The Sandbox Education Program is the education arm of the
Digital Enablement Research Network (DERN), created as a platform to
connect the industry, educators and students, empowering them to co-create a career-focused learning experience through solving real-life challenges.
Inspired by the sandbox concept in Software Engineering, this award-winning program simulates a professional working environment by bringing in real-world scenarios and wicked problems into the classroom, creating a safe space for students to explore, collaborate and make changes.
In a Sandbox, the industry partner works with the educator to:
Establish a meaningful challenge
The starting point of a Sandbox is the identification of a relevant, challenging task. Interested
industry partners are invited to
submit a Sandbox Challenge: an enticing and important problem that would benefit from a fresh perspective and would facilitate the acquisition of current knowledge.
Educators with relevant interests and expertise will review the available challenges and
Adopt-a-Sandbox from the program (i.e., embed the Sandbox Challenge into an appropriate course).
Engage in co-creative learning
In this step we navigate students through the
challenge-driven learning process. Educators work together with the industry partners to co-design teaching materials and activities to support students’ problem-solving process and provide them with an authentic learning experience.
Some common Sandbox activities include a kick-off session, industry-facilitated seminars, in-class role-playing or interview sessions, workshops and hands-on labs.
Many of our Sandboxes also include simulation modules co-designed with the industry partners. Simulations work particularly well for introducing relevant tools used in the professional environment, walking students through real-life scenarios, and allowing them to experiment with important, but often risky decisions in a controlled environment. Collaborative platforms are also used to facilitate the interactions and learning among peers and between students and the industry representatives.
Enrich the career-focused experience
At the conclusion of the Sandbox, we review the solutions created by the students, provide feedback and guidance in their reflection and consolidation of learnings. This usually includes a formal session where students present their solutions to the industry partner and obtain feedback. The presented solutions can be of various forms depending on what aligns best with the Sandbox. Solution examples include a proof-of-concept, an information slide deck, a pitch, and a professional whitepaper.
trilateral relationship developed from the Sandbox engagement will continue to grow beyond this point. Subsequent engagement can take various forms, including a longer-term mentoring program, work-shadowing and internship opportunities, attending and co-hosting relevant events and more! Some of our past Sandbox students have commenced their careers in graduate and vacationer positions at the partner organization.