Experiential learning (EL) aims to help students develop knowledge, skills, and values by engaging in authentic practice and reflecting upon their experiences in focused and guided ways. EL can happen in on-campus and off-campus settings, and can consist of both credit and non-credit learning opportunities. EL can comprise all or part of a course, or an entire program of study. Understanding what experiential learning (EL) is and how it differs from other forms of instruction can help you to determine whether experiential learning would benefit your students or your organization. This module discusses definitions of EL, key characteristics and different forms of EL.

This module has been designed for Faculty and Academic Leaders.

What is experiential education?

Examples and Artifacts

list Benefits of EL
In their report, “Experiential Education: A Path Toward Improving the Student Experience”, the Provost’s Task Force on Experiential Learning at the University of Windsor characterized the benefits for students, faculty/institution, and employers/community partners.

External Links

link Principles of Experiential Education
From the open textbook "Learning by Doing: Post-Secondary Experiential Education", this chapter summarizes some of the foundational principles of experiential education.

document Guiding Principles for EL
Guidelines published by Government of Ontario, Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development, 2017. This document provides the background on and an explanation of the Ministry's EL principles.

link Eight Principles of Good Practice for All Experiential Learning Activities
The National Society for Experiential Education has published a set of principles for EL activities.

activity How do you define the key principles of EL?

What are the defining characteristics of experiential learning?

Examples and Artifacts

table Characteristics of EL
This table summarizes some of the key characteristics that should be present in order to define an activity or method as experiential in the post-secondary context. Of these characteristics, many are at least partially facilitated and supported by employers and community partners.

External Resources

link What is Experiential Education?
This website from the Association for Experiential Education lists key principles of experiential education.

What are the different forms of experiential education?

Examples and Artifacts

list Typologies of EL

There are many forms of experiential education that can contribute effectively to student learning within diverse programs of study. Understanding the commonalities and distinctions across the types of experiential education is essential to determining which form is best suited to purpose and can contribute best to the student experience.

quiz Typologies Quiz

Would you like to complete a quick, ungraded quiz to check your knowledge of typologies of experiential education?

Planning and development worksheet

This worksheet can be completed online or exported so you can continue work on it. Note that If you advance another module or visit another site, your work will not be saved. Be sure to export your document before continuing.

Recommended next module:

Faculty and Academic Leaders: Planning and Preparation for Effectively Integrating EL in Curriculum