Beyond the Books: Incorporating Experiential Learning in Curriculum

Beyond the Books: Incorporating Experiential Learning in Curriculum

A student’s curriculum is often complex and extensive, yet it leaves a lot to self-education. Think of summer reading lists and voluntary projects. If you are truly excited by your major, you might feel disappointed that many topics are not included in the basic curriculum.

But the good news is, you can explore them on your own. The problem, however, is usually in finding the time for it. 

In this article, we will explore how to balance your standard higher ed with experiential learning. If your school curriculum leaves many gaps behind, keep on reading to learn how you can apply experiential learning practices in your self-education.

What Is Experiential Learning?

What Is Experiential Learning?

As the name suggests, experiential learning is learning by doing. Unfortunately, not many colleges and universities apply these practices to students’ daily education. However, you can practice it yourself, in your spare time! You just have to find the time for it. A good option is to use for research, writing and polishing. Then, you can use the saved time for hands-on learning.

Let’s now dive into practical examples of experiential learning that you can incorporate into your daily life.

Community Service and Volunteering

You don’t have to be a convict to join a community service program. In fact, community service is the same as volunteering, as you do some good for your community. For example:

  • Clean up your neighborhood
  • Collect school supplies
  • Volunteer at a food bank
  • Care for an animal shelter
  • Host charity events
  • Coach a sports team
  • Set up daycare or tutoring services for underprivileged children 

There are plenty of options for volunteer work. If you’re in a social studies program, you can work with homeless or underprivileged people. If you are studying education, volunteer at schools or kindergartens. You can take an issue you care about and host a charity event for it. 

Look for community service opportunities in local government offices, volunteer centers, and religious and non-profit organizations. They will be happy to see a new face!

It’s a great learning opportunity; you can go way ahead of your curriculum if you network with professionals in the field. You can even ground academic papers on that experience. Besides, it will look very good on your resume. 



Internships, on the other hand, maybe more intense. Due to the nature of volunteering, you can come any time and leave as you please. Hence, it will not interfere with your studies. An internship is more like having a job but without the money aspect. Some internships may be paid, but the general consensus is that you get paid in experience. 

To find one, look at job search sites. Your college may have ties with local businesses, but the competition will probably be cutthroat. Still, it’s still worth visiting your school’s career services office to see if there are any openings. Look at your local businesses’ websites and apply if they have an opening. Search through LinkedIn and social media, too. 

Study Abroad

Study abroad programs are greatly beneficial and are often life-changing for those who participate. Students are fully immersed in a new culture and language. That gives them more opportunities for personal and intellectual growth, helps improve cultural awareness and helps them discover any personal biases. Participating in such a program can teach you to value diversity and inclusivity.

In terms of the curriculum, these programs often include more hands-on approaches. For example, they usually feature more fieldwork and research projects, narrower topics and more exposure. Besides, you get networking opportunities that you could never think of while staying home. You could connect with other students as well as professors and scientists during the program.

Depending on the field, you may receive unique opportunities. If you’re studying archeology or history, you could visit an archeological research site. Marine biology students who live in a landlocked environment could benefit from a study abroad program in the coastal area. 

Online Courses and Workshops

Online Courses and Workshops

One of the easiest ways to get hands-on experience while studying is to take an online course. Most courses are self-paced, so they will not interfere with your studies. If you study graphic design, coding, or even cooking, you could enroll in an online course to deepen your knowledge and gain some practical skills. 

If you follow influencers in your area of expertise, keep on the lookout for workshops and events they may offer. They will probably come with a price, but it’s a sure way to learn from someone who has more experience than you, works in the field and is probably younger than your professor. Just run a background check on them to ensure they are not just a media facade with no real knowledge because that happens, too.

What’s also great about online courses is that many of them are free of charge. Some of the most popular platforms that offer free courses are as follows: 

  • Coursera
  • edX
  • Khan Academy
  • MIT OpenCourseWare
  • Stanford Online
  • Harvard Online Learning
  • Udemy
  • Google Digital Garage

Independent Projects

Independent Projects

Organizing your own project from start to finish can give you loads of practical knowledge. You could even write your thesis on that experience. If you are studying tourism, you could organize city tours.

If you’re studying management, that’s even better. Then, you could launch a project you are interested in and run it from start to finish. Challenge yourself and see if you can do it all on your own! 

Sure, it won’t be easy, especially with other academic commitments on your plate. You might consider doing an ambitious project like that over the summer, so you’ll have more time. Think about also documenting your process on social media. You can capture valuable moments and experiences while also finding like-minded people – and possibly even funding for your project.

Wrapping Up

Experiential learning is an amazing concept that is, unfortunately, not so often used by educators in schools. However, you can turn things around by using these practices in your extracurricular education. College and uni curricula are often dated, so there isn’t much for one to do except learn on their own.

Volunteering and internships can give you a sense of what it’s like to work for someone without a full-time commitment. Starting an independent project or serving the community will show you what it’s like to work for yourself. And participating in a study abroad program or taking an online course can allow you to expand and deepen your theoretical knowledge while gaining practical experience.

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