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Experiential Learning Center

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the ELC?

The Experiential Learning Center (ELC) was established in 1998 as the Business Information Technology Transfer Center (BITTC). In the beginning, student teams from the College of Business Operations Management and Information Systems department worked on real technology projects for real organizations. In January 2004 at the request of Dean David Graf, the BITTC broadened its focus to include cross functional projects and student teams. At that time, the name changed to the ELC. Since then, the ELC has strived to create unique real world educational experiences for all Northern Illinois University students and provide measurable value to external organizations.

Each semester, sponsoring organizations transfer their knowledge of real business issues to teams of ELC students. With the guidance of faculty coaches, the teams define the goals, objectives, and deliverables associated with the projects. The faculty coaches offer support and guidance when needed. The student teams capture the knowledge and lessons learned within a knowledge management system that supports future student project teams, academic research. At the end of the semester, there is an expectation that something of value will be transferred back to the sponsoring organization.

How does the ELC benefit students?

With each project, the students take on the role of a consultant. Project management, communication, presentation, team building, leadership, and technical skills are developed throughout the project experience. With these valuable consulting skills, students are prepared to step into the role of a consultant within any organization feeling confident and knowledgeable.

How does the ELC benefit sponsoring organizations?

Organizations can benefit from the ELC experience by having a real business issue looked at through the eyes and minds of talented future business leaders. Elite groups of business students will be able to apply what they learned in the classroom. Working as consultants, students will add a fresh perspective with new ideas and insights. Faculty coaches, many of them with their own consulting practices, add further valuable input to each project. This internship alternative is also a way for organizations to get a good look at some of the best and brightest College of Business students. Organizations can effectively evaluate a student's skill set for possible future employment.

How are projects and project sponsors selected?

Projects are selected based on the organization's needs and time frame. Generally, projects are expected to be initiated and completed within one 16-week semester so students are able to experience the entire life cycle of a project. Project sponsors are selected by the Director of the ELC based on the scope and subject of the project. Sponsors can be large or small scale organizations, profit or non-profit, and public or private corporations. The ELC looks for organizations willing to support a student team and provide the necessary resources needed for a successful project outcome.

Who do I contact to sponsor a project?

For more information on sponsoring a project complete the project request form or contact us at ELC@niu.edu.

How is the experience structured?

Teams meet in the dedicated ELC facility on the third floor of Barsema Hall one to two times each week as determined by the faculty coach. Meetings usually last one and a half hours. Team members are expected to attend and participate actively. Each team follows a project management methodology to guide them throughout the semester. Outside readings and meeting of key project deliverables generally require 3 to 10 hours of outside work. A final presentation to the sponsoring organization, project coaches, and other interested faculty brings closure to the project. At this time, the student team is expected to deliver something of value to the sponsoring organization. There are no syllabi, quizzes or exams. Final grades are determined by the coach and dependent on the completion of key project deliverables.

How are students selected?

Teams include a mix of graduate and undergraduate students. Team size ranges from 4 to 6 students. Students invited to be on a project are chosen based on their competency of business, technology, and communication skills, their ability to contribute as a team member, their ability to work in an unstructured environment, and their willingness and desire to learn in such an environment. In addition, UBUS 310 should have been successfully completed for College of Business students. For non-College of Business students, the UBUS 310 requirement is waived but Junior standing is required. College of Business and other NIU students are recruited the semester before a project is scheduled and go through a selection process similar to being hired for a position of employment. In that past, an average of 30 students applied for each project. Students receive 3.0 credit hours (UBUS 485/585), but do not receive any remuneration. No student is invited (or not invited) based on his or her gender, race, religious beliefs, sexual preference, or nation of origin.

How does a student apply for a project?

To apply, students must complete an online application to include a cover letter and resume. Once the application is received, if selected, a formal interview will be scheduled with the project coaches. Team members are chosen by the project coaches and all applicants are notified before the end of the semester

Is a fee charged for ELC projects?

A minimum project fee is required for each semester long project to off set project costs. These costs include a faculty coach stipend, travel reimbursement for students and faculty, material and supplies, and technology needed for project. If a sponsor is a non-profit organization, alternative ways of funding may be available. Ask the ELC staff for more information. Depending on the value the project team provides, an additional donation to provide scholarships and fund non-profit ELC projects is strongly encouraged.