Experiential Learning at the University of Guelph

What is Experiential Learning?

At the University of Guelph, we define experiential learning as a pedagogical practice whereby students gain new knowledge, skills and abilities by intentionally applying their classroom learning in a workplace or simulated workplace setting. Experiential learning opportunities are grounded in an intentional learning cycle with clearly defined learning outcomes. They engage students actively in creating knowledge and critically reflecting on their experiences, fostering a deeper understanding of how they can utilize what they have learned and the skills they have developed in future endeavours. 

Benefits

Participating in experiential learning activities can have a positive impact on students' academic and professional careers. Benefits include: 

  • Development and strengthening of skills (soft and technical) demanded by employers.

  • Establishment of professional networks.

  • Opportunities to explore career options and/or confirm career direction.

  • Application of theory in real-world contexts, while gaining new insights into course material.

  • Participation in self-directed learning opportunities.

  • Acquire new knowledge and concrete experience - assets when pursuing future employment.  

View our Experience Profiles to read what students, faculty and partners have to say about the benefits of experiential learning. 

Criteria

The Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities (MTCU) has identified six criteria that must be met in order for an activity to be considered EL[1]:

  1. The student must be in a workplace or a simulated workplace[2].
  2. The student must be exposed to authentic demands[3] that improve their employability, interpersonal skills, and transition to the workforce.
  3. The experience should be structured with purposeful and meaningful activities.
  4. The student must apply university or college program knowledge and/or essential employability skills[4].
  5. The experience should include student self-assessment and evaluation of the students’ performance and learning outcomes by the employer and/or university/college.
  6. The experience should count towards course credit or credential completion, or be formally recognized by the college or university as meeting the five criteria above 

[1] Alongside the above-mentioned criteria, the (EL) environment must be accessible and in compliance with all laws and regulations.

[2] “Simulated workplace” is defined as a learning environment that models or emulates a professional workplace in function, equipment or operation, wherein a student engages in activities reflecting real work experience.

[3] “Authentic demands” are defined as work contexts, processes or practical experiences, with real-world application.

[4] The Skill Development Through Experiential Learning working group is currently aligning University of Guelph Learning Outcomes with essential employability skills, to which all experiential learning activities will be mapped.

Experience Profiles

  • Alyssa graduated from University of Guelph having engaged in course-integrated experiential learning in the curriculum. Outside the classroom, she worked for Student Housing Services, the work study program and held an undergraduate research assistant position.