Online Teaching and Learning

32 Experiential Learning Activities

Jennifer Smith

What is Experiential Learning? | Examples | References

What is Experiential Learning?

When it comes to learning new things, there is nothing like first-hand experience. However, it can be a challenge to fit activities that support experience into a semester-based class schedule. Jennifer Smith provides an Overview of Experiential Learning Frameworks (16:28)

What IS Experiential Learning?
“Learning in which the learner is directly in touch with the realities being studied. It is contrasted with learning in which the learner only reads about, hears about, talks about, or writes about these realities but never comes into contact with them as part of the learning process” (Keeton & Tate, 1978).
Four stages of a learning cycle
Alice and David Kolb suggest an adaptable framework involving experience, reflection, abstract thinking as well as an active experimentation component (Kolb & Kolb, 2018).

Alice and David Kolb (Kolb & Kolb, 2018) suggest that a four stage learning cycle can be useful in developing experiential learning activities. Activities that promote curiosity and problem solving can have a big impact. This framework is not intended to be proscriptive, but rather to suggest the need for multiple modes of learning.

Colin Beard (2010) suggests six “dimensions” of learning that can help instructors think creatively about how course concepts may be explored. Beard proposes these dimensions to, “begin the deeper understanding of the complexity of the interrelatedness of whole-person approaches to experiential learning.” (Beard, 2010).

  1. Belonging: Focus on the “where”
    1. How do we relate to physical space?
    2. How can visual and spatial thinking provide a learning map?
  2. Doing: Focus on the “what”
    1. Problem-based learning
    2. Learning about people
    3. Interacting with objects, technology, or other physical works
  3. Sensing: Focus on the “how”
    1. Consider experiences
    2. Senses support memory
  4. Feeling: Focus on the “emotions”
    1. Reflecting
    2. Metaphors can help explore emotional connection
  5. Knowing: Focus on the “mind”
    1. Innovating and creating
    2. Moving from concrete to abstract
    3. Linking kinesthetic and special awareness to mind, body, and voice
  6. Being: Focus on “awareness” and “change”
    1. Stories
    2. Reflecting
    3. Service learning


The frameworks described above are not intended to be hard and fast rules guiding education-driven experiences. However, the following suggestions are good practice for getting the biggest bang for the time spent (Hart, 2019):

  1. Provide some student choice
  2. Opportunities to discuss and reflect
  3. Includes senses and emotions (whole person)
  4. Create a final project or work

Learning experiences can become even more important when shifting to remote teaching and learning. Active engagement can help to reduce feelings of isolation and foster a sense of community.

  1. Keep in mind that online does not necessarily mean on a computer.
  2. Ask for help from an Instructional Designer to identify tools and resources to support your activity.
  3. Observational activities can incorporate publicly available media and data as will as library resources. (Ask for help from your UF Subject Specialist Librarian!)
  4. Consider non-traditional ways for student to share their experience such as videos, podcasts, or blog posts.
  5. Tie the experience back into the overall course goals by guiding students to connect their work with specific course topics and their peers.

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Why Tell Stories?

Dr. Alison Reynolds is the Associate Director of the UF Writing Program and Co-Director of Quest 1. She likes to use the phrase, “Learning from experience.” She begins her course, Why Tell Stories?, with Alice in Wonderland and had intended to visit Maggie Taylor’s Harn Museum show coupled with a portfolio as the experiential activity. When classes shifted to remote learning due to the COVID-19 emergency, she asked her students to keep a visual portfolio of their own experiences with the pandemic. The resulting work gave students a voice to express their fear, disappointments, and frustrations in a powerful way.

Dr. Alison Reynolds: Why tell stories? (15:26)

Chemistry in the Cocina Latina

Dr. Valeria Kleiman teaches a UF Quest course that combines science and the humanities. Latin culture is combined with the science through cooking and laboratory experiments. When it became necessary to shift on-campus experiments to remote teaching, she modified the protocols so they could be done at home with ingredients they would most likely already have. Both the experiments and cooking activities ended up working very well in unexpected ways.

Dr. Valeria Kleiman: Chemistry in the Cocina Latina (15:39)

Body, Self, World

Meredith Farnum teaches dance in the School of Theatre & Dance. Her UF Quest course, “Body, Self, World” explores mind-body practices and the connection between experience and sensory perception. Students used works from the Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art as inspiration for discussion and as a departure point for duets. The shift to remote teaching due to COVID-19 meant that the students performed their works via Zoom.

Meredith Farnum: Body, Self, World (15:55)

Great Teaching with Vulnerable Storytelling

This workshop is inspired by research professor Dr. Brene Brown who is a renowned expert in the study of vulnerability, courage, shame, and empathy. Through an imaginative exercise, we will explore our own stories and life experiences and discuss how we might be able to use them in the classroom to build trust with the teacher, help students evaluate their own life choices, and/or segue into teaching a concept.

Susan Schuld: Great Teaching with Vulnerable Storytelling (47:22)

Nature as a Classroom!

Have you wondered if you can bring the curiosity of nature into your class? Some of the nuggets include making and documenting data from nature observations, creation and use of dichotomous keys, using apps and webcams to provide educational experiences through observation, leading students to build their own adventure through self-directed learning, embedding graphs and forms in Canvas for group data collection, and implementing and managing group projects.

Dr. Rebecca Baldwin, Dr. Nicole Gerlach & Dr. Brantlee Spakes Richter: Nature as a Classroom! (1:49:39)

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UF Instructor Guide Copyright © 2017 by Jennifer Smith is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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