Image Credit: Saskatchewan Polytechnic
Image Credit: Saskatchewan Polytechnic

Riipen and Sask Polytech creating work-integrated learning experiences for students

Since 2019 Riipen and Saskatchewan Polytechnic have been partnering to deliver quality work-integrated learning opportunities to School of Information and Communications Technology and School of Business students.

Students have the opportunity to complete Riipen projects to gain hands-on experience, demonstrate employable skills and network with employers. These virtual internships are incorporated into curriculum and help students prepare for their future careers.

For the past two years Business Information Systems (BIS) program students have been developing video games for Shore Buddies, an online company dedicated to saving marine life, and Male Contraceptive Initiative (MCI), a non-profit organization that provides research and advocacy for male birth control. These games are developed during the students’ year two project management class. Thanks to Riipen, students have the opportunity to gain real world client experience while they adhere to and learn about the project management process. 

“Working with real clients through Riipen is a huge benefit to the students, you can’t emulate this unique experience in the classroom or with a case study,” says Michael Barclay, BIS instructor. “The challenge for the BIS program is finding the right client fit. The project needs to be the right scope for the project management course and achievable within four months.”

Groups of four-to-five students work on a project throughout the course. “Students have four months to build a video game for their client, learn how to communicate, follow the project management process, work on timelines and wait for the client to respond or approve requests,” says Hannah Kopytko, BIS instructor. “They end up working on real world problems with real world deadlines. It creates a level of engagement that’s hard to match in a classroom. Students are excited to see the projects they create come to life.”

Over the past two years students have created four games for Shore Buddies. Two games are currently on their website, Ocean Activist and Cross the Ocean. New games created this academic year will be added this spring. Two games have been created for MCI. Swimmer is currently live, with the latest video to be uploaded later this year.

Both Shore Buddies and MCI hope to educate youth through video games. Riipen and Sask Polytech is making this possible.

“Initially when we signed on with Riipen, we were hesitant as to the quality of work we would be able to accomplish. After spending the first semester with Sask Polytech students, we were blown away by the dedication and excitement from the students,” says Raylee Crawford, Shore Buddies operations manager. “We’ve been able to come up with crazy ideas we’ve only dreamed of having, and watched these students bring them to life. It’s always been a joy to work with the Sask Polytech students - their professionalism and communication skills are top notch.

The feeling is mutual for Sindhu Manjesh, BIS student and project lead for the Shore Buddies game. “I enjoyed everything about the process of working with Shore Buddies. It’s a great way to learn and I enjoyed managing our project team. For success it’s essential to manage your time, plan and coordinate with the team. This project gave us experience working with a client in the real world. I also have a new hobby building online games.”

Gavin Osborne, BIS program head sums up Sask Polytech’s hands-on approach to teaching project management. “We always want to emphasize business and emphasize the connection between business and technology. These Riipen projects are what tie it together. They give students a chance to integrate their technical skills into a business process, and that drives home the business side of the BIS program. These work integrated learning projects set our students up for success.”

"Working with students and young professionals is really important to the Male Contraceptive Initiative as these future leaders have such dedication to bringing about positive change in the world,” says Kevin Shane, MCI marketing & communications director. “We have been so fortunate to work with the talented students at Sask Polytech in creating engaging educational video games that help build awareness around the need for and potential impact of male methods of birth control. The student teams have really impressed us with their professionalism, work ethic and willingness to make niche subject matter accessible in creative ways. It is a privilege to work with Sask Polytech on these projects, and we look forward to future collaborations."

Duc Tri (Steve) Tran, BIS student and project lead for the MCI game said that MCI was a great partner. “Our project team really enjoyed the communication process, we met with MCI weekly, discussed new ideas and made sure we were on the right track. Working closely with the client allows you to ask questions, quickly get a response and modify work to ensure we deliver a good product. I suggest more organizations sign up to work with Riipen. It’s a great experience for the students to work on a real product that will be used by a client.”

“Canada’s future workforce is graduating into an economy still in recovery, and it is our mission to support these students in their transition from learning to work. Over 90 per cent of students on Riipen report feeling a positive impact on their employability in areas such as career readiness, professionalism and critical thinking,” said Dana Stephenson, co-founder and CEO of Riipen. “We are excited to continue partnering with Saskatchewan Polytechnic to deliver even more flexible and accessible real world experiences to their students.”

Learn more about Sask Polytech’s Business Information Systems program online.

Published April 2022.