OSCQR – Standard #31

OSCQR – Standard #31

Course provides activities that emulate real world applications of the discipline, such as experiential learning, case studies, and problem-based activities.

Review These Explanations

Relevance is central to adult learning. (Knowles, 1984). When the adult learner can apply a learning activity to practical value beyond the duration of the course, relevance is established between the stated learning objective, the learning activity, and the assessment of that activity.

Experiential learning, case studies, and problem-based activities are designed to immerse learners in real world scenarios, with the goal of having learners build on their existing knowledge and skills to analyze specific problems and find solutions. These activities engage learners by having them establish what they know and don’t know, work together to come up with real-world solutions, share those solutions, and review possible results.

According to Kolb (1984), experiential learning relies on four elements:

  • Experience;
  • Critical reflection;
  • Abstract conceptualization; and
  • Active experimentation in a new situation.

Through experience, online learners are led to make observations and reflections. From there, abstract concepts are explored through critical reflection, which learners can then actively test and evaluate. This process engages the learners in scaffolding what they already know, and creating new knowledge.


Knowles, M. (1984). The Adult Learner: A Neglected Species (3rd Ed.). Houston: Gulf Publishing.

Kolb, D. A., (1984), Experiential Learning: Experience as a Source of Learning and Development, Englewood Cliffs, Prentice-Hall

Refresh Your Course with These Ideas

  • Explore MERLOT for case studies that you can integrated into your course.
  • Create scenario-based discussion forums for learners to interact in. Establish and assign roles for learners within those scenarios.
  • Use mini-cases as pre-lab work where learners can see what might go wrong before they are actually immersed in an online lab.
  • Have learners create and facilitate course related scenarios.
  • Have learners turn in reflective essays along with applied learning activities to measure critical thinking and reflection stages of the process.
  • Assign “offline” activities to learners, and have the learners “debrief” in the online environment.
  • Require foreign language learners to interact with native speakers (online) and summarize their experiences.
  • Have learners document their real-world experiences through digital storytelling tools.

Explore More Refreshing Ideas from the Teaching Online Pedagogical Repository (TOPR) at the University of Central Florida (UCF)

These Pedagogical Practices from TOPR explore methods and approaches that incorporate real-world applications and promote experiential and problem-based learning in online courses to benefit learner success.

Anchored Instruction
Anchored instruction is the process of presenting instruction in the context of an authentic environment with problems or issues which learners must resolve. The problems or issues which are presented to learners in the authentic environment are “anchors” which link learning of content and skills to authentic tasks and activities in which the learning must used. (Read more …)
Assign Collaborative Experiential Learning While Partnering With Clients
While there is sometimes resistance to group collaborations in online learning, (Smith et al., 2011, p 121) adding a collaborative experiential learning component can more deeply engage students AND provide them the opportunity to develop an array of competencies including “coordinating across time zones and geographic locations, developing computer skills, enhancing internet search skills, and interacting with individuals from diverse backgrounds” (Johnson, 2013, p 34). (Read more …)
Engage Adult Learners with Course-Long Role Play
Role playing in the context of educational simulations has been cited as a particularly engaging strategy for online courses (Ausburn, 2004; Bender, 2005; Cornelius, Gordon, and Ackland, 2011; Lytle, Lytle, and Brophy, 2006; and Serby, 2011). Such role playing when conducted for an extended time period (e.g., for the duration of an academic term) in the context of as realistic as possible tasks may be particularly engaging for adult learners (Ausburn, 2004 and Ausburn, 2004). (Read more …)
Problem-Based Learning
Problem-Based Learning is an instructional strategy in which students learn the subject matter of a course and the related skills by solving real-world problems and reflecting on their experiences of solving the problem/s. In Problem-Based Learning, students may be given a specific course-related problem to solve or they may be provided with a selection of related problems from which they can choose. (Read more …)
Use Online Debates to Enhance Classroom Engagement
A debate is a formal competition between two teams, usually with three members each, arguing a discussion statement known as “the moot”. Shaw (2012) believes that debates stimulate critical thinking and can be a highly effective way to actively engage students in research in the online classroom. Student-generated debate presentations can become a welcome change from the call and response format of the typical online discussion board interactions. (Read more …)
Use Pop Culture to Energize Online Discussions
Faculty want to get to know their students and they want to provide them with opportunities to get to know them and each other (Phillips 2008). So how can faculty foster increased student interaction and engagement with the material, with the faculty member, and with other students? (Read more …)
Using Mobile Apps to Facilitate Project-Based Learning
Project-based learning is a method of inquiry-based learning where students are required to develop an end product using their knowledge of a specific topic. In most cases, the product is directly applicable or usable in the real world. (Read more …)

Explore Related Resources

Lee, S., Ngampornchai, A., Trail-Constant, T., Abril, A., & Srinivasan, S. (2016). Does a case-based online group project increase students’ satisfaction with interaction in online courses?. Active Learning In Higher Education, 17(3), 249-260.

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OSCQR has been developed by a community of online practitioners interested in quality course design. There are numerous opportunities for community members to offer suggestions, donate resources, and help with future development.

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