GUEST COMMENTARY: New economy demands college students learn experientially

2010-10-19T00:00:00Z GUEST COMMENTARY: New economy demands college students learn experientiallyBy Jan Anderson nwitimes.com
October 19, 2010 12:00 am  • 

Not so long ago, a college diploma helped guarantee employment. But times have changed, and higher education must ensure that its students get necessary experience to be successful in the marketplace.

Purdue University Calumet has responded to this need by incorporating experiential education into its curricula. At its core, experiential learning combines classroom learning and practical experience, building on what students learn traditionally and enabling them to apply that learning in a hands-on, real-world setting.

As Purdue Calumet Chancellor Howard Cohen has said, "A high quality education should integrate classroom and laboratory learning with learning that takes place in job- and other experience-related settings -- the same settings in which we expect our students to work after they graduate."

With a goal of better preparing and more fully engaging its students, Purdue Calumet adopted experiential learning as a degree requirement two years ago. All degree-seeking, undergraduate students must now enroll in two experiential learning courses to graduate. With more than 100 courses across all majors designated as "experiential," students have an array of options from which to choose.

Purdue Calumet recognizes seven types of experiential learning: internships, cooperative education, undergraduate research, service learning, practicums, design projects and cultural immersion, or study abroad.

Experiential learning courses must meet standards set by the National Society for Experiential Education, a national resource center for the development and improvement of experiential education. The courses are faculty-driven, and student experiences are monitored by an instructor and a participating community partner/employer.

Arguably, the value of experiential learning as preparation for today's work force has never been greater. Philip D. Gardner agrees. In his position as director of research for Michigan State University's Collegiate Employment Research Institute, he oversees development of a nationally recognized annual college labor market study. The study serves as a benchmark of college graduate employment trends.

On Oct. 27, the researcher of such topics as work force readiness and transition from college to work will share his perspectives about experiential learning relative to students' transition from college to the work world as the keynote speaker of Purdue Calumet's annual Experiential Learning Forum. The event will be at the Indiana Welcome Center in Hammond, 7770 Corinne Drive, Hammond.

During Gardner's 6:30 p.m. presentation -- intended for students, parents, educators and businesspeople -- he will explain why changing workplace expectations in our new and changing economy demand that college students learn experientially to develop a higher level of skills and competency.

Admission is free, but because of limited seating, advance registration is encouraged by calling Purdue Calumet's Office of Experiential Learning at (219) 989-8350.

Jan Anderson is experiential learning outreach assistant at Purdue University Calumet. She can be contacted at (219) 989-8172 or jkanders@calumet.purdue.edu. The opinion expressed in this column is the writer's and not necessarily that of The Times.

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