Based on the 13 years I’ve spent working with education customers and technology solutions, I think I can fairly say that innovation runs rampant on college campuses – both in IT shops that are challenged with fewer dollars to deliver more services as well with students experimenting with high potential technology and business ideas.  This week I had the opportunity to witness student innovation first hand as a judge for a student business collaboration and simulation contest.

Kiefer Consulting, a Sacramento-based SharePoint and Application Development Gold Certified Microsoft partner, conceived the idea of an extra-curricular 4-week project management-oriented business consulting simulation centered around SharePoint to introduce MIS and Business faculty, students and curriculum to the potential of SharePoint.  The program kicked off with the fall semester at the Sacramento and Chico campuses of the California State University (press release here).  With growing interest and momentum, Kiefer ran the program again in the spring semester, where participation doubled to 8 teams of students competing from each university.

As a judge, I participated in the final presentation day of competition for each campus.  Presentation day concluded 4 weeks of the program which included orientation, site development, project deliverables, checkpoints, and presentation preparation.  Each of the student teams chosen as finalists (based on their project score) had 15 minutes to present their response to a Request For Offer, showcasing their solution and offering using SharePoint.  Judges served in the role of executive staff of the organization that had originated the RFO, assigned to evaluate oral presentations of solutions.  Teams also had to withstand 10 minutes of judging panel questions that ranged from site design criteria to business process and team collaboration inquires.  While the program is not designed to overly burden students already handling a full course load, feedback from students confirmed that the real-life scenario relating to response time, preparation and presentation delivery was a great experience. 

Student participation in the program is completely voluntary – motivation for completion stemmed primarily from the opportunity to gain valuable project collaboration and business simulation experience for their resume, or for potential job offers or references provided by the executives in attendance as judges.  And while team site designs, team dynamics, solutions and presentation styles all differed, the common denominator all the judges experienced was clear: the potential for great collaboration, solutions and business delivery on SharePoint is impressive, especially considering almost all students were new to SharePoint walking into this program.

Kiefer is evaluating the feasibility of expanding to other universities within California, and potentially nationally, to continue the momentum of learning and excitement that surrounds this program.  If this program sounds intriguing to you for your campus, I’d encourage you to connect directly with Kiefer (info@kieferconsulting.com) or send me an email registering your interest.