Tip Sheet: Experiential Learning in Virtual Spaces

Experiential Learning can take many forms—and, in an online environment, it may need to take on altogether new forms. Some activities, such as face-to-face contact or the use of certain equipment or materials, may no longer be possible. Here are some ideas for how to make the move online while keeping things as experiential as possible:

  • Some experiential activities will transfer to an online format: online students can write, analyze case studies, and interact with other people (albeit virtually, via email or a video conferencing tool like Zoom), and certainly they can still do the reflection (via an online journal, a reflective paper/presentation, emails to you, and/or class discussions in a Zoom session) that is an essential part of any experiential learning. If the activity requires small group work, there are many ways to handle that; see our tipsheet on online small group work for ideas. 
  • On the other hand, other activities won’t be possible online, and so you need to be ready to let go of any particular activity that you’ve relied on in the past and substitute another. 
    • If the goal is for students to see the outcome of a particular activity or experiment that won’t be possible online, would a demonstration (by you) nonetheless teach them a good deal?
    • If the goal is for students to practice interacting with clients or other external people, could that happen virtually, or in the form of a within-class virtual roleplay? 
    • Site visits can in some cases be replaced by website visits—many organizations and institutions offer web tours and online historical information, and you may also be able to rely on videos and blog posts by other people who have visited those sites in the past.
    • If the goal is to have students practice building or creating something using physical materials (e.g., a scale model, a prototype, a piece of art), could they make the attempt with simpler materials they find at hand? Or could they draw up plans for how that building would happen and assess their plans (or one another’s plans) for weaknesses?
    • If the students are doing service-learning, are there ways they can serve these external communities that don’t involve in-person work?
  • Tech-comfortable or tech-curious faculty may want to consider online simulations and gamification. Check out this article for some ideas.
  • The bottom line is to focus on what your essential learning goals are rather than on any experience you had designed before the shift online; likely there are many ways to reach that same goal, some of which will be possible online. Flexibility will allow you to put goals ahead of any particular activity.


Other resources:


We hope this helps you make the shift to experiential learning online. Of course, always feel free to contact us at cndls@georgetown.edu if we can be of any further help to you!