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Knowledge acquisition in a fast-paced world: Why Experiential Learning is more important than ever!

Today’s work world resembles itself little as compared to only a few decades ago. In the not-so-distant past, individuals were unlikely to experience a change in their work lives beyond acclimating to the firm’s new printer. By contrast, the contemporary work environment is manifestly dynamic; it is characterised by excitement, but also instability. The prospect of pursuing multiple careers in vastly disparate industries is not as extraordinary as it had once been. This means that individuals are expected to continuously expanding their skillset; enrichment is more horizontal and less vertical (in depth). Consider the scramble to embrace computer competencies, evidenced by the explosion of coding boot camps in the last few years.

Naturally, all this necessitates the attainment of new knowledge rather quickly. The rate at which change occurs can be stressful as all are under ceaseless pressure to upgrade their competencies, a task may be particularly difficult for those mid-career. Adaptiveness, in this accelerated system, becomes a trait that is indispensable. This is where experiential learning comes into the picture. Experiential learning – commonly thought of as “learning by doing” – while not a novel practice (it was first introduced by David Kolb in the 1930s), will find continued and increasing relevance as the work environment as organisations ask for more.

The advantageous of experiential learning over traditional forms of classroom learning have been well documented. The holistic approach of most experiential learning programmes boast a track record of increased efficiency at retaining concepts, greater participant engagement, and enhanced adaptiveness, among others benefits. Indeed, a great deal (as much as 70%) of job knowledge is acquired, not through coursework, but by actively performing their tasks. A younger cohort seems to be catching on. One survey concludes that “Generation Z”, many who are beginning to enter the workforce, favours supporting social causes by “doing something experientially, versus a passive engagement.”

There is another reason that is likely to bolster the prominence of experiential learning in the near future. Experiential learning is the great facilitator of soft skills – many of which cannot be learned through conventional pen-to-paper methods. With the threat of automation hanging over our heads, skills that prioritize human interactivity will rise in importance. The World Economic Forum’s employment outlook projects the +492 and +416 point growth in business & financial operations and management related jobs, as well as the -4,759 point decline in office and administrative positions. Increasingly, creativity, communication, critical-thinking, emotional intelligence, and independent thinking are prized skills. As Andrea Bandelli of Science Gallery International puts it, “This design-led approach to education changes the narrative from education as something that is received from outside to something that is generated by experience.”

Across various industries, methods of experiential learning are quickly becoming the standard for job training and education. In India, experiential learning has blossomed into an industry in and of itself, where some social enterprises have been deploying hands-on activities like inclusive gaming and service-based learning as a means of engaging its participants and growing their skills.


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