Moving From Classroom Into the “Real” World

This Institute for International Education blog summarizes statistics relating to work, internships, and volunteering abroad (WIVA) over the past four years.:

I’m not sure why headlines always frame student experience which takes place in the workplace as being “real” which of course, leads you to immediately link being in the classroom as “unreal.”  I do recall having moments like that while in college, but, when families are looking at the cost of a college degree, they certainly do not want to believe that they’re investing in an unreal four-years for their child!

According the data collected by IIE, In 1999/00 there were just 5,584 students engaged in these kinds of extra-curricular activities abroad.  By 2006/07 that number grew to 8,584, and has almost tripled in the past four years to reach a total of 25,080 students engaged in WIVA both for-credit and non-credit in 2010/11. These numbers are also not terribly accurate – they’re likely much higher – because IIE had a very low response rate to their survey in the first survey in 1999-00 and even for the latest one, only about 50% of institutions responded.

WIVA has always been on the NAFSA agenda through its very active sub-committee of the same name [on which I’ve served for many years]; and the recent NAFSA publication, Internships, Service Learning and Volunteering Abroad: Successful Models and Best Practices, of which I’m a co-author, is an excellent volume outlining the tremendous value of “real” world experience!  There is a a great deal more attention to this now because of the recession, and campus career service offices are increasingly seeking to integrate experiential learning – another way to frame WIVA – with classroom learning.

The future of higher education is going to be re-shaped around the issue of better preparing students to transition to the workplace -as opposed to  compartmentalizing learning on campus as distinct from learning taking place through WIVA experiences.

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