As opposed to the theoretical model, applied learning is a concept wherein students learn by the practical application of theories, skills, and models. The approach is based on the premise that hands-on experiences equip learners with better real-world capabilities, thereby making them industry-ready right from Day One.
The method of applied learning brings a host of benefits for both students and teachers and can prove instrumental in boosting the learning experience of aspirants.
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The concept of applied learning has been around for decades. Though the focus on its implementation is renewed. As opposed to the theoretical model, applied learning is a concept wherein students learn by the practical application of theories, skills, and models. The approach is based on the premise that hands-on experiences equip learners with better real-world capabilities, thereby making them industry-ready right from Day One.
What is Applied Learning?
In the simplest terms, applied learning can be defined as "learning by doing". Take for instance an automobile engineering class. The theory of thermodynamics is one of the concepts taught in this class. In a conventional method of teaching, a teacher focuses on explaining the laws in the classroom and, although students get an idea of the basic premise behind the input and output, they can only understand that much with theories and laws.
Now, imagine the boost in learning if the same concept of thermodynamics is taught to learners with the help of an actual car. Students who work practically on the engine of a car will get a real knowledge of input/output and thermodynamic efficiency associated with the engines.
Objectives of Applied Learning
The fundamental aim of objective learning is to support and boost the grasping power of students. Applied learning also aims to enhance learners’ motivation and equip them with practical knowledge to do well in the real-world environment. The method also fosters the philosophy of a student-centric curriculum and practicum which further helps the aspirants to get on with their careers quite early in the learning curve.
Types of Applied Learning
There is a range of applied learning methods that are used across the globe to foster better learning experiences among students.
Internships: Counted among the most prominent applied learning methods, internship opportunities offer considerable exposure to students in real-world working environments. Depending upon the course curriculum and academic structure of the educational institution, internships can carry credit weightage and go on up to six months, a year, or even longer. There are short-term opportunities too and in medical, engineering, and management, students also get a chance to earn during internships while handling real-world projects in corporate houses, engineering firms, or hospitals among others.
Practicum: This type of applied learning is specifically designed to offer students practical experience in their respective fields. The method is quite popular in streams such as psychology, nursing, education, and social work, and differs from internships in terms of duration and exposure potential. Practicum is not as comprehensive as internships, although these are enormously beneficial in helping students gain an understanding of the field of study they are majoring in.
Service Learning and Community Service: These are wonderful methods of imparting practical experience to students while helping them imbibe values and making them responsible members of society. In service learning and community service, students work in close collaboration with service organisations (usually NGOs) and apply the theoretical concept to offer solutions to problems faced by society. These methods are powerful in bringing social changes into society as students contemplate and reflect upon the values and ethics while applying them in a real-world environment.
Research Activity: Instrumental for the growth of both academia and practice, research worldwide is considered a doorway to new opportunities. It is equally beneficial to students as they learn by discovering new things and explore their potential by experimenting, inquiring, and analysing among others. Further, the distinctive aspect of the research over other methods of applied learning is its ability to make original contributions to the field of study and practice.
Field Study: This is relevant as it helps uncover insightful perspectives related to users in the given specific context. The study can be conducted through a variety of activities and primarily include tools such as design, investigation, enquiry, and application among others. The method involves the collection of relevant data and information in natural settings which adds to its credibility of being an ideal method of applied learning.
Entrepreneurship: Not only relevant for enhancing the practical experience, but entrepreneurship activities also open wide doors of opportunities for stakeholders across the value chain. Learners get particularly benefited by imbibing the skills and competencies required to start and run a business venture, thereby evolving into dynamic human beings and personalities in the long run.
Benefits of Applied Learning
Fosters Creativity: Applied learning motivates students to use their own imagination to apply theoretical knowledge and come up with a solution to a particular problem. This starkly contrasts with the conventional learning method of spoon-feeding and although learners might take some more time in solving issues using applied learning, the understanding of concepts will be lifelong.
Builds Self-confidence: The approach of applied learning is specifically beneficial for building self-confidence among learners. Telling students how to do something is one thing but allowing them to go through the puzzle and find the right solution is a different thing altogether. The pride and sense of self-accomplishment that students have once they achieve something on their own help build their confidence and self-esteem.
Independence: Closely associated with self-confidence is the feeling of being independent that students inculcate as they make progress using methods of applied learning. The feeling of being in control makes students self-reliant and helps them to achieve bigger milestones of success in the future.
Fun Learning: The most important aspect of applied learning is its ability to impart understanding to students without overwhelming them with theoretical knowledge or information. Students learn by engaging in different activities and the entire learning experience turns out to be a fun exercise.
— The author, Rajesh Panda, is Founder & MD, Corporate Gurukul, a global edtech venture headquartered in Singapore.