Experiential Learning Model for Online and F2F Programs in University Continuing Education

Experiential Learning Model for Online and F2F Programs in University Continuing Education

Daniel Piedra (McMaster University, Canada)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-9232-7.ch016

Abstract

Online learning continues to grow throughout the world of post-secondary education. However, the actual learning experience is becoming less and less about human interaction and more and more about the development of applications (“apps”) that rely more on technology than the interaction of instructor and learner. In an effort to enhance the level of student engagement, McMaster University's Centre for Continuing Education has turned to a model of online learning that leverages the benefits of experiential learning enabling students to work on authentic industry projects. The results of this one-year pilot are presented outlining the strengths, challenges, and areas for improvement and further research. While the experiential learning model received favorable reviews from learners, several areas for improvement were noted including, improving the onboarding process for both learners and instructors, redesigning courses to accommodate experiential learning, and improving the communication between corporate partners and those involved in each course.
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Background

A recent report released by eCampusOntario (2017) entitled Tracking Online and Distance Education in Canadian Universities and Colleges: 2017, clearly confirmed the many benefits of online education. Among them were the following:

  • Increased access to courses and flexibility

  • Increased enrolments for the host institution

  • More innovative ways of teaching

  • Less demands on physical space within post-secondary education institutions

  • Enhancement in specific student skills (reading, writing, etc.)

  • More engaging experiences for students

  • Cost-effective

Yet, for all the benefits identified in this and other similar studies, the online learning experience continues to struggle with other aspects of the learning journey. Among the most common complaints associated with online courses are the lack of immediate feedback, limited engagement, and an absence of instructor presence (V. Phillips, 2017).

Comments like these, from research conducted by Phillips (2017), indicate a disconnect between instructors and the learning process:

When I graduate this fall, I do so with a 42k student loan debt. This wouldn't bother me so much IF the education I received was taught by the engaging ‘industry experts’ my school advertised in their promotional materials (p.1).

$2,800 [did not] buy me … an instructor who replies to e-mails (p.1).

I must admit that these are my first online courses, but I expected a lot more interaction with the professors. Essentially this program is nothing more than independent study with a class webpage to submit homework and take quizzes and tests. There are no lectures or interaction with your instructor except by email; not my idea of a college class (p.1).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Engagement: Meaningful student involvement through active learning, collaborative learning, participation in challenging academic activities, formative communication with academic staff, involvement in enriching educational experiences and learning communities, and work-integrated learning.

Synchronous: A course which is delivered with live elements existing or occurring at a specific time.

Course Evaluation: An end-of-term survey conducted amongst students in courses to solicit feedback on various elements of a course experience.

Work-Integrated Learning: A term used interchangeably with experiential learning.

Active Learning: A form of learning in which teaching endeavours to involve students in the learning process more directly than through other methods.

Experiential Learning: The process of learning through experience either simulated or within real context.

Asynchronous: A course which is delivered with no live elements allowing students to take part at any time.

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