Experiential Learning & Team-Based Technological Innovation

Streamed Session

Brief Abstract

Our project involved an interdisciplinary team, technological development, and experiential learning.  We created a system, AccessCyber, to amplify experiential learning and curriculum access. Our work was supported by the [information redacted for anonymized review].


Stephanie J. Blackmon, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor of Higher Education in the William & Mary School of Education. Her research area is teaching and learning, with a current emphasis on technology integration in various higher education, professional development, and adult learning contexts. She has conducted studies on instructors’ and students’ experiences with three dimensional virtual worlds, massive open online courses (MOOCs), and various learning management systems (traditional and non-traditional).

Extended Abstract

Experiential learning opportunities offer students the chance to get hands-on practice in areas of professional interest, and experiential learning curriculum provides support for instructors who are looking to incorporate experiential learning into their classrooms. Experiential learning is an important element of both higher education and career/workforce development (Merriam & Bierema, 2014), and understanding how students access experiential learning opportunities, as well as how instructors access experiential learning course support, are incredibly valuable endeavors. We were especially interested in how instructors and undergraduate and graduate students accessed experiential learning opportunities and curriculum respectively in our state. We also wanted to understand how learning about the experiential learning access process in our state could impact other locations across the United States. Therefore, as a faculty member in education, a faculty member in law, and a university information technology (IT) administrator, we decided to develop a system that could better assess how experiential learning and curriculum were shared across our state. Because we are also committed to supporting students in experiential learning opportunities, we included a doctoral student in education, a law student, a master’s student in cybersecurity, and a business analytics master’s student as a part of our team.

This presentation will focus on our interdisciplinary team’s work to create a system called AccessCyber. More specifically, our presentation will focus on the experiential learning aspects of our interdisciplinary team from two perspectives: the faculty who created the experiential learning opportunity and a few of the students who participated in the experiential learning opportunity.  The goal of AccessCyber was to amplify access to experiential learning and curriculum opportunities both through the system itself and through the interdisciplinary process we used to create the system. To accomplish that goal, we used the “Privacy by Design” framework (Cavoukian, 2011) to guide the development of the AccessCyber website and divided the work into three teams: technology, research, and law. The teams worked independently in discipline-specific groups and collectively as a full group.

The technology team was responsible for researching platforms and piloting them in order to determine the right one for the AccessCyber site. The team included a School of  Education professor, an IT administrator, a second-year master’s student in cybersecurity, and a second-year master’s student in business analytics. The education professor and the IT administrator designed tasks for the students so they could gain the experience of making decisions related to technological design such as user experience, inclusion, data security, and data privacy. The team had bi-weekly meetings to discuss each student’s progress, and during the weeks where those meetings did not occur, the full AccessCyber team—technology, research, and law—would meet to discuss each team’s progress and learn about information from one team that could impact the work of another team. For example, when the technology team selected a platform, the student members of the team shared this information at the full group meetings. This permitted a space for input from the research and law teams to be integrated in next steps, and for the technology team to shape the work of the research and law teams. The students were treated as members of a technology team with specific responsibilities and deliverables, just as they would have if they worked for a technology company.

The research team conducted qualitative research to learn more about how experiential learning opportunities are shared and accessed, with a specific focus on a state-wide department for research, innovation, and workforce development of cybersecurity. The research team included an education professor and a first-year education doctoral student with an interest in qualitative research and higher education marketing. The education professor introduced the doctoral student to the qualitative research methodology they would be using for data collection and analysis on the project, and together they determined the research questions, designed an interview protocol and an open-ended survey for data collection, and received approval from the university's Institutional Review Board. The team conducted interviews with administrators responsible for experiential learning and gathered open-ended survey data from students in two phases: before the design phase to inform the development of the AccessCyber site and after the site was designed to learn more about how or if they would use the system to access experiential learning materials. After guidance from the education professor, the graduate education student led the interview data collection phase of the project, just as the student would have done as an independent researcher or as a part of a company’s marketing or user experience group.  The topics of the research team’s weekly meetings included, but were not limited to, review of the research process and results, transcriptions, the coding process, and the discussion for the plan of the following procedure. Results from the team’s work impacted the work for the other teams.

The development of the pilot website required considerations of possible legal implications. The legal team, a Law School professor and a second-year law student, worked on these. At the conference, the legal team will share how they worked (i) within their team and (ii) alongside the other teams. This is important because at the core of interdisciplinary research and work is the ability to learn to communicate complex issues in one domain to other domain specialists.

The legal team’s work was modeled on a lean organization: to avoid duplication the law student worked as a junior lawyer, while the professor acted as the supervisor. During their fortnightly meetings, the legal team reviewed the output of their legal research, and discussed how to present the findings to the others. 

The legal team will present two of its major learning outcomes. The first was to shape the design of the pilot website through Privacy by Design (Cavoukian, 2011). This conceptual framework encourages developers, business leaders and legal experts to place data protection at the core of any technological development. The second was to conduct an overview of the legal framework that applies to the collection, process and retention of student data. This included drafting the privacy notice required when AccessCyber becomes public. While in a meeting with the research team, it became clear that the legal jargon of the notice, although legally accurate, was likely to be relatively inaccessible to the pilot website’s users.  Therefore, a “plain language” version of the notice was drafted to make the content more accessible to users. 

Our presentation will discuss the work of each team and how the interplay of discipline-specific and interdisciplinary work strengthened this experiential learning opportunity for students and for the project. 

For interactivity between our group and the audience, we plan to find out if audience members have participated in or offered experiential learning opportunities. We would like to present virtually and use the microphone or chat function of a presentation platform to get feedback from audience members. We will then use that information to segue into the key components of our presentation. Our plan is to have interactivity throughout by engaging the audience with topic-specific questions, and we plan to have formal Q&A at the end of the formal presentation.

By attending our session, attendees will learn more about graduate students’ experiences with experiential learning in technology, the experiences of faculty who offered experiential learning opportunities, and the successful experiential learning opportunity that we designed as a result of combining experiential learning and interdisciplinary teams with technological development.


Cavoukian, A. (2011). Privacy by design. Information and Privacy Commisioner of Ontario. Retreived from http://www.privacybydesign.ca

Merriam, S. B., & Bierema, L. L. (2014). Adult learning: Linking theory and practice. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.