Colleges and universities are increasingly focused on integrating experiential learning programs into their curricula in an effort to foster career-ready graduates. According to Susan Ambrose, senior provost for educational innovation at Northeastern University, experiential learning is all about “connecting theory to practice, in a real-world authentic setting, that has real-world constraints and parameters and consequences for decisions and behavior.” Experiential learning includes activities such as internships, undergraduate research, and study abroad and each activity includes a reflection period. The reflection portion of experiential learning is the most important aspect of the activity. The objective behind reflection is to help students apply the information they learn through these programs to the career paths they choose following graduation.
Students attending colleges and universities with the desire to get a job following graduation isn’t a surprise. One would think that students would be even more inclined to involve themselves in experiential learning opportunities as a result. The problem is that students aren’t aware of these programs and therefore are less likely to participate. NSSE reported in 2018 that only 53% of 3,700 seniors, during their last year of college, “completed the career preparation items” available to them. Of the 3,700 seniors, only 49% attended a career fair with 43% that attended a talk or panel discussion about careers. Students want to be, and expect to be, career ready after graduation but there seems to be a disconnect.
By integrating experiential learning programs into the curricula, students are able to build better career skills and, in turn, will become more aware of career services and programs available at their institutions. The benefit of students being more involved in experiential learning programs is that it often increases student retention. “I recommend that students begin to try out some different opportunities, because we know that helps with their retention of staying at the university or college from year to year; it helps them feel a greater sense of belonging to the institution and to their peers,” says Cara Meixner, executive director of the Center for Faculty Innovation at James Madison University. Experiential learning programs and initiatives are great for this reason and can be even better implemented when there is technology to support it.
This is where Symplicity UniHub can help. UniHub is an institution-wide Student Engagement Platform that is used for managing events, appointments, and student development activities. UniHub immerses students to all areas on campus by identifying and recommending experiential learning activities and events that help build the skills today’s employers desire. UniHub is able to track student skill development across work integrated learning such as internships, volunteering programs, and workshops focused on industries and functional areas. The best part is that students and faculty all work off of one system and the technology can be tailored to suit the specific needs of the university or program as faculty see fit.