Key Findings: Experiential Learning

Experiential Learning Overview

Experiential learning, as defined by Simon Fraser University, is “the strategic, active engagement of students in opportunities to learn through doing, and reflection on those activities, which empowers them to apply their theoretical knowledge to practical endeavours in a multitude of settings inside and outside of the classroom.”[1]

Experiential and work-integrated learning is aimed at enriching the student learning experience and is a fast-growing pedagogical strategy being adopted by Ontario post-secondary institutions. In a 2013 report, it was estimated that over half of Ontario post-secondary students will graduate after moving through an experiential or work-integrated learning component at some point during their studies (Satler and Peters, 2013).

Most Ontario post-secondary institutions have experiential or work-integrated learning supports in place that provide students with opportunities. However, with this growing demand across disciplinary contexts, a third-party experiential learning platform such as Riipen can be leveraged to both scale and streamline the process.

The Riipen platform helps by setting up the assignments, coordinating the matching process, and overseeing them through to completion. Riipen provides an online space for educators to create experiential learning projects, match those projects to an organization, and then match the learners to the project. Throughout the process, the learner receives feedback from the organization as well as from the educator, and, upon completion, is assessed for performance.

The eCampusOntario Educational Technologies Sandbox case studies involved experiential-learning explorations in a range of courses in three institutions: Fanshawe College, La Cité collégiale, and University of Windsor.

Experiential Learning Integration

Fanshawe College applied the Riipen platform in the capstone course of the Bachelor of Commerce program, with competencies aligned to an experiential learning assignment on market assessment analysis for a company partner. Fanshawe also incorporated experiential learning assignments into two of their technical programs: Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Technician, and Gas Technician program . These customer service skills-based projects aimed at building communication methods, troubleshooting techniques, and hands-on repair skills.

La Cité collégiale applied a two-pronged plan for applying experiential learning. The first was the more traditional format of matching students to projects and employers. The second was to seed the platform with areas of research with the hope of attracting employers to these projects. La Cité kicked off the Riipen pilot by offering training and orientation to both experiential learning and the Riipen platform to educators at their institution. This was considered a good first step, as it proved helpful not only to onboard educators to experiential learning as a teaching and learning approach, but also to spark their interest in ideas for project formation.

The University of Windsor envisioned their integration as a chance to include micro-experiences in courses within their Faculty of Science. These opportunities were focused on building learning partnerships with wineries, breweries, and greenhouses—all of which are experiencing growth in the Windsor region. Industry engagement events were held to get all the parties together to discuss opportunities for experiential learning.

Team Description

Team members across institutions included faculty, faculty administrators, program coordinators, staff from teaching and learning centres, employer partners, media production staff (for video production), research personnel, and students. Teams collaborated through meetings, orientations with Riipen’s customer success team, and by completing and uploading projects.

Value

The Riipen pilot project proved to be a good exercise to evaluate the platform, despite several challenges: delays to full integration, the college faculty strike in fall 2017, the time needed for orientation to the platform, and complex considerations about who to partner with and how. Despite these issues, the educators who participated in the pilot saw the value in using the platform in their educational contexts (and in some cases, beyond). They reported that after having used Riipen in a small way, they could imagine how it could be integrated more broadly.

The impact of the faculty strike was particularly high because the experiential learning projects needed facilitation by faculty. Both our college partners indicated that the lost time planned for implementation was redirected to onboarding to the platform and brainstorming on how it could be potentially used. These are valuable processes, but they did not directly assess Riipen as a tool.

La Cité experienced another barrier to integration specific to their institution: there were very few francophone projects available. Eight “traditional” format projects were added to the platform, but there were no francophone industry partners to provide a match. There were two applied research projects added, which received promising feedback from potential partners, but they did not get off the ground due to timing and resource issues.

At Fanshawe College, the customer service project was not successful because the students were reluctant to be filmed. In response, a workaround was proposed, making participation voluntary for students, which increased the uptake, particularly in the Gas Technician program. If there are to be future implementations that use video feedback, a filtering process would be used allowing students to approve the videos prior to sharing them with employers. The project leads reported that it is difficult to motivate students with an optional assignment.

The University of Windsor’s Riipen project was also not successful, but not for reasons of disinterest or poor planning. Barriers included the lack of time for faculty to understand and effectively integrate experiential learning as an assessment into their courses, the concern about ongoing cost of the platform, and a sense that the Riipen platform was compromising work covered by Windsor’s Experiential Learning Office.

Technology User Experience

  • Fanshawe College indicated that it found the platform to be user-friendly and that Riipen provided excellent technical and client service support.
  • La Cité reported ease of use and a good technical experience, but the English-only aspect of the platform was a definite detractor.
  • Windsor was unable to integrate Riipen into their learning management system (LMS), and while they found the client service support valuable, their reality is that to map experiential learning activities to course learning outcomes would require significant support from teaching and learning staff.

Future Plans

  • Fanshawe is considering college-wide adoption of an experiential learning process/platform and will engage with academic managers across campus as they work to determine licensing costs, support, and training options.
  • La Cité is developing plans to address the francophone project gap by engaging with stakeholders to try to collectively propose solutions including platform translation and sourcing more francophone industry partners.
  • The University of Windsor has elected to extend their Riipen licence to allow for further investigation. Since starting this evaluation, Windsor developed three courses entirely aimed at experiential learning, which was viewed as a good alternative to trying to inject experiential learning into existing curriculum. This initiative, in combination with faculty development workshops and industry partner communication, is the next step in considering if experiential learning with Riipen is effective and feasible.

References

Kolb, D. A. (1984).  Experiential learning: Experience as the source of learning and development. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Sattler, P., & Peters, J. (2013). Work-integrated learning in Ontario’s post-secondary sector: The experience of Ontario graduates. Toronto: Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario.

 


  1. Retrieved from: https://www.mcgill.ca/eln