The Design and Formative Evaluation of Experiential Learning Activities in an Online Masters Course

Concurrent Session 5

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

Experiential learning (EL) opportunities such as internships, co-ops, and project-based courses help students gain real-world experiences in their profession. However, most of the research has focused on how to design and deliver EL for undergraduates in a face-to-face environment. We will share our approach to the design of EL activities in an online masters project management course. We hope to engage conference participants in an interactive discussion about the merits and applications of EL. 


Marti Snyder is an associate professor in the Department of Information Systems and Cybersecurity in the College of Engineering at Nova Southeastern University. Marti teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in learning design and technology, design thinking, project management, and computing privacy and ethics. She also chairs doctoral student dissertations. Marti researches effective designs for teaching and learning in blended, online, mobile, and virtual learning environments; socially conscious design; and issues relating to technology use among older adults. Her work crosses multiple disciplines including education, engineering, information systems, and health professions. Marti has published articles in national and international journals and is an active reviewer for journals and conferences in her field. Her current research focuses on use of remote monitoring technologies by informal caregivers as well as effective instructional designs for blended learning, simulations, and mixed-reality. For more information visit:

Extended Abstract

Grounded in the early works of Dewey, Lewin, and Piaget, experiential learning (EL) serves as a foundation for lifelong learning and the development of the whole self as a citizen, family member and human being (Kolb, 2015). Efforts to develop experiences to prepare students for professional careers are not new and experiences such as internships, co-ops, study abroad, service learning, and project-based courses are common among traditional undergraduate education to help students gain real-world experiences in their profession (Jacoby, 2015; Monroe, et al., 2006; Pollard, 2012). However, most of the research has focused on how to design and deliver EL for undergraduates in a face-to-face environment. Fewer studies have offered guidance on how to implement EL with graduate students in online and networked learning environments (Campbell, 2016; Strait & Sauer, 2004).

The goal of this presentation is to describe how EL activities benefit graduate students, in particular, share how we are implementing EL activities in an online masters project management course, and discuss next steps in terms of further developing guidelines for the design of online graduate EL courses that are effective, efficient, and appealing (Reigeluth & Frick, 1999).

First, we will describe the context by providing an overview of our university’s experiential education and learning (ExEL) framework including curricular and co-curricular opportunities.  Second, we will address the unique characteristics of our undergraduate and graduate populations and the implications for the design of EL. Third, we will present how we designed, developed, and implemented EL activities in an online graduate project management course that was delivered during the Summer 2017 term. Finally, we will share the professor’s reflection of the course including what worked, what didn’t work, and what improvements can be made as well as our next steps in the formative evaluation process (Schön, 1983; Reigeluth & Frick, 1999).

Our presentation will run about 25-30 minutes. We want to allow ample time (at least 15-20 minutes) for interaction and discussion with participants about the merits and applications of EL in various contexts and disciplines. In addition to responding to questions relating to our work, we would also like to learn how participants might be using EL within their organizations. Why are they using EL? At what levels are they implementing EL and how (i.e., undergraduate, graduate, on campus, online, blended)? In what disciplines are they using EL? What types of EL activities work for them? What lessons have they learned? How are they assessing EL activities? If they are not currently using EL, how might they take what they have learned in the presentation and apply it to their environment? Depending on the size of the group, we will determine whether to facilitate questions and discussion in small groups or all of the participants together.


Campbell, G. (2016, January/February). Networked learning as experiential learning. Educause Review, 70-71.

Jacoby, B. (2015). Service-learning essentials: Questions, answers, and lessons learned. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Kolb, D.A. (2015). Experiential learning: Experience as the source of learning and development. (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ. Pearson Education, Inc.

Monroe, W.T., Mailander, M. & Lima, M. (2006). Focus on experiential education: A freshman engineering program in biological engineering. International Journal of Engineering Education, 22(6), 1129-1138.

Pollard, C.E. (2012). Lessons learned from client projects in an undergraduate project management course. Journal of Information Systems Education, 23(3), 271-282.

Reigeluth, C. M., & Frick, T. W. (1999). Formative research: A methodology for creating and improving design theories. In C. M. Reigeluth (Ed.), Instructional-design theories and models, Volume II: A new paradigm of instructional theory (pp. 633-651). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Schön, D. (1983). The reflective practitioner: How professionals think in action (1st ed.). Basic Book, Inc.

Strait, J. & Sauer, T. (2004). Constructing experiential learning for online courses: The birth of E-service. Educause Quarterly, 62-65.