Edubytes: Emerging trends in higher education
Welcome to the March 2019 edition of the Edubytes newsletter. Edubytes features articles that focus on emerging trends and innovations in teaching and learning in higher education.

In our second themed edition of this newsletter, we will be exploring experiential learning. Our guest editor, Kari Grain, PhD, an experiential and integrated learning analyst with the Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology (CTLT), has curated the first part of this edition.

If you have any suggestions on higher education trends you would like to read more about, feel free to contact us at We would love to hear your thoughts.

Experiential LearningGuest editor: Kari Grain

Experiential learning is interpreted and carried out in diverse ways across faculties and units at UBC. Experiential learning can be understood broadly, if over-simplistically, as “learning by doing;” however extensive scholarship has been devoted to the development of complex theory and practice in the field.

Through conversations with stakeholders at UBC in the past year, a current research project has identified a set of sub-categories or clusters within experiential learning, which include:

  • Community-Engaged Learning (e.g. service-learning, community-based experiential learning)
  • Applied Research (e.g. undergraduate research, Indigenous methodologies, public scholarship)
  • Work Integrated Learning (e.g. co-ops, internships, practicums)
  • Immersive Learning (e.g. study abroad, exchange, Indigenous language study)
  • Student-Led Learning (e.g. student design teams, student directed seminars)
  • Land and Place-Based Learning (e.g. outdoor education, sustainability education, treaty education)
  • Strategy-Specific Learning (e.g. debates, simulation, role-playing, labs, story-telling)

These clusters are overlapping and not cleanly delineated, but they are fodder for dialogue and thought in an area of scholarship/pedagogy that refuses to be easily explicated.

The resources identified for this issue of Edubytes touch on experiential learning as it pertains to a spectrum of global to local perspectives: international trends in higher education; national currents in work integrated learning; a British Columbia snapshot of experiential education; and a local Vancouver (Downtown Eastside Community) publication on ethical engagement.

The Possibilities and Limitations of Experiential Learning Research in Higher Education

In this introduction to the 2018 Special Issue of the Journal of Experiential Education, Jayson Seaman identifies some important trends in the field, while also suggesting a number of reasons for experiential learning’s rise in popularity. Seaman speaks frankly about the vital role of risk-taking, and the challenges inherent in evaluating such an expansive and complex field: “As the lines between the curriculum and co-curriculum become increasingly blurred, as we begin to recognize that learning happens everywhere—not just in the four-walled classroom, and as research continues to support a variety of experiential methodologies, challenging questions are being asked about the quality and nature of the teaching and learning experience in higher education (p. 3).”

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The Push to Bridge the School-Work Gap

This University Affairs feature article examines the expansion of work-integrated learning (WIL) in post-secondary institutions across Canada. It offers compelling narratives of student motivations for seeking these opportunities, supplemented by a broad purview of provincial and federal government strategies to support work integrated learning. It appears that several governments and institutions are getting behind the movement, investing resources in greater support. The drawback? “Doing good WIL [much like experiential learning more broadly] takes work.” Placements take time to secure, relationships take time to build and sustain, and the intangible skills required for experiential learning and WIL demand pedagogical attention and effort. This is an excellent article for those who wish to understand the current Canadian landscape of WIL and some of its greatest challenges.

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Experiential Education in BC Post-Secondary Institutions: Challenges and Opportunities

This BC Council on Admissions & Transfer report offers a concise and well-articulated snapshot of the current state of experiential education in British Columbia (BC) Post-Secondary Institutions. The authors offer background, definitions, and examples of dominant forms of experiential education, while also briefly attending to some of the debates and complexities in the field. The report draws on foundational literature in experiential education and illustrates findings from a study that sought insights from 12 BC institutions and 70 educators and administrators. This is a quick and easy reading for scholars and practitioners who are looking for a “big picture view” of experiential education, yet applied to a local context.

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A Manifesto for Ethical Research in the Downtown Eastside

Applied research and community-based research comprise significant components of experiential education at UBC. Too often, researchers enter communities with little or no training in local culture, values, and rules of engagement. Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside (DTES) community has collaboratively generated this document as a way to establish its own set of ethical principles of engagement. Researchers who are considering a research project in, with, or about the Downtown Eastside should read the Manifesto in order to familiarize themselves with the values and ethics of this vibrant community. “While no document or set of principles can truly represent the entire Downtown Eastside community in all its diversity,...participants and manifesto co-authors included peer leaders in a wide variety of DTES organizations.” This is undoubtedly a pre-requisite reading for anyone whose research or teaching relates to Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

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March 2019 Edubytes roundup

New Findings Inform the Laptop versus Long Hand Note Taking DebateIn 2014, a paper by Mueller and Oppenheimer, “The pen is mightier than the keyboard: Advantages of longhand over laptop note taking,” was picked up in the popular media and sparked a debate around the use of laptops in the classroom. This article follows up on those conversations by highlighting a recent research paper that failed to show any significant differences in student performance between laptop and longhand note taking. The study did show, however, that higher quality notes with a high level of overlap between the content of the notes and the test indicated higher performance. This indicates that what students use to take notes may matter less than the quality of their notes and how they use them after. The author concludes with the following advice to instructors, “Make sure that the students capture the main ideas and concepts in their notes that they will need to know later on. Emphasize those ideas when you teach, ask in-class questions about those ideas (retrieval practice), and return to those ideas at different points in time (spaced practice).”

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Do Open Educational Resources Improve Student Learning? Implications of the Access HypothesisOver the last decade, research has found no significant difference between using a commercial textbook or an open textbook when measuring learning performance. However, a new study published in PLoS One argues that these studies may not have accurately measured academic improvement if they did not take into account students who were not able to access the commercial textbook. At UBC, the 2018 AMS Academic Experience Survey, found that 32 per cent of undergraduate respondents reported they frequently or often went without a textbook or other course resource due to cost. The PLoS One article introduces an “access hypothesis” which states that Open Education Resources (OER) might improve learning outcomes relative to traditional course materials by improving access to the textbook and through the use of simulated power experiments. Researchers demonstrated that the textbook access rate of a research sample prior to the intervention has profound effects on statistical power.  

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Higher Ed and the Shifting Life CourseDue to the profound transformation in the real life course in today’s post-modern society, more young adults feel intense anxiety, reports Inside Higher Ed. Uncertainty and instability are hallmarks of contemporary young adulthood. Institutions need to adopt a more developmental, more holistic approach to ensure that their students navigate the path to productive adulthood successfully. Student support must be integrated into the academic experience itself.

To help the students succeed, here are the five steps suggested:

Step 1: Integrate career exploration into formal coursework
Step 2: Make the academic journey more about mastery than seat time
Step 3: Encourage instructors to serve as mentors
Step 4: Educate the whole student
Step 5: Create Pathways to Success

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