BACK TO SCHOOL: Innovations in the Classroom

Author: Carrie Ellett
Academic Director and Burundi Country Director


Today is the first day of classes! It’s always an exciting time for staff, as student voices again fill the halls and instructors put newly acquired skills into practice.

At the start of each semester, we are also reminded that our students overcome many challenges to attend Akilah. This drives our motivation to provide them with the tools and skills they need to be resilient in the classroom and successful in the workplace.

Our students constantly tell us that Akilah feels like a family and instructors really care about their learning outcomes. How do we accomplish this unique environment?

Active Learning: We know that students need to “do” in order to learn. Our teachers use quality instructional techniques to deliver academic content and then follow up with real-world scenarios. This includes projects that require students to apply theories and concepts they learn, and discussions that encourage them to develop their own knowledge through questioning and critical thinking. For example, students in one of our IT classes will soon be asked to combine their knowledge of Microsoft Word and Excel to complete a mail merge and create invoices for customers.

Safe to Fail: Learning from mistakes is one of the best ways to retain new information. We want students to learn how to fail in a safe and supportive environment so that their mistakes become learning opportunities that lead to success. Instructors work with classrooms to create a respectful environment where students have the freedom to err, try new approaches, and learn to improve. One way instructors create a safe environment is by setting classroom expectations and practicing the Respect Basics.

Private-Sector Input: Prior to their summer internships this year, Hospitality Management students completed a module on OPERA software, the industry standard used to manage guests during check-in and check-out. We included this class because several hotels had provided feedback that students needed exposure to OPERA to be competitive job applicants. The software, a generous donation from our partners at Marriott International, has allowed students to hone business-critical skills so they can excel in front desk roles during their internships.

Information Technology: Whether studying Information Systems or pursuing Hospitality Management or Entrepreneurship, all students incorporate information technology as part of their learning. They are required to submit assignments via email, access their reading materials using Akilah-provided Kindles, and use the computer lab to do research and apply for jobs. Our impressive student-to-computer ratio of 2:1 outpaces other universities in the region, and it is Akilah’s commitment to all students that they be computer literate by the time they graduate.

Akilah’s innovative curriculum is one of the many reasons we have doubled our student numbers this year to respond to applicant demand. The success of our market-relevant, hands-on academic model is the reason for our 95% job placement rate, with graduates earning between 5 to 12 times the national average.

We are confident and committed to the success of our returning students and the new Class of 2017 whom we welcomed today!

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