Experiential Learning at heart of BSC’s Polytechnic mission | Bismarck State College

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Experiential Learning at heart of BSC’s Polytechnic mission

Posted: May 25 2023
BSC students preparing for the 2023 Spring Carnival, which was hosted by the Project Management Fundamentals class.
At Bismarck State College (BSC), North Dakota’s Polytechnic Institution, students stand out above the crowd after receiving hands-on, experiential learning as the foundation of their education.
And these real-world experiences are built into each class at BSC.

Strengthening Student Success

Learning by doing and cultivating hands-on experience through practical, real-world situations, are all part of the Polytechnic mission at BSC. That mission is strengthened by identifying areas in industry and in our own curricula that further address student success through experiential learning.

Graphic Design major and BSC alum, Emily Salway, graduated from BSC in May of 2023 and landed a job in her field of study just a week post-graduation. She said, “All of my hands-on learning experiences at BSC have been extremely helpful and informative.”

Numerous courses offered this past spring at BSC incorporate the elements of experiential learning theory: concrete learning, reflective observation, abstract conceptualization and active experimentation. Developed by Dr. David Kolb, a well-known learning theorist, experiential learning theory presents a research-backed approach to education. 
In his book, “Experiential Learning: Experience as the Source of Learning and Development,” Dr. Kolb said, “Learning is the process whereby knowledge is created through the transformation of experience.”

Not Just for Technical Classes

Experiential learning theory has been incorporated into a variety of classes, including Project Management Fundamentals. As part of the course objectives, students developed their own hands-on project by planning, coordinating and hosting the successful Spring Carnival, which was held in March at the Student Union.
Two different English classes and one American Literature class attended the Visiting Writer’s Series that featured a presentation and discussion by Mona Susan Power, author of The Grass Dancer, in April at the BSC Library. 

As part of their final semester project, students in World Regional Geography interviewed individuals from other countries and presented to their class about that person and the geographic area they are from. In addition, a guest speaker from the North Dakota Department of Environmental Quality, Ann Fritz, Non-Discrimination/Environmental Justice Coordinator, recently gave a presentation to the class on Thailand that highlighted the country’s diverse geography, rich culture, cuisine and lifestyle. 

Many other students have presented throughout the BSC campus. As students present subject material to other students, they learn and retain the material better, gain public speaking skills and acquire real-world experience that will be beneficial in their careers.

Other examples of students engaging in experiential learning are those courses where students are asked to work as a team, solve problems, brainstorm, collaborate and present their findings to the class. These skills are at the heart of BSC’s Polytechnic mission.

“Engaging students differently and in ways that are meaningful for them in and out of the classroom will continue to be a focus for BSC’s retention work – work shared by the entire campus community” (Title III Project Narrative, BSC Pathways to Achieve Student Success).

Experiential Learning Coordinator, Scott Grahl, is meeting with faculty to develop experiential learning ideas, examples and curriculum suggestions, and to discuss how a course can be considered for a future experiential learning designation. These are all additional resources that will be coordinated by the Teaching and Learning Center staff throughout the weeks and months to come.

“We are very excited to have the opportunity to engage students through experiential learning. We know that through this model, by the time students graduate from BSC, they will be workforce ready, making them successful in their future careers,” said Grahl.