New online toolkit leverages NC’s expertise in experiential learning to benefit employers, post-secondary institutions

Niagara College is taking its expertise in experiential learning across the country, through a new toolkit designed to help businesses, organizations and schools design, implement and evaluate effective educational programs that give students real-world experience. 

The online Experiential Learning Toolkit was managed by Niagara College’s Centre for Academic Excellence (CAE), and developed in collaboration with experts from NC, Brock University and Georgian College, and provides resources and information to help ensure students learning on the job receive the right skills, experiences and supports, both from their school, and from the business or organization hosting them.

NC’s educational developer, Jenn Martin, PhD, spearheaded the project. “We know that external partners want to give students a quality, hands-on work-based learning experience, but they’re not always sure how to go about doing that,” said Martin.  The toolkit aims to help those partners, as well as the student’s educational institution, work together to design effective, valuable on-the-job work and learning experiences.” 

The toolkit consists of 16 online modules, tailored for either educational institutions, or businesses and community organizations. The modules walk participants through the process of designing, delivering, and evaluating experiential learning programs, and offer examples, interactive tools, links to external resources, as well as fillable and downloadable planning and development worksheets.

Martin especially hopes the toolkit will be of use to industry and community organizations both inside and outside Niagara, who play a key role in ensuring students are developing key skills and getting the hands-on training they need to succeed in the workforce. That in turn strengthens the local economy by producing students and graduates who enter the workforce with job-ready experiences already under their belt.

The project was made possible through $202,000 in funding received from the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, under the ministry’s Career Ready Fund, which helps publicly-assisted colleges and universities, employers and other organizations create experiential learning opportunities for postsecondary students and recent grads.

Developing the toolkit was a natural fit for the college’s Centre for Academic Excellence. The department works closely with all of NC’s over 130 academic programs, and is able to draw on decades of diverse experience the college has in developing hands-on learning in collaboration with Niagara businesses. The toolkit also benefits from new ideas and perspectives brought by staff and faculty at Brock University and Georgian College, who collaborated with Niagara College on the project. 

The project also builds on the success of the Work Integrated Learning Open Module Initiative, another project spearheaded by Niagara College’s CAE in 2018 that helps students make the most of work-integrated learning opportunities offered by their school.

Niagara College’s Centre for Academic Excellence works in partnership with the academic departments and service units of Niagara College to enhance educational quality and support innovation in teaching, learning and curriculum through quality assurance processes and faculty and curriculum development services, programs, resources and research.

Niagara College offers more than 130 diploma, bachelor degree and advanced level programs; as well as more than 600 credit, vocational and general interest Part-Time Studies courses. Areas of specialization include food and wine sciences, advanced technology, media, applied health and community safety, supported by unique learning enterprises in food, wine, beer, spirits, horticulture and esthetics. For more information visit niagaracollege.ca.

Photo caption: Jenn Martin, PhD, educational developer with Niagara College’s Centre for Academic Excellence, spearheaded the creation of the new Experiential Learning Toolkit, developed in collaboration with experts from NC, Brock University and Georgian College.