Search
Close this search box.
Search
Close this search box.

Science, Technology
& Innovation

Experiential Learning in the Digital Age: Why it Matters

think-04-05-Experiential Learning in the Digital Age-Featured Image

The Truth About the Digital Age
There is much talk that the world is moving into the digital age. I think most of us are aware of nations that have started to invest in “digitalising services”, from transportation and agriculture to finance and education. Indeed, what technology has to offer to future generations is enormous. By 2020, The Internet of Things (IoT), for example, will have a global economic value ranging from US$1.9 trillion to US$7.1 trillion. Mastering technology is vital for national development and keeping up with it is only the beginning.

 

Before going any deeper, I would like to add a word of caution that while embracing technology is going to give industries and customers an edge, it is worth remembering that technology is only a tool to aid lives and is not the means to develop humanistic traits (e.g., empathy, compassion, tolerance). The latter is actually the lynchpin of ideation, problem definition, and perhaps philanthropy. Hence, the “adapt or perish” philosophy in the digital world only works when technology development has longer lead times. Unfortunately, I have yet to hear of a country that is ready to fully harness digital technologies today. In this knowledge-based society though, much is still required for students to master communication, leadership, critical thinking, soft skills, and emotional, cultural and ecological intelligence. These traits, and others like them, in my view remain at the forefront of the digital age. So, to master them, experiential learning is a process worth pursuing.

 

Experiential Learning
As a body of theory, the core of experiential learning draws from diverse fields in humanities and the social sciences. As a foundation, learners from those fields are taught to view people as structures that are made of norms, values and behaviours. In community-based activities, for instance, learners are taught to engage locals and listen to their ideas, instead of coercing them to accept what might generally be considered popular ideas. In a similar vein, but with a more research-oriented approach, field-based learners employ“exploratory methods” in order to understand people and their perspectives on social issues. During the research, initial interviews with people, or engagements with stakeholders, can be seen as a positive platform to increase the nation’s stock of social capital. This exploratory method is critical for students to flourish in the 21st century. How can students experience this type of learning?

 

Countless Opportunities in the Digital Age
Students in the digital age have become more involved in social
-development initiatives such as eco-friendly projects, global volunteering projects such as teaching kids in neighbouring countries, online crowdfunding platforms and so on. In addition, these developments have resulted in intra-regional mobility as many have joined international exchange programmes, honing their skills by getting involved in social causes. The benefits accrued and experiences gained from getting “their hands dirty” will gradually develop their values and perspectives. Such mobility demonstrates that there are committed global citizens who are determined to change the world. They are willing to move out of their comfort zones and leave their homes; exchanging views during foreign cultural exchanges, and at some points, immersing in it to accomplish their social goals. Flourishing from such an open interaction in society is reciprocity, bonding and respect. It allows students to calibrate and recalibrate after realising the richness of traditional wisdom and communal values in other societies. In other words, experiential learning can give students opportunities to create synergy with the many lives they encounter.

 

Age of Exploration
Poised to enter the workforce soon, today’s learners are also entering a period of exploration. Gone are the days where they simply learn; they also have to seek out and even create their own opportunities.

 

Harnessing talent in this age must start with developing highly skilled and knowledgeable individuals, who can improve social problems; young individuals with a“can-do” spirit, aided by their technical competencies, talents and entrepreneurial skills. Innovation in the digital age is driven by energetic start-ups, socially motivated entrepreneurs, and in large part by the native digital generation.

"The benefits accrued and experiences gained from getting “their hands dirty” will gradually develop their values and perspectives."

To inspire students to improve the society they belong to, a platform that boosts design thinking and critical thinking should be continuously developed, with a particular focus on Southeast Asia. I believe that experiential learners have to understand the passion and vision of the people in this region. How they work and what they have done to move forward are living templates for today’s generation. With that in mind, I think learners need to consider the rich cultural context of the region.

 

Moving Forward
Experiential learning aligns neatly with 21st century education. I envision 21st century education in terms of its core idea of preparing society’s leaders for the digital age. Its vital role in current education is evident, given that more industries are hiring students with comprehensive 21st century skills.

 

Even with opportunities presented by the technological revolution, there are still ongoing negotiations between people in the workplace. Human intervention is still needed in “crowdsourcing” ideas from stakeholders, community and business leaders. Thus, experiential learning in the digital age is particularly important because much its methods offer many avenues for collective action.

 

It is likely that interest in experiential learning is reaching new heights because of growing demands for fresh perspectives, community-centred activities, collaborative partnerships with industries, and progressively developing trust among key stakeholders. Therefore, higher education should step up to increase engagements and partnerships with key stakeholders in education. After all, they likely emerge from the generation native to the digital age.

  1. Communication, bonding and engagement between researchers, learners and people or citizens have already been proven to foster trust to collaboratively address issues in society.
  2. I am aware of other skills but for this article, we focus on the following 21st century skills: language, civic literacy, global and cross-cultural awareness, and technology.
  3. An example is students cooperating with local beneficiaries for community-based projects.

DR ADHA SALEH

Dr Adha Shaleh is a research fellow at the International Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies (IAIS), Malaysia. He believes that community engagement should be valued highly in education.

OCTOBER 2018 | ISSUE 4

Bridging the Gaps

About

Leaders and changemakers of today face unique and complex challenges. The HEAD Foundation Digest features insights and opinions from those in the know addressing a wide range of pertinent issues that factor in a society’s development. 

Informed opinions can inspire healthy discussions and open up our imagination to new possibilities. Interested in contributing? Write to us at info@headfoundation

Stay updated on our latest announcements on events and publications

About

Leaders and changemakers of today face unique and complex challenges. The HEAD Foundation Digest features insights and opinions from those in the know addressing a wide range of pertinent issues that factor in a society’s development. 

Informed opinions can inspire healthy discussions and open up our imagination to new possibilities. Interested in contributing? Write to us at info@headfoundation

Stay updated on our latest announcements on events and publications

Join our mailing list

Stay updated on all the latest news and events

Join our mailing list

Stay updated on all the latest news and events