Experiential Learning in a COVID World

This month, LX and BYU hosted two more sessions in the BYU/LX Experiential Learning Summit Series. In our first webinar, we discussed challenges and solutions of managing learning online with two panelists- David Comisford from EduSourced and Dr. Michellana Jester from MIT. Here are the main takeaways from our conversation:

Project-Based Learning Requires Institutional Support

David Comisford kicked off our seminar this month with an in-depth look into the direction experiential learning is moving towards post-COVID. Success with these programs all comes down to institutional support. Experiential learning requires broader ownership by faculty members and departments, rather than just one professor. The institution has to take initiative into establishing continuous project sourcing in repeatable ways and record-keeping that goes beyond a grade book. Keeping records of metrics and understanding, rather than grades, is what entices new clients to be involved with the programs and what keeps students engaged. It is necessary that institutions offer support in sourcing, in creating curriculums that get multiple faculty members involved, and in adapting these programs during COVID-19.

Project-Based Learning Can Be Sustainable

The biggest fear with designing an experiential learning curriculum is that it will die out when the few faculty members it is attached to leaves. For this to be sustainable, the idea is to create a staff of people to promote experiential curriculums, like the Magelli Office of Experiential Learning within the University of Illinois Gies College of Business, where the staff has the ability to keep records and find more professors and faculty to redesign their classes. But if there is a lack of institutional support, it is imperative that programs or faculty start with grassroots project sourcing and move from the ground up with recruiting and then following through with support for faculty members through the process. With this foundation, programs will be able to offer mentorship and work with recruiting for high-value project clients- making the program sustainable and the students more actively involved.

Project-Based Learning Needs to Be Adapted for Online

Dr. Michellana Jester sparked some great discussion from the experiences she shared about converting her courses at MIT to online this fall. It was very clear in the first month of remote learning that she could not just put the normally in-person class online, she would have to readapt them. Redesigning a project-based curriculum is a challenge, but Dr. Jester found that there are three key steps to a successful online program. The first step is to re-identify course learning objectives and outcomes and to communicate those throughout the course- this may include rescoping the project but it will meet the students where they are at, rather than expecting them to proceed as if everything is the way it was last fall. The second step is to incorporate emotions and opportunities for reflection, even scheduling coffee chats with the teams to check in on their wellbeing and make any necessary adjustments. The last step for an online program is always to evaluate the knowledge, behaviors, and attitudes of the students and teams to assess what can and should be reworked for future courses.


Our next webinars in the BYU/LX Experiential Learning Summit Series will take place on November 13th at where we discuss how faculty can demonstrate the value of their experiential learning efforts, how to gain internal buy-in from key stakeholders and research opportunities for experiential learning in any discipline. Registration links can be found at https://experience.byu.edu/experiential-learning-summit-2020

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