Performance learning has long been a point of pride for Millikin University. Millikin defines it as a, “philosophy of education that combines theory with practice.” To put it in plain terms: performance learning is when students have the opportunity to take a tool learned in the classroom and translate it into real world experience. This can be done in the form of a project, an exhibition, a business, or even a class. One course currently employing this learning model is Blue Brew. Blue Brew is a student venture established in Fall 2017, it operates as a semester long course that students can take to gain experience managing their own business. The business in question? A coffee shop.
Blue Brew allows students the opportunity to run a storefront coffee shop in downtown Decatur. The store is brand-new and a blank canvas for the students to leave their mark. In order to do so most effectively, the class divides into four teams: finance, marketing, research & development, and operations. The teams take ownership of their respective departments and full responsibility of decision-making. They operate as the owners of the business and therefore they control the fate of the program. They learn by doing. Some decisions result in better sales and are immediate successes. Some decisions result in the opposite. This is the reality of a business owner and therefore the reality of a student functioning as one. Performance learning provides students the environment for these lessons. Students are allowed to fail. They are encouraged to take risks and be bold. Their time at Blue Brew is their time to experiment and discover what works.
Not only do students have the chance to develop their leadership capabilities they also are encouraged to develop their professional skills. Along with controlling the business, students taking the course are expected to work at the shop. They get to experience the results of their decisions first hand. They practice their service skills and learn how to interface with customers. Along with these interactions, they learn how to implement scrum, deal with contracts, work with vendors, and complete market testing. All of which will be highly valuable to their postgraduate careers. These lessons would not hold the same weight had they been taught in the typical classroom. Getting to experience them in the real world encourages students to understand the importance of these elements. This results in students confident in their ownership capabilities. After completing the course, they are better prepared to operate a business and understand the responsibilities of doing so.
Blue Brew is still in its early stages. Students founded the course less than a year ago and it is continually evolving to better suit the needs of the program and the students enrolled in it. The course will continue to grow and change but it is already impacting the learning of dozens of students involved in it. It exemplifies Millikin’s definition of performance learning and has a bright future ahead of it.