General Steps to Design an Experiential Course Unit

Experiential learning is a powerful approach to education that provides students with hands-on, practical experiences that reinforce the concepts and theories learned in the classroom. The design of an experiential course unit requires careful planning and execution to ensure that students achieve their learning goals and develop the necessary skills and competencies. In this context, there are general steps that educators can follow to design an effective experiential course unit. These steps involve identifying the course objectives and learning outcomes, selecting the experiential component, designing the assessment and evaluation strategies, and incorporating reflection and debriefing activities. By following these steps, educators can create a dynamic learning environment that engages students, promotes active learning, and prepares them for real-world challenges. Below you see the major steps in doing this:

  • Determine the learning outcomes: Start by defining the learning outcomes you want students to achieve through the course. These should be specific and measurable and should reflect the practical skills and knowledge students will gain through the experiential component of the course.

  • Identify the experiential component: Decide on the experiential component that will be the focus of the course. This could be a field trip, a lab experiment, a group project, an internship, or any other hands-on activity that will allow students to apply what they have learned in a practical setting.
  • Develop course materials: Develop the materials needed to support the experiential component of the course, such as a syllabus, a course outline, and any necessary readings or assignments.
  • Plan assessments: Plan assessments that will allow you to evaluate students’ learning and progress throughout the course. This could include a combination of written assignments, presentations, group work, and self-reflection exercises.
  • Ensure safety and ethical considerations: Ensure that the experiential component of the course is safe and ethical and that all necessary precautions are taken to protect students and any other parties involved.
  • Seek feedback: Seek feedback from colleagues, students, and other stakeholders to ensure that the course is meeting its objectives and providing students with a valuable learning experience.
  • Reflect and iterate: Reflect on the course and make changes as needed to improve its effectiveness and impact on student learning.

The Course Materials

The course materials for an experiential course unit in an MSc program should be designed to support the learning objectives of the course and the experiential component. Here are some examples of course materials that might be included:

  • Syllabus: The syllabus should include an overview of the course, the learning objectives, the experiential component, the required readings and assignments, the assessment criteria, and any policies or guidelines that students should be aware of.

  • Course outline: The course outline should provide a detailed breakdown of the topics that will be covered in the course, including the experiential component, as well as any relevant readings, assignments, or activities.
  • Reading list: The reading list should include articles, books, and other resources that will support students’ learning throughout the course. These readings should be carefully selected to ensure they are relevant and helpful for the experiential component of the course.
  • Assignments: Assignments should be designed to help students apply what they have learned through the experiential component of the course, and to help them reflect on their learning. These assignments might include written reports, presentations, group projects, or self-reflection exercises.
  • Guidelines: Guidelines should be provided to help students prepare for and participate in the experiential component of the course. These might include safety guidelines, ethical guidelines, or guidelines for conducting fieldwork or research.
  • Examples and case studies: Examples and case studies can be valuable tools for helping students understand how the concepts they are learning about apply in real-world situations. These examples might be drawn from the experiential component of the course, or from other relevant contexts.

The Experiential Component of the Course Unit

When identifying the experiential component of the course, there are several factors to consider, such as the learning objectives of the course, the students’ prior knowledge and skills, the resources available, and the relevance of the experiential component to the field of study.

In the context of an MSc program about artificial intelligence in industrial production, here are some possible experiential components:

  • Industry visit: One possible experiential component could be an industry visit to a factory or manufacturing plant that has implemented AI technologies in their production process. This would give students a chance to see firsthand how AI is being used in industry, and to learn about the challenges and benefits of implementing AI in a real-world setting.

  • Simulation: Another option could be to design a simulation of an industrial production process that incorporates AI technologies. Students could work in groups to design and optimize the production process using AI algorithms and tools, and then test their solutions in the simulation.

  • Case study: A case study could be used to allow students to explore real-world examples of AI in industrial production. Students could analyze case studies of companies that have implemented AI technologies, looking at factors such as the challenges faced, the benefits realized, and the impact on workers and the broader industry.

  • Group project: A group project could be designed to allow students to apply their knowledge of AI to solve a real-world problem faced by a company in the industrial production sector. For example, students could work in groups to develop an AI-based predictive maintenance system for a factory, using data collected from sensors and other sources to identify potential maintenance issues before they occur.

  • Hackathon: Another option could be to organize a hackathon or other hands-on workshop where students can work together to develop AI-based solutions for industrial production challenges. This could involve working with industry partners to identify specific challenges or opportunities, and then developing and testing AI solutions in a collaborative setting.

It’s important to note that when selecting an experiential component, it’s essential to ensure that it aligns with the learning objectives of the course, provides relevant and practical experience for the students, and is feasible within the resources available. Additionally, it’s crucial to consider any ethical, safety, or logistical issues that may arise, and to ensure that appropriate measures are taken to address them.


In this example we consider the course unit “Cognitive and Social Robotics” (see here).  Having access to Nao, Pepper, and Furhat robots presents opportunities for designing an experiential learning component in the course unit on Cognitive and Social Robotics. Thus, the selected approaches for this course to cover the experiential component are:

  • Robot programming and customization: Students will work in groups to program the robots, using their knowledge of social and cognitive robotics to create personalized and effective interactions. This will involve developing dialogues, gestures, and facial expressions that are tailored to specific scenarios and audiences.
  • Human-robot interaction experiments: Students will design and conduct experiments to investigate how humans interact with the robots, and how these interactions impact human emotions and behaviors. This will involve collecting and analyzing data on human-robot interactions, and developing hypotheses and theories about how to improve these interactions.
  • Design and implement robot-assisted training programs for workers: Students will work in groups to design and implement robot-assisted training programs for workers in a manufacturing enterprise. This will involve developing a protocol for using the robots in the training sessions, and evaluating the effectiveness of the program through qualitative and quantitative data.
  • Showcase event: At the end of the course unit, students will organize a showcase event where they demonstrate their programming and design skills to a wider audience. This will involve presenting their robot programs, showcasing their experiment results, and discussing the potential applications of social and cognitive robots in various settings.

  • Content of the course unit and lab work: Based on the course outline (see here), the course has a significant experiential learning component. The lab work section includes various hands-on activities that provide students with opportunities to apply the knowledge they have gained in the lectures. The lab work sessions involve programming and customizing robots, developing complex applications, and designing a smart chatbot and an interactive training program with the Furhat robot. Additionally, the course includes lectures on different aspects of cognitive and social robotics, human-robot interaction, and advanced topics in robotics. These lectures serve as a foundation for the lab work and allow students to gain theoretical knowledge and understanding of robotics principles, techniques, and applications.