View of Calgary skyline

What is experiential learning?

Honing my skills, building connections and developing self-confidence through these opportunities has helped me find my “why.” I am a helper, a people person, a student, a learner, a peer and an educator.

Helen Pethrick

BHSc'19, BA'19, MA'21

Students talking together

Experiential learning meets a growing need

Experiential-learning (EL) opportunities support students in discovering their sense of purpose, improving their civic consciousness and employability, and preparing them for leadership roles in their communities and organizations.

In recent years, governments have explored the potential of EL to reduce the shortage of skilled graduates and disruption in the workforce due to automation in our knowledge-driven technology economy.

Types of experiential learning

EL often — but not always — takes learners outside of the classroom. It includes internships, field studies, co-ops, laboratories, creative performances, simulations, capstone projects, practicums, undergraduate research and many others.

Students find these types of learning experiences to be deeply engaging and relevant to their future career paths and personal interests. They solve problems and work on projects that resonate with them and they are then able to carry their learning forward and reapply it in different settings.

Students working in the maker lab in TFDL

What are the benefits?

Experiential learning benefits students

Through evaluation, students have found these types of learning experiences relevant, useful and deeply meaningful. Experiences have helped students in charting their degree path and connecting them to mentors and job opportunities. 

Experiential learning benefits faculty

EL offers faculty and staff the opportunity to more effectively contribute to their students’ career path and the ability to design new and vital programs that have global relevance and great importance to our communities. 

Experiential learning benefits community and industry

EL creates opportunities for community organizations and employers to leverage student ideas as you grapple with challenges, address short-term vacancies and build pathways for hiring future talent.  

Students in concussion lab

Why should post-secondary institutions be doing more experiential learning?

Our complex and changing world requires graduates to have advanced skills in research, entrepreneurial thinking, collaboration and communication. Through engaging in more EL, post-secondary institutions and governments are addressing the shortage of skilled graduates and disruption in the workforce due to automation in a rapidly evolving economy.  

At the University of Calgary, it is critical that our programs integrate hands-on experience with academic study, so that our students are well-equipped as future leaders in industry, government and non-profit.  

We need to support the development of more future-ready, highly skilled graduates who will leave university as active citizens ready to drive positive change in the organizations and communities they belong to and serve.