Constructing experiential learning for online or distance learning qualifications, presents specific challenges. Interactions, both among students and with teaching staff, are further considered essential to the online or distance learning environment. Preparing students academically is not sufficient; higher education institutions are accountable to society to prepare students for the complex issues they will as graduates encounter in the workplace. Experiential learning serves a vehicle with regard to the latter.
Higher education institutions have embraced service-learning as “a form of experiential education in which students engage in activities that address human and community needs and have structured opportunities to participate in activities designed to promote their learning and development” (Strait & Sauer, 2004: 62). Service-learning fosters critical thinking and interpersonal skills in that students provide community service as part of the curriculum of their qualification/s; learn about the community context and reflect about it; and gain an understanding of the connection between academic studies and the service rendered.
Conventional service-learning of residential higher education institution is generally in proximity to the institution where students are studying and access therefore relatively easy. With online or distance learning students are scattered and based in their own communities, which may be diverse. The challenge is to facilitate quality service-learning experience of multiple students in multiple communities. This type of distributed service-learning Strait and Sauer (2004: 62) call eService.
The published article shares the eService model and scope of attempts. A Language and a science application are portrayed. The authors share what the learned and challenges. They conclude with suggestions and future plans.
Strait, J. & Sauer, T. 2004. Constructing experiential learning for online courses: the birth of e-service. Educause Quarterly, 1(1), January 2004, 62-65. Retrieved from Internet 28 March 2013 from: http://www.educause.edu/ero/article/constructing-experiential-learning-online-courses-birth-e-service