Experiential Education in a Pandemic

Many traditional forms of experiential education place an emphasis on in-person, hands-on, and place-based experiences. Consequently, the COVID-19 pandemic has been particularly disruptive for many experiential education practices. Great creativity and flexibility is required to continue to provide meaningful experiences which support students in reaching their educational goals. Here are some things to consider as you redesign your practices:

  • Start at the end. What are the most essential things your students must accomplish/master/learn in your course or program? Focus on what is really essential, and then consider how students can get there, even if the path is different from before.
  • Make adjustments along two dimensions (see graphic below): online/in-person and partner involvement.
    • Online vs. in-person: Consider which aspects of your course or program can be effective online. Use in-person time judiciously, staying focused on those experiences which really benefit from physical presence.
    • Partner involvement: Experiential education often involves partners from beyond campus. These include the school district and cooperating teacher in a student teaching placement, the community organization served in a service-learning project, the industry partner whose needs inform a senior design project, and so on. Like us, these partners are also experiencing new challenges and limitations due to the pandemic. Consult with your partners to learn how their involvement might be affected by COVID-19. Consider whether the form or frequency of the involvement needs to change. Could the partner involvement become remote/virtual? Would an on-campus partner be a way to limit risk or burden? If needed, how could your course or program function without partner involvement?

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