A Virtual Career Preparation Program: Exploring Experiential Learning for Online Students

Concurrent Session 4

Brief Abstract

The objective of this presentation is to introduce a program which provides students with access to engage in virtual career preparation experiential learning opportunities.


Jasmine Darnell is a higher education program developer, an instructor, and an international organizational development consultant. Over the past 13 years, she has served as director of administration and program director in the non-profit sector and has worked in local government, while holding leadership positions in community organizations. She is the co-founder and current board chair of a non-profit, achieving 90% high school graduation and 80% college acceptance rates for underprivileged youth. She has presented her research and is passionately investigating academic, behavioral and social barriers to student success, virtual experiential learning, and entrepreneurial followership. Jasmine has a B.S. in Human Services from Springfield College, a MBA in Organizational Leadership from Point Loma Nazarene University, and is a current doctoral student in Organizational Leadership at Pepperdine University.

Extended Abstract

Presentation Goals:

After participating in this presentation, the attendee will be able to:

1. List two reasons why practical opportunities to develop skills and gain direct experience is important for students interested in a career in higher education.
2. Describe three ways in which students can gain higher education experiential learning in the online classroom if a program were implemented.
3. Summarize in writing or conversation their thoughts about co-curricular experiential learning activities in the online classroom.

Presentation Description:

This presentation seeks to resolve the following problem: colleges and universities have left employers concerned with the educational systems' ability to provide online students with real world experience for practical workforce application (Allen & Seaman, 2014). In a recent study conducted by the Babson Survey Research Group, survey results indicated that, "Academic leaders selected "Workforce development / Gainful employment" second most often, with 20.4% picking it as the most important factor and 64.4% as one of their top three factors" (Allen & Seaman, 2014, p. 37). This is not a novice notion, as career preparation is uncommon at universities where online learning is the primary modality of instruction (Heckman, ÿsterlund, & Saltz, 2015). Institutions of higher education prepare students to apply knowledge to various positions across different disciplines, but do not afford students the opportunity to gain real world practice, which has been determined by employers as a top desired behavior for students to gain experience and become career ready (Benson, Johnson, Taylor, Treat, Shinkareva, & Duncan, 2004).

Traditional brick and mortar institutions, have struggled for many years to produce the next generation of quality future faculty in the higher education industry (Bogle, Blondin, Miller, & the PFF Staff, 1997). In 1993, the Council of Graduate Schools (CGS) and the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) partnered together to launch the Preparing Future Faculty (PFF) program. This program prepares campus graduate students interested in embarking upon a career in higher education with concrete experience in the higher education field, while simultaneously completing a graduate degree. The experiences typically include acquiring skills in teaching, researching, presenting, lecturing, and/or publishing (Bogle, Blondin, Miller, & the PFF Staff, 1997). The PFF program has found success with providing experiential learning opportunities to students in order to increase their readiness for a career in higher education (Bogle, Blondin, Miller, & the PFF Staff, 1997).

This presentation seeks to utilize the framework of experiential learning activities utilized in the PFF program and incorporate them into the online learning environment for virtual students. Upon completion of an online degree program, students enter into the fierce and competitive job market with little to no experience in their respective industry (Heckman, ÿsterlund, & Saltz, 2015). The same is true for the higher education industry, as the field is steadily becoming more and more competitive annually (Duderstadt, 2001). Therefore, this presentation will explore the concept of piloting a seven step virtual internship program, which incorporates the 3-tired experiential learning model in the areas of teaching, research and service, and career development, as "there is real-world, applied knowledge acquired through an experiential learning process" (Hansen, 2008, p. 95).

The virtual internship program uses Kolb's Experiential Learning Theory to combine his Experiential Learning Cycle with applied higher education career experiences for graduate students enrolled in a hybrid doctoral program. Kolb asserts that, "learning is the process whereby knowledge is created through the transformation of experience" (Kolb, 1984, p. 38). Thus, the pilot internship program will provide graduate students with palpable experience in the higher education industry in the areas of teaching, research, presenting, and publishing. In conclusion, this pilot will answer two questions: (1) Is a graduate internship model sustainable and desired in the online environment? (2) Will virtual teaching, researching, presenting, and lecturing experiential learning opportunities better prepare students to enter a career in higher education?


Allen, I. E., & Seaman, J. (2014). Grade change: Tracking online education in the United States. Babson Park, MA: Babson Survey Research Group and Quahog Research Group. Retrieved from http://www.onlinelearningsurvey.com/reports/ gradechange.pdf.

Benson A. D., Johnson S. D., Taylor G. D., Treat T., Shinkareva O. N., & Duncan J. (2004). Distance learning in postsecondary career and technical education: A comparison of achievement in online vs. on-campus CTE courses. National Research Center for Career and Technical Education. St. Paul, MN.

Bogle, E., Blondin, J.A, Miller, J. L., & the PFF Staff. 1997. Memo to graduate students: Preparing to be the faculty of the future. Number 5. Washington, D.C.: Association of American Colleges and Universities.

Duderstadt, J. J. (2001). Preparing Future Faculty for Future Universities. Liberal Education, 87(2), p. 24-31.

Hansen, D.E. (2008). Knowledge transfer in online learning environments. Journal of Marketing Education, 30 (2), pp. 93-105. doi: 10.1177/0273475308317702.

Heckman, R., ÿsterlund, C., & Saltz, J. (2015). Blended Learning at the Boundary: Designing a New Internship. Online Learning Journal, 19(3). Retrieved from http://olj.onlinelearningconsortium.org/index.php/olj/article/view/671.