The “Experiential Institution”

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Written by Jordan Levy

In today’s rapidly evolving professional work environment, traditional educational institutions around the globe are beginning to embrace innovative teaching approaches designed to help bridge the gap between academia and industry in order to ensure they stay ahead of competitors by more successfully preparing students for their careers.


CapSource, a leading platform for experiential learning management, is one of many outfits working to catalyze this educational revolution, offering a transformative ecosystem that is designed to help students connect and collaborate with industry leaders by leveraging our experiential learning management system to coordinate, manage, track, and scale project-based, case-based, and mentoring-based learning experiences. 


Through this thought leadership piece, we hope to encourage academic leaders from across the entire organization to think about how experiential learning is incorporated into the mission, vision, and ongoing strategy of their organization and the programs they support. 


What is Experiential Learning?


At the core, experiential learning creates “reference-worthy experience,” meaning students who complete these types of formative, hands-on learning experiences can often reflect on (and showcase!) their experiences as they seek out career opportunities that almost always require previous relevant “experience.” 


Experiential learning connects theory with practice by allowing students to apply their knowledge to real-world situations. Through project-based, case-based, and mentoring-based learning, students can network, build relationships, and learn more deeply about their chosen field. Each time a student gets a properly designed hands-on learning experience, it greatly and measurably enhances both the soft and technical skills related to their career interests. 


In order to best serve educational institutions over the long term, CapSource began to explore the immense variety of experiential learning techniques that are often offered, with a goal of making each of them more effective and turn-key to design, manage, track, and scale through our platform…


Types of Modern Experiential Learning


  • Synchronous Projects (Eg: Capstones, Co-Ops, Clinical Placements, Field Studies, Live Case Studies, Practicums, Case Competitions, Internships, Micro Internships, Work Studies, Externships, Volunteering, Civic Engagement, Service Learning, Community Service, Independent Research)

  • Asynchronous Projects (Eg: Case Studies, Simulations)

  • Experiences Abroad (Eg: Study Abroad, International Internships, Exchange Programs)

  • Entrepreneurship & Creative Works

  • Mentoring Experiences

  • Guest Lecture Experiences

  • Industry Site Visits & Field Trips

  • Networking Events & Career Fairs

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The “Experiential Institution”


Of course, those who are in the position of implementing the above types of programs are most relevant when it comes to playing a role in the experiential institution. They often are responsible themselves for recruiting partners, designing appropriate projects, tracking project progress, providing guidance and mentorship, managing partner relationships, and evaluating learning outcomes. Yes – that’s a lot of work! 


But in order to build highly valuable and competitive experiential learning programs, program creators need support. That network of support, with the goal and intention of encouraging peers to move from traditional course structures to experiential course structures is what ultimately creates the foreground for the “experiential institution”


An experiential institution is an interconnected, interdisciplinary ecosystem that consistently and robustly offers varietal reference-worthy learning opportunities to all students of all studies. 


Think about who benefits from a typical Capstone program. Not only are students getting practical, hands-on experience solving real challenges for industry professionals, but educators are getting a chance to network, connect their theories to practice, and boost their own skills related to relationship development, critical thinking, and project management. This is an incredible opportunity for educators to elevate student engagement as the approach moves away from passive listening and encourages students to participate, ask questions, and apply their knowledge to real-world situations. As a result, educators experience higher levels of student engagement and interaction in the classroom and can actively measure their teaching effectiveness and student learning outcomes as they demonstrate increased comprehension and mastery of core curricular concepts.


There are many benefits for alumni and other industry leaders to engage with students and academic institutions. The key to creating a highly successful experiential institution is to ensure that there is alignment on the great deal of benefits there are for the institution if you decide to orient yourself in a way that best serves your industry network, local community, and students.


Regardless of your role at an institution, it’s worth spending some time considering the ways you can fuel experiential learning, especially if you care about the longevity, brand recognition, and fruitfulness of your institution. 


We hope this article motivates you to consider yourself an integral part of making experiential learning happening for your students and colleagues alike. Stay tuned for our article coming out next week designed to highlight the future of different key roles within an institution in order to ensure scalable, quality experiential learning for the whole community. 


Please join the conversation:  We would love your input! What are your experiences, challenges, and goals? Join us over the next few weeks in this blog as we explore these points and share experiences and perspectives from participants or register today and begin exploring CapSource’s free version to get started.