Implementing Remote Experiential Learning

Related people and/or projects: Care and Culturally Responsive Pedagogy

Interested in new and engaging projects for your class? Read four experiential learning examples that can be used in both in-person and remote settings for you and your students' benefit!

From May 12-14, the Centre for Teaching Support & Innovation (CTSI) hosted their 2021 Teaching and Learning Symposium showcasing pedagogy interests and new discoveries from U of T faculty. You can check out other articles we have covering this event:

What is Experiential Learning?

Educational developers Al Hearn from UTSC and Libby West from UTSG define experiential learning, specifically course-based and community-based, as a process where the two are connected through reflection. With the following models, students are able to actively learn how to demonstrate their knowledge while supporting the work of a community partner. The different projects and activities can be adapted to be used in remote, hybrid, or in-person learning. The list below outlines a description and lessons learned from faculty. 

You can learn more about different suggestions from their presentation, "Innovations in Experiential Learning Pedagogy" presented at this year's Teaching and Learning Symposium below.

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4 Examples of Remote Experiential Learning

The presentation displayed four experiential learning models that have been implemented in various courses this past year: consultation, organization-partnered project, one-on-one, and a virtual field trip.

1. Students solve a problem for a community partner

↳ Example: Consultation Project

This example is similar to Engineering Strategies and Practice and Praxis courses, where students work in teams to learn about the engineering design process and communication to create solutions for the community. In consultation projects, students designed their own learning contracts or team charters to keep the group accountable and on track. What I particularly found valuable during my own experiences was that this type of project allowed for leverage of online collaboration tools (such as Discord, Zoom, and Slack) and improves teamwork skills in individuals. One consideration to think of is having the projects be completed earlier in the course to ensure all follow-up details with partners are accomplished.

How could I implement this structure in my course? Check out the above slide deck for specific examples on how instructors used this for their courses. Some companies that have been partnered with are the Ontario Ministry of Education (Introductory Psychology: Part I, Dr. Steve Joordens) and Wellspring (Introduction to Fundamental Genetics, Dr. Naomi Levy-Strumpf). You can reach out to our faculty's Industry Partnership team for potential projects!

2. Students contribute to community partner initiatives

↳ Example: Organization-Partnered Projects, doesn't necessarily have a pre-determined outcome

This model can include partnering with an organization to support students’ research and writing projects. With industry-experts at hand, students are able to collaborate immersively at key stages of their projects. This provides students a valuable experience to work with individuals outside of school, and being online provides organizations more flexibility to participate. Students can use shared documents for planning and clear communication, which proved to enhance their resilience especially during the transition to online learning. I find that in projects like these, I understand the potential impact of my work and strive to work harder as a student engineer!

How could I implement a organization-partnered project in my course? Again, you may consider speaking to our Industry Partnership team to get in touch with organizations. Alternatively, you could try using Riipen, a platform that matches schools and industry together. Riipen has over 6,500 projects that can be embedded in your curriculum, with a bonus of all communications between student and client are on the same platform! Check out the projects at UofT that have been completed through Riipenand the introductory blog post from Online Learning, Riipen Pilot: An On-Ramp to Work Integrated Learning for more information.

3. Students are paired with individuals from or through a partner organization

↳ Example: One-on-One Model

One-on-one models can act as a mentoring experience for either the partner or student, or both! For example, as part of an english course (Academic Writing, Dr. Maria Assif) students taught elementary school students academic writing online. Another session I attended, Development of Graduate Student Pedagogy led by Nhien Tran-Nguyen and Nicolas Ivanov, spoke about a similar idea with FASE graduate students and high school students through a biomedical engineering outreach program called the Discovery Educational Program. Providing opportunities like these can boost confidence in students’ learning and in teaching assistants’ educational skills. These models have been successful in online operations.

How could I implement a one-on-one model in my course? You may look back at the previous two resources to get in touch with companies. You can also integrate something similar for your teaching assistants, such as running a training program like Prof. Jacqueline Smith and Prof. Mario Badr did for their introductory programming course, CSC108. This included group discussions on learning experiences, theories, and principles. I found that tutorials led by skilled TAs helped me understand my assignments further, which in turn boosted my academic performance.

4. Students attend a virtual experience which simulates an in-person experience

↳ Example: Virtual Field Trips

Conducting these virtual field trips can be valuable to a student’s experience both in your course and in their careers. Many adaptations can be made to make learning more impactful. These trips can be supported by organizations that may be hard to visit otherwise, such as “visiting” a community or historic landmark in a different country. You could also invite community partners to attend with your class to enhance the experience. I find that this could excite students because it is a different activity than we're all used to. If I had the opportunity to do something like this in class, I would take it!

How could I implement virtual field trips in my course? In Dr. Daniel Gregory's course, Introduction to Geological Field Methods, this model was created by using 3D digital landscapes, video tours, and virtual meeting rooms to replicate traditional in-person fieldwork. The great thing about engineering is that there are so many fields to explore! Take a look to see how some other instructors managed to travel the world at the comfort of home with the article Virtual field trips, digital labs and global colleagues featuring Prof. Nicholas Eyles, Prof. Dawn Kilkenny, and Prof. David Liu.

Additional Resources

The four models outlined can help your classroom exemplify collaboration, communication, and access – all important and valuable aspects. Allowing students to experience teamwork even when remote not only promotes these aspects, but can leave an impact on one’s learning!

Check out these resources for more ways to enhance your classroom:


Have an idea for a new model to implement in your course but have no idea where to start on implementing it? The ETO can help! Book a consultation with us to get assistance on setting up your virtual classroom.

Article Category: Student Perspectives