Place-based Experiential Learning in Asynchronous Online Courses

Concurrent Session 2

Brief Abstract

Can students have place-based learning experiences when they are online and asynchronous? When they don’t share a place at all? It’s not just possible, it’s more effective than in a traditional shared classroom. Discover course design approaches that get students away from their computers and into their own diverse communities.

Extended Abstract

All the way back to John Dewey we have accepted that hands-on experiences are critical to transformative, transferable learning. A sense of community, connection to place, and involvement in meaningful activities are key to student persistence, satisfaction and success. Yet we operate from the unconscious paradigm that online students do all their learning at a computer screen. We accept that discussion boards constitute community. We can do so much better.  In fact, online courses can do place-based experiential learning better than any other delivery method. 

Online classes can provide better, richer experiences than traditional in-person classes.  When students’ worlds are diverse and distinct from each other, their resources varied, and their means of accomplishing the assignment different, then the debrief, the collaboration, the engagement with their learning community is broader, deeper, more eye-opening; exposing all the students to a bigger world than they would find on their own. 

When student work is connected to and impacts the place where they live and work and play, then intrinsic motivation skyrockets. Students are driven toward program completion because the impacts of their learning are personal and immediately tangible. 

What about the student who doesn’t have access to resources needed for an assignment? What if a student’s “place” is lacking? Hardly seems equitable when another student’s place is abundant in possible resources, any one of which could be chosen for the assignment.  That diversity of place is the very element that advances place-based learning online to a plane that a traditional classroom cannot reach. The lack of resources in a place, and the disparity between places, is the real-life experiential element that cannot be simulated. 

As a participant in this session you will discover types of course activities that get your online students away from their computers and into their physical communities. Learn how to help your students identify and connect with community resources, and what to do when they just don’t exist. Explore ways to facilitate student sharing, even asynchronously, so that all students benefit from the diversity of place represented in your class. 

Leave the session with guiding principles and essential questions to incorporate place-based experiential learning regardless of your discipline, and across disciplines.