The upside of the pandemic: Innovation in Experiential Learning

Published in Momentum Fall 2021

The pandemic has caused academics, students and employers to change how experiential learning activities are taught and delivered. Co-op work terms, unpaid placements, labs, capstones, and applied research projects had to suddenly shift from in-person to virtual and remote offerings. 

“It’s amazing how students, employers, staff and faculty responded and adapted,” says Amanda Malkiewich, Director, Cooperative Education and Experiential Learning. “Experiential learning is imperative to student success and bridges the transition from school to work.”

Experiential learning allows students to anchor their theoretical learning with a real-world experience that brings it to life, says Jim Vanderveken, Dean of the Centre for Community Partnerships and Experiential Learning.

The pandemic shift wasn’t easy for Mohawk staff, students or employers, but it was successful, says Vanderveken. 

“We made it happen because we just couldn’t leave our students without these incredible opportunities. We enjoyed tremendous employer support for our students.”

From lab kits mailed to students’ homes to the use of virtual and web-based tools, Mohawk students got critical hands-on experience with the community during the pandemic. 

Photo caption: Erlinda Murdhany (3rd year Architectural Technology). James Kretz (2nd year Civil Engineering Technology), and Erycka Barcelon (3rd year Civil Engineering Technology), from Building & Construction Sciences, along with three other students facilitated the creation of “digital twins” of spaces for use by faculty during remote learning, including the Centre for Aviation Technology campus at the Hamilton International Airport, the David Braley Athletic & Recreation Centre, and the Energy and Power Lab in The Joyce Centre for Partnership & Innovation. They also supported drone flights at Royal Botanical Gardens.