AOI | Learning Innovations

Faculty Insider


Weekly Tip: Experiences Beyond the Classroom

Expanding knowledge to and from our classrooms (digital or physical) helps bridge the content students learn at Washington State University with real-world applications. As other impactful student experiences do, blending classroom experiences with those beyond the classroom increases student retention while building broader and deeper connections for students.

Bringing Real-World Experiences to the Class

Requiring students to venture (digitally or in person) into communities beyond the classroom, to collect and retrieve information for learning, allows for experiences rich in diversity, synthesis opportunities, and potential industry connections.

It was invaluable for future teachers in my class to digitally interview classroom teachers from multiple states with different backgrounds and experiences. It helped bring theory to life and get them excited for their future profession!

—Christie Kittle
TCH LRN Instructor & AOI Instructional Design Lead

By conducting primary research, or engaging in informational interviews, or by gathering and sharing data over a specific period of time, students can glean a plethora of material to bring back to the classroom to work with. Students may visit local businesses, parks, ecosystems, or industry experts.

  • Example: Students may visit a local greeting card department. How many greeting cards assume heteronormative relationships? How many cards are available for non-heteronormative relationships?
  • Example: Students may each be assigned the project of adopting a local body of water, returning to a precise location weekly, and measuring and recording the water’s pH levels throughout the semester. The data collected can then be shared with a local water resource center.
  • Example: Students interview an elementary student and observe how the student makes sense of important mathematical ideas. This provides an opportunity to interact with elementary-aged children around content learned in class and practice identifying student strategies.

Applying Principles in Real-World Context

Students have the opportunity to demonstrate and apply the foundational knowledge and skills acquired in the program or course in an authentic environment. Involvement in authentic environments can offer more genuine experiences and insight into future professions.

Within any field, appropriate environments and audiences can be identified for students to apply their knowledge and skills.

  • Example: Ask students to assess time spent on specific tasks throughout a set time period. Identify a task to make more time efficient, propose and implement a new plan. Note: a previous course implementing this project resulted in one student’s proposal being adopted by a major store chain.
  • Example: Assign students to put the knowledge from this course in to practice and write a letter to a key stakeholder about a policy you are passionate about. This can be done at companies, the community, in politics, or elsewhere.

More Ideas to Reach Beyond the Classroom

These activities are not limited to projects, but can be used for assignments, assessments, and even delivery of content. Depending on its purpose and intended learning outcomes, an activity can be included in one or more of these categories.

Guest Experts

Invite industry specialists to be involved in the course. This makes authentic and concrete connections from the course to the real-world. It can occur digitally or in-person.

Some ways to involve industry experts are:

  • Interviews
  • Lectures
  • Grading with a rubric (Using real audiences and stakeholders to provide feedback is much more impactful and meaningful. It also allows for scalability to help reach more students without instructor having to provide individual feedback to all.) 
  • Determining class projects based on industry needs

Community Interviews

Students interview an audience in a specific context. This could include a member of a culture or community, potential parties the students could interact with in a future profession, or someone directly impacted by an event, decision, or policy change.

Public Blogs

Students can post in industry-specific blogs to reach, connect with, inform, and/or persuade a targeted audience.

Service Learning

Service learning projects allow students to actively participate in the community to improve quality of life while meeting course goals and objectives. Assign students to work with the WSU Center for Civic Engagement to find opportunities to work with a community organization.

How might you get your students to interact with the world around them? Share it with our list serv. If you aren’t a member, contact aoi.li@wsu.edu to subscribe.

Learn more about Authentic Learning Experiences and Assessments.

Learn more about Creating Impactful Student Experiences.

This series of videos and teaching tips is presented by Academic Outreach and Innovation (AOI). We invite you to join the conversation. Share your tips and ask questions through this blog. If you would like these posts to be sent directly to your email each week, subscribe to the listserv by emailing aoi.li@wsu.edu.

For more information or to schedule time with an instructional designer or emerging technologist, contact aoi.li@wsu.edu or request training on demand. You can also visit the Spark Faculty Innovation Studio in room 102 any time from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Thursday, during the academic year.