The implementation phase of the ADDIE model marks the culmination of analysis, design and development efforts and the start of putting plans for teaching, learning and assessment in the course into action.  As discussed previously, experiential education is likely to alter some of the more familiar aspects of interactions between instructors and students and their typical roles because the rhythms of weekly interactions in person or on-line that instructors use to support students in their progress are no longer as available or predictable. The likelihood of an off-campus setting for learning and the immediate and immersive nature of hands-on applied learning conducted in real-world settings makes for dynamic learning environment that is typically not consistently under the direct influence of the instructor.  Faced with the demands of experiential opportunities, your students may not have the time, attention and energy to address learning and assessment tasks as deeply, consistently or predictably on schedule as you might wish as an instructor, so the timeliness, reasonableness,  and clarity of academic activities and graded assignments will be crucial to student learning and success.

Your role as an instructor may shift to more of a focus on coaching or mentoring and mean that you spend less time acting as a “sage on the stage.” This shift can be exciting, because it will require you to flex different teaching muscles, but it can also be a bit disorienting when you are endeavouring to ensure that students learn about, or learn how to do, particular things. It can require a reconsideration of how you will engage with your students, encourage them to stay focused on achieving the learning outcomes for the course, and manage their questions and concerns.  Pause for a moment and reflect upon the ways in which you would want to interact regularly with your students while they are engaged in experiential learning?  How would you want to connect with them, what methods might you use, what would you wish to say, and what would you want to encourage them to focus their efforts toward?

auto shopAs we discussed in the last chapter, industry/community partners can be highly influential in shaping student learning in both productive and positive ways, and sometimes, in ways that run counter to the learning objectives set for the experiential course. Hosts can be excellent mentors, but they can also serve as examples of how not to organize or execute work. Through intentionally crafted tasks or communications, instructors can help learners to feel confident in their identification of  productive and effective approaches to engaging in the learning experience and attributes of working and learning environments that are conducive to good outcomes, culture and quality.

Navigating the relationship with the industry/community partner can be delicate and difficult work for both instructors and students. Setting clear expectations and limits for the role of the host and establishing mechanisms for connecting with each other and resolving issues well in advance are vitally important activities for ensuring the quality of the learning experience for students.  It is important to ensure that your partners have a specific and detailed understanding of the purpose of the experiential learning opportunity in the broader curriculum and what they can and should be doing to support students in the achievement of those objectives, as well as what they should consult with you on before interacting with the student(s) to direct their learning.  The dynamism of experiential education places a greater burden on instructors to orchestrate communications and planning on an ongoing basis with the industry/community partner as well as the students.

Conventional expectations of the roles and responsibilities of teachers shift when the students are off-site, making communication pathways less direct and likely more infrequent, and limiting the moments in which educators can easily intercede to guide a student in their learning when they are doing a great job, unsure how best to proceed, or making a big mistake. Keeping lines of communication open and ensuring the timely provision of resources and advice can become difficult. Formative and summative assessments become more challenging to execute and instructors can feel less in touch with how their students are progressing in their learning and making connections between what they are doing and the broader program curriculum.  eLearning tools and technologies ranging from something as simple as email, learning management systems, web-based synchronous conferencing and collaboration tools, to solutions as advanced as interactive augmented and virtual reality and artificial intelligence can contribute to maintaining vital connections between the student, the instructor, institutional resources, the external partner, and the intended purposes of the experiential opportunity.  Experiential education instructors are encouraged to consider how to leverage such tools in their teaching.

Students also have to operate differently when engaged in experiential education. Experiential learners have to rely frequently on independent thinking, self-direction and problem-solving, applying their judgment and skills situationally and without the direct and immediate intervention of an instructor or easy access to guiding materials and resources. Students will likely need to have acquired prior knowledge, skills and experiences in order to learn effectively in practice and they will likely need to have ongoing coaching and mentorship while applying what they know in practice.

Without the immediacy of access to their instructor, peers and institutional resources available when learning on campus, the possibility exists for students to feel more out of touch with their institution and detached from their established support system. Students can also get off track, feel overwhelmed by the daily requirements, or have an effort encounter unanticipated challenges or end in failure. Helping them, the industry or community partner and yourself cope with such difficulties effectively and ensure that reflection and learning remains the focus of the experience, benefits from you spending time in advance to try to predict as many scenarios as you can and to imagine how best to respond.  Take a moment to think about what you can do as an instructor to seed resources, supports and guideposts for students throughout their experiential learning opportunity.  What can you build into the course in advance and how will you address student concerns as they arise?

For the industry or community service partners, they are also taking on roles and responsibilities outside of their normal daily practice as they are faced with figuring out how best to guide a mentor a learner in meeting specific, intended learning outcomes for their experiential learning opportunity set by their college or university, rather than simply overseeing an employee and assessing their ability to meet job requirements.

To complicate matters further, the sites and modalities for teaching and learning activities are often far from campus as students are embedded in businesses, industries, community service agencies, field sites, labs or international settings for their hands-on learning opportunity. For instructors, students and partners, this can mean having to connect across diverse settings and locations, and even in different time zones. This can wreak havoc on the process of coordinating scheduled communications.

  • Routine teaching and learning activities, such as scheduled class times, office hours, and help sessions can become more challenging to organize for learners who are working at a distance, and often, as is the case for internship, practicum and cooperative education, for long hours.  Accommodations for timing and distance can be planned for, documented and executed.
  • Risks that are normally factored in and controlled for proactively within the bounds of campus settings can become more difficult to predict and manage when students are off-site. Consider, for example, the possibility that arranging for the types of learning experiences required proves difficult to secure in sufficient number, or that even when arrangements are made for a promising learning experiences, the opportunities prove to be less conducive to the achievement of the intended learning outcomes as was hoped. Consider also the risk that your students’ labour might be exploited, intentionally or unintentionally, by the industry/community service partner for purposes irrelevant to the aims of the experiential education opportunity.

presentationInstructors and students who are working closely with employers on knowledge production, synthesis or application projects must consider questions of intellectual property rights and confidentiality related to protected, competitive practices. Students may be privy to, or party to, or independently produce a product, method or insight that has value as intellectual property and should be protected. It is important to ensure that all parties are alert to this possibility, truly understand the implications, and take proactive measures to secure legally appropriate arrangements in advance.

Issues of workplace culture and concerns for health and safety at the learning site become a factor to consider for all parties as well. Off-campus learning sites can be complex and dynamic environments with health and safety risks unfamiliar to college and university settings. Understanding laws, standards and regulations for workplace safety and employment may become critical to ensuring the success of an experiential learning opportunity. If these requirements are not well understood by instructors or students, or perhaps even by employers in small, emerging or lax businesses or community service settings, serious and preventable issues can occur.

Experiential learning abroad can be a particularly rich learning opportunity for students, but when students travel abroad to participate in experiential learning, arrangements for visas, immunizations, travel, accommodation, insurance, and other complexities get added to the mix of considerations to be addressed. Being alert to any political instability of the location, knowing the nature and location of consular services, and gaining awareness of unique customs and cultural norms to observe, are among the activities that will aid students in learning effectively abroad. Identification of and planning for common risks to travelers also deserves advanced preparation.  Attention should also be paid to the potential emotional and spiritual consequences for students engaged in experiential learning abroad.  Unfamiliar environments, differences in languages, customs and culture, and just the stress of travelling far from home can be unsettling.  Students who are well prepared for travel in advance, and well supported by a network when abroad, will be better equipped to cope with all aspects of the learning experience.

Typically, colleges and universities will have expert staff in service and support areas who assist faculty, students, and industry/community service partners with identifying and managing the risks associated with experiential learning. As an instructor, it is important that you know the location and extent of this expertise at your home institution so that you can take advantage of their services and supports, and so that you can refer students and industry/community partners to them appropriately. If you are interested in exploring some of the services and resources that reside at Ontario colleges and universities to support experiential education, conduct a google search using the search terms “experiential education,” “experiential learning,” or “work-integrated learning,” and the names of the colleges or universities you are interested in learning more about. Then explore the result set of your search and consider whether your needs and interests would be well served by the guiding information, forms and materials made available.

It is a lot to think about as an instructor and not a common activity across all teaching situations, so it is important to think about roles, responsibilities and risks well in advance and plan for and implement the ways that you will manage the complexities.

Implement: Katie Altoft, Niagara College

Implement: Gyllian Raby, Brock University
Dramatic Arts Performance

Gillyan Raby’s 4th year Brock University course outline


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Learning by Doing: Postsecondary Experiential Education Copyright © 2018 by Mary Wilson and Kyle Mackie is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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