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Toronto, Ontario - M5V 1R2
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Getting Hands-On Off-Campus: When the Classroom Just Can’t Cut It

Written by Daniel Leece

Picture yourself sitting in a lecture hall. You’re listlessly watching PowerPoint slides zoom by, mindlessly copying down sentences exactly as they appear on the screen. An hour and a half goes by like this. When the lecture is over, you’re left thinking, “What just happened?” Panic sets in for a couple of seconds until you decide that you’ll just pay more attention next time.

Sound familiar? If your answer is “yes,” chances are you’re a kinaesthetic learner.

What That Means for You

Congratulations! You enjoy hands-on activities that emulate how you would apply your skills in a real-world setting. And that’s a really, really great way to learn.

Psych 101 taught me that there are three types of cognitive learning styles: visual, auditory, and kinaesthetic. Being a hands-on learner myself, I’ve always wondered—who in the name of the Many-Faced God can acquire AND apply knowledge in any other way? Do such superhumans exist among us?

I recently completed my Master’s degree in Occupational Therapy, so you can trust me when I say that this struggle didn’t end for me just because I’m a graduate student. In fact, the opposite is true. Finding a way to learn that worked for me has become a way more important endeavour at this point; after all, it’s extremely likely that I’ll be looking for a job in the same field as my Master’s degree.

A didactic learning experience just isn’t enough sometimes, and that’s when off-campus opportunities should enter the fray and blow the top off your academic expectations. When I say off-campus, I mean any learning event that takes place with your hindquarters out of a chair and out of a lecture hall. Places where you learn from a mentor or preceptor instead of a professor or a web module.

“There’s no way I’ll be working in a lecture hall, so why would I want to spend all of my valuable time and money learning in one?”

How You Can Get in on It

I wholeheartedly suggest approaching your professors and academic counsellors to ask about where you can find opportunities such as these. Be inquisitive and be proactive. When I was an undergrad, I was completely oblivious to new means of enhancing my education. Looking back, I wish I had someone prod me forward. If anything, engaging in off-campus learning opportunities makes your resume shine brighter than average. And who doesn’t like the sound of that?

For me, I was fortunate enough to have three clinical placement opportunities that plucked me out of university and dropped me right into the real-world in healthcare settings across southeast Ontario. I was able to build meaningful relationships with real people who were experiencing real-life medical issues. I got to laugh and cry with clients and families as they experienced significant life changes. I learned how to administer assessments and interventions from real-life practitioners. What sort of classroom can provide you with such a rich and meaningful opportunity for growth? There’s no way I’ll be working in a lecture hall, so why would I want to spend all of my valuable time and money learning in one?

This is not unique to occupational therapy. Those of you in healthcare must surely be thinking, “Any clinical experience is obviously more valuable than a lecture hall.” It sounds intuitive, doesn’t it? And here’s the best part: all programs come with some sort of real-world learning opportunity.

For you undergrad SLNers who are tired of sitting in lecture halls feeling as though you’re not absorbing as much knowledge as you could be—kind of like a broken sponge—this is your call to action. Explore your field, ask questions, put yourself out there, and learn in a way that works for you!

If you’ve got tips on effective learning or if you’re a veteran of off-campus learning, tell us about it in the comments below!

*Opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Student Life Network or their partners.