Eduvation Blog

Experiential Learning

Increasingly careerist students, at colleges and universities alike, are attracted to work-integrated learning opportunities. This week, Ken continues his series on innovations in teaching and learning with a closer look at Experiential Learning.

Colleges like Sault College have been promoting hands-on learning opportunities for years, like their Field Camp for outdoor recreation students.

Calgary’s SAIT Polytechnic emphasizes the value of real-world, career-focused education in their “Get Real” commercials.

Algonquin College nicely shows how a daycare, flight deck, kichen, and construction site are all “my classroom.”

Universities Canada reports than more than 50% of undergrad students at Canadian universities now get some form of experiential learning opportunity – although this could be as simple as a few labs, or as intense as a co-op work term or study abroad experience.

The so-called “Maker movement” is taking hold on hundreds of campuses across North America. At the University of Southern California, the Iovine & Young Academy (named for the two Beats Electronics co-founders) offers space for problem-based learning, 3D printing, rapid prototyping and more. Even smaller institutions, like BC’s Douglas College, have opened MakerSpaces, sometimes in prominent public locations.

New YouTube CreatorSpaces are opening around the world, recently at Ryerson University. Workshops are open to creators with at least 1,000 channel subscribers. (We could really use your help getting to 1,000 – have you subscribed to this channel yet?)

It’s telling that a recent survey of graduating college and university students found that the 3 most important “academic activities,” in their opinion, were internships, co-ops, and work experiences.

Colleges have been experimenting with creating on-campus work opportunities like the student-managed farm at Lakeland College in Vermilion Alberta, the oldest and largest in the world. Or the campus hotel and conference centre at Olds College. Or the “Learning Enterprises” established at Niagara College, which give hundreds of students work experience and often generate a million-dollar surplus for the college to boot! At St Lawrence College, the on-campus ad agency “Spark” gives marketing students experience, and also creates videos, video games, and other digital resources for college instructors.

But we may just be streaming kids into career-directed education too young. Since 1935, Raisbeck Aviation High School, just outside Seattle, has focused students on careers in aviation from grade 9 onward. NAIT and the Edmonton School Boards have announced a new “Collegiate for Science, Technology & Trades” high school to open adjacent to the NAIT campus. Calgary’s West Island College, an independent high school, offers several “Institute” programs focused on careers in Business, Health, and Engineering.

It’s no wonder, either, that as students place more and more emphasis on work experiences, many are opting to take a “gap year” off from school to pursue employment instead. is capitalizing on this movement, offering students a self-directed gap year complete with travel, mentors, and internship for just $16,000. It’s like university, but without the classes or the grades.

Finally, just #ICYMI, we highlight a “Strive” video from Nova Scotia Community College that focuses on one student’s experiential learning journey in the Therapeutic Recreation program.

Next time, we’ll take a look at one specific form of experiential learning that seems to be in ascendance: campus incubators and accelerators. To get exclusive early access to upcoming episodes, subscribe to our free email newsletter at

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