When you hear the phrase "learning environment," what do you picture? A classroom full of desks and chairs, with a chalkboard or dry erase board at the front? Or maybe you envision a huge lecture hall where the instructor stands at the front, using PowerPoint presentations displayed on a screen to help students better understand the day's lesson?

Both of these environments depict a traditional learning scenario. However, another option exists within the world of higher education and it is one that Saint Leo University is proud to offer students in a variety of courses of study. It is called experiential learning.

What Is Experiential Learning?

Experiential learning is just as its name suggests: learning by way of actually experiencing the knowledge or information you're attempting to gain as a college student.

For instance, in a traditional learning environment, if you were to learn how to hammer a nail into a board, the instructor may demonstrate this for you in person or show you a video. Conversely, in an experiential learning scenario, the instructor might take you to an active construction site and let you pound nails into a few boards, giving you a better idea of what it feels like, how to hold the hammer and the nail, and how the performance of this simple activity impacts the project as a whole.

Essentially, with experiential learning, you're taken out of the traditional classroom and immersed into an environment in which the skills you are learning would actively be applied.

Benefits of Experiential Learning

Taking this type of non-traditional approach to learning offers students many advantages. The first is that some people learn better while being hands-on rather than simply listening to instruction or watching videos.

If this is you, actively engaging in the action you're learning helps you collect, retain, and understand the lesson more completely. It creates a muscle memory of sorts, making what you've learned easier to access once you've earned your degree and are working in the field.

It's somewhat similar to what you experience when riding a bike after not being on one for quite some time. Even though you may be a little wobbly at first, your mind will soon remember exactly what you are supposed to do, which means that you'll pick it up much more quickly the second time around than you did the first time.

Experiential learning also makes it easier for students to understand the 'big picture' of the lessons being taught. Put another way, being involved in the actively moving parts and processes within your field of choice helps you visually see how one action can impact another, and so on.

Finally, many students find that engaging in experiential learning experiences enables them to reflect on what they're learning in a deeper, more meaningful way. By being a direct part of the process on numerous levels—intellectually, emotionally, physically, and socially—it helps you more critically analyze each of its components and how they interact with each other.

Types of Experiential Learning

What types of experiential learning opportunities exist? Though there are many, here are a few that Saint Leo University students have come to enjoy most:

  • Internships. If you choose a field that requires you to do an internship, you will be placed within a top-notch organization or business within your field of choice. This enables you to gain valuable work experience by doing the same type of job functions and duties that you'll be responsible for once you earn your degree.
  • Study abroad. This experiential learning option involves taking a portion of your classes in a foreign country, giving you access to the knowledge held by experts in your area of study around the world. Saint Leo University's Study Abroad Program gives students the opportunity to study in schools in Brazil, England, Australia, Spain, Italy, France, Greece, Germany, and Ecuador, just to name a few places.
  • Faculty-led trips. Another type of experiential learning opportunity offered by Saint Leo involves taking trips that are led by faculty members. These excursions are often held during semester breaks and enable students to learn about various locations or historical events in a specific industry by seeing them firsthand.
  • Community service. Do you enjoy volunteering? If so, a community service experience may be exactly what you need not only to learn, but to also satisfy your soul. Saint Leo has a variety of community engagement activities from which to choose, some of which include planning your own service project, traveling with our SERVE group (which stands for Students Engaged in Rewarding Volunteer Experiences), and being involved in various community service days and clubs.
  • Field-based research learning. If you're involved in a field that requires you to do field research, Saint Leo University offers several of these opportunities as well. Depending on the area you're going into, this may involve spending some time in a lab-type setting or it could mean visiting a specific location to study certain people and/or demographics.

Saint Leo Provides Multiple Experiential Learning Opportunities

Here at Saint Leo, we understand the value of experiential learning. That's why we offer so many different opportunities for our students wishing to gain knowledge both in and out of the classroom.

Can you think of a better way to learn than to be immersed in the activities you want to do for a living? We can't. And we'll accept nothing less.