When Markham Campus opens its doors in Fall 2023, it will boast the broadest range of experiential education (EE) opportunities in Canada.
“We set out as a group to try to do something different, and to build on successes that other institutions have had,” said Will Gage, York University’s Associate Vice-President for Teaching and Learning. “I don’t think I’ve seen anything like what Markham Campus is doing elsewhere.”
“Bringing EE together with student-success advisors is unique in academia,” said Melanie Belore, York’s Associate Director of Experiential Learning. “We’re also learning from other institutions around bringing EE and career readiness together, which has been a theme in Canadian higher education. So we’re certainly in good company, and the ultimate benefit of this new Markham Campus is that it will allow us to integrate all of the student services in a way that is far more effective.”
EE lets students apply the theory they’ve learned to a concrete experience either in the classroom or within the community. At York, EE opportunities help students turn the knowledge they’ve gained in class into real-world skills — skills that give them the power to create positive change.
Belore says there has been a major evolution in the way employers, universities, students, and parents think about higher education and the need for EE in university programs.
“One of the biggest things that’s evolved over the last few years is that higher education needs to be engaged with employers in the workforce. We know that students are asking for it, parents are asking for it. And it’s the pace at which the world of work is changing.”
Students and their families, employers, government, and both York University and its faculty are on the same page regarding what students need their learning outcomes to be, added Gage.
“At the end of the day, students are committing a lot of time, effort and money to their education,” he said. “There needs to be an element of satisfaction with the experience they’ve invested in. At the same time, the economy also needs people ready to work and produce and be a productive member of society.”
EE opportunities at Markham Campus fall in to three broad categories: classroom-focused, community-focused, and work-focused.
Classroom focused EE takes place both in the classroom and outside the classroom through observation, requiring students to take their experience and reflect on how it relates to theories and concepts learned through their courses.
Community-focused EE brings students together with members of the community to apply their knowledge to real-world problems, research questions, and service opportunities. By bringing together diverse perspectives and applying them to concrete problems, community-focused EE shows students how they can right the future using what they’ve learning in the classroom to create positive.
Work-focused EE gives students hands-on opportunities to apply their knowledge through course and program-based work placements, internships, and co-operative educations programs. These programs help students build the experience they need to bridge the gap between graduation and entering the workforce.
“With the Markham Campus, I think we have an opportunity for a fresh, clean slate,” said Belore. “We’re going to bring together the student supports with the experiential education and work-integrated learning planning so that it’s an integrated experience for students.”