A novel approach for practitioners in training: A blended-learning seminar combining experts, students and practitioners

Vicky J. Meretsky, Teresa A.N. Woods

Abstract


A joint student and professional practitioner seminar used distance technology to allow remote experts to present to, and remote practitioners to participate in, a university-based learning experience. Participants were professional practitioners from the US Fish and Wildlife Service who were mandated to receive training and on-campus graduate students in environmentally focused programs who were enrolled for credit. Seminars providing training in high-demand or cutting-edge topics may be especially valuable to practitioners outside the university in business, agency, or organization positions, if they can attend as distance learners. Such classes create opportunities to bring students and professionals together to interact with expert presenters, who may present from distant locations. Presenters model expert thinking for students and engage them in discussions in which they practice such thinking. Students gain additional insight into their field of practice by observing interactions between practitioners and presenters, as well as by working directly with practitioners, in discussions and, potentially, in assignments. As a result, at little cost to any participant, students are engaged in authentic learning that is not regularly available in a classroom setting and practitioners gain access to a series of experts as well as access to student views and, potentially, student work. Instructors must relinquish considerable control of some aspects of the learning environment, but as mediators can increase the value-added aspects of sharing the class with professionals. Professional programs seeking to prepare students for professional practice often combine both more traditional classroom learning and experiential learning during thesis preparation, service learning or internships. Seminars such at this provide a valuable addition to this mix.

Keywords


professional training; reflective practice; distance teaching and learning; cognitive apprenticeship; experiential learning; decoding

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