Experiential Educator Feature
What does experiential learning mean to you?
Experiential learning, whether in the classroom or out in the field, allows our students the opportunity to apply the concepts and ideas they have learned onto a real-world situation and challenge. It helps learning come alive for our students by allowing them to put thinking into doing.
Why is experiential learning a priority for you?
At Massachusetts Maritime Academy, we have something called a Learn-Do-Learn philosophy that embraces and encourages experiential learning. Traditionally, this has involved going to sea between academic semesters, but it also includes international, experiential, cooperative, and internship opportunities. For me, having worked a lot with this generation of students, it seems to be a preferred mode of learning. As a result, I am seeking more and more experiential learning opportunities within all of my courses and programs to enhance learning and engagement.
Can you give us an example of a successful experiential learning engagement that you've coordinated/delivered?
I’ll share my most recent example. Due to the global pandemic and travel restrictions, we had to cancel our international experiential programs. In their place, we designed a pair of online experiential courses to ensure students remained on track with their programs of study. My colleague designed one that focused on maritime business and engaged students in research projects about impacts on shipping from COVID and climate change for the UN’s group on trade and development. My course used management consulting as a framework and students experienced all phases of the consulting process. We first used one of CapSource’s #OpenCases as a quick introductory boot camp into the case analysis and consulting processes. Then, six teams of students engaged in a live case study competition and collaboration with an office furniture start-up, again coordinated through CapSource. Using just-in-time learning modules to fill their expertise gaps, students were able to engage the client in diagnosing issues in the order fulfillment processes, performing detailed analysis, and making evidence-based recommendations during a final pitch presentation. 81.3% of students indicated they were provided a meaningful experience in management consulting. Students commented on the impact of working with a real client and watching their recommendations being adopted and implemented in real-time. A Net Promoter Score for the course indicated that there were 7 times more promoters than detractors – which is saying a lot since until mid-spring they were gearing up for and getting excited to go on a European educational experience this summer.
What's the most challenging part of being an #ExperientialEducator? (coordinating/delivering an experiential learning curriculum to students)
While designing and delivering an effective experiential learning course or program is challenging in and of itself, perhaps one of the bigger challenges is that as students “experience” more of this type of learning, they demand more of it – across their curriculum and institution. The challenge then becomes trying to inform and influence others that the effort is well worth reward of enhanced learning and satisfied students. As we know, change is not always welcome in academia.
What skills do your students use when engaged in experiential learning?
For my recent course, I could give a laundry list of skills – listening, questioning, disciplinary thinking, analytics, communication, and so on, but I think one of the most useful skills they hone is reflective thinking. The experience provides students a way to integrate and apply what they have previously learned, but then… through reflection, they are able to make sense of that experience in the context of their knowledge, learning, personal and professional development.
What advice do you have for faculty and institutions considering experiential learning?
Jump in and give it a try. You won’t be disappointed. Find a colleague or two who have worked in the area and share your ideas. Then, try it out with the students and see how it works.