Learning experience refers to any interaction, course, program, or other experience in which learning takes place, whether it occurs in traditional academic settings (schools, classrooms) or nontraditional settings (outside-of-school locations, outdoor environments), or whether it includes traditional educational interactions (students learning from teachers and professors) or nontraditional interactions (students learning through games and interactive software applications).
Because students may learn in a wide variety of settings and ways, the term is often used as a more accurate, preferred, or inclusive alternative to terms such as course, for example, that have more limited or conventional connotations. Learning experience may also be used to underscore or reinforce the goal of an educational interaction—learning—rather than its location (school, classroom) or format (course, program), for example.
The growing use of the term learning experience by educators and others reflects larger pedagogical and technological shifts that have occurred in the design and delivery of education to students, and it most likely represents an attempt to update conceptions of how, when, and where learning does and can take place. For example, new technologies have dramatically multiplied and diversified the ways in which students can learn from and interact with educators, in addition to the level of independence they may have when learning. Students can email, chat, or have video conversations with teachers, and they can use online course-management systems to organize and exchange learning materials (e.g., the assignments given by teachers or the work turned in by students). Students can use software programs, apps, and educational games to learn on their own time, at their own pace, and without instruction or supervision from teachers. Students can also watch videos created by their teachers, conduct online research to learn more about a concept taught in a class, or use tablets to record scientific observations in a natural environment—among countless other possible options and scenarios. While listening to a lecture, reading a book, or completing a homework assignment remain “learning experiences,” students are now learning in different ways than they have in the past and in a wider variety of outside-of-school settings, such as through internships, volunteer activities, or dual-enrollment programs, to name just a few examples.
The Glossary of Education Reform by Great Schools Partnership is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.