanting to do this is really [more] important than saying, ‘Nope, you need to do this for the reasons we want.’ We’ve learned a lot in the last seven years of doing this about how complex and varied students’ reasons are for being in college.”
The success of project-based learning is seen from both sides; students find that the EDGE program opens up opportunities. They are able to integrate their learning across disciplines, explore their passions, and expand their ideas with a project of their own design.
“We see finance majors teaching themselves programming languages, pre-med students pursuing a project connected with another passion such as music. The açaí bowl restaurant on campus was the work of a theater student exploring a passion for healthy food.”
From the view of President Scott L Wyatt, the program is “going well beyond [the tradition of higher education] to guided learning, where the student is learning on her own, with a lot of support. What a phenomenal preparation for life and an exciting frontier.”
Dr. Petersen has worked as a YMCA assistant program director, edited literary journals, taught in the SUU English Department, and writes novels. He is familiar with the media and available for an interview.
Todd Robert Petersen Professor of English
Specializing in formal structures of visual storytelling, visual narrative learning, and project based learning in higher education