A first Hackathon-style competition at the Faculty of Social Sciences

Faculty of Social Sciences
Student experience
In the ever-evolving landscape of education, hackathons have become instrumental in fostering innovation and collaboration, and the rapid development of solutions to complex problems. The recent Faculty of Social Sciences’ Learning by Experiencing Challenge, held over an intense weekend in January, brought together students to tackle the following question: how can we reimagine programs of study to integrate experiential learning and community engagement and enrich the student’s experience by ensuring they acquire “real-life” transferable skills?

Twelve teams redesigned existing programs of study to integrate a new High-intensity Experiential Learning Regime. Through their work, they identified courses that can be assessed using experiential learning activities, describe new learning activities and assessment strategies and listed potential community partners for community service learning, and course descriptions for student-directed activities that currently do not receive academic credit but could be creditable.  

Experienced mentors, FSS alumni themselves, played an important role in guiding the participants throughout the initial phases of the Challenge, lending their expertise and insights to help teams refine their approach.  

The Challenge showcased many innovations. For example, one team suggested the addition of digital simulations during which students would be confronted with various international relations crisis scenarios for which they would have to find solutions. A team of Psychology students recommended the creation of a course that would allow students step outside the realm of western ideologies and eurocentric values and open them to a wide array of ways that different cultures around the world tackle research and intervention in mental health.

The culminating moment of the Challenge was the announcement of winners. The judging criteria considered factors such as innovation, feasibility, and impact. The winning team received $1000 prize and two finalists took home $500. All teams can also be assured that their reimagined programs will be submitted to the respective academic units to further develop, validating their hard work.  

The Faculty of Social Sciences’ Learning by Experiencing Challenge demonstrated the immense potential that lies in curriculum innovation. Having students reflect on this question allowed for a unique take and highlighted their engagement in imagining the future of post-secondary education.