Experiential Educator Feature

Kirk Heriot

Professor of Management
Columbus State University

What does experiential learning mean to you?

Students get out of the classroom to learn from some sort of meaningful activity. These real-life, working learning opportunities are ultimately what sets students apart in the competitive job market and allows them to succeed in whatever they set their minds to.

Why do you use experiential learning?

It puts theory into action. Students can more fully participate in the learning process rather than observing what the professor is saying or showing them. Not only does experiential learning better engage students, but also exposes them to new industries and professions. After the project is complete, students may discover their true calling, or discuss it during interviews.

Can you give us an example of a successful experiential learning engagement that you've coordinated/delivered?

Students in my small business management course complete consulting projects for small companies. In the past, I would fully-coordinate these projects by matching the companies with students. However, with increasingly larger classes and the rise of online courses, I realized this was no longer sustainable. Alternatively, my students now “pitch” themselves to a small business owner and develop a meaningful project to complete on behalf of the company. When students are given the responsibility of identifying the small business, approaching the owners, and curating the project, the outcome is a far more effective learning experience than simply assigning them to a preselected company and task.

What's the most challenging part of being an #ExperientialEducator? (coordinating/delivering an experiential learning curriculum to students)

With respect to the consulting projects, the hardest part is keeping up with 20 or more projects per semester, especially when teaching the course on-line. It has required a much greater amount of organization than when I would initiate the contact with the small business owner and assign students to complete the project on their behalf.

How do your students benefit from experiential learning?

They fully participate in learning, unlike the traditional 20th century lecture class, which involves the professor being “a sage on the stage” imparting his or her knowledge to the students. From student feedback I have learned that students feel more engaged with hands-on REAL learning!

What advice do you have for faculty and institutions considering experiential learning?

Like the Nike commercial, I would say, “Just Do it!”  You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Don’t worry about whether it works perfectly the first few times you try it.  You will learn how to do it and your students will benefit from their experiences by exploring outside out of the classroom.

What skills do your students use when engaged in experiential learning?

My students must be incredibly organized to get the work done in a 14-week semester. Critical thinking skills are also used to identify alternative courses of action, select among those alternatives, and justify that the students’ choice was the best available to the small business owner. Students must coordinate all of the communication with the business owner, who may have a very different schedule. By flipping the classroom in this way, I am encouraging students to take charge of their academic and professional journey, while equipping them with the skills to succeed in the 21st century workplace.

educator profile pic

Kirk Heriot

Professor of Management
Columbus State University
"They fully participate in learning, unlike the traditional 20th century model lecture class which involves the professor being "a sage on the stage" imparting his or her knowledge to the students."
Kirk C. Heriot is the Ray and Evelyn Crowley Endowed Chair of Entrepreneurship in the Turner College of Business at Columbus State University. He joined the faculty in 2006 after having served on the faculties at universities in SC, KY, and Pennsylvania. Kirk has published over 40 journal articles in such leading publications as the Journal of Small Business Management, Journal of Developmental Entrepreneurship, Journal of Small Business Strategy, and the Journal of Private Enterprise. His research interests focus on determinants of new venture creation, entrepreneurship education, and issues related to managing small firms. In 2008, Kirk was awarded the Faculty Research and Scholarship Award at CSU.