Promoting the extra-curricular experience

The typical university student of previous generations no longer exists. Today students are not all recent school-leavers embarking on three or four years of full-time study before setting out on a career of permanent employment. There are still some of those, but others are part-time students, or mature students coming out of employment, or distance learning students who never get to see a campus.

The idea that universities can adapt to learner needs is a welcome one, but sometimes it carries a price. One of these is that many students now find it much more difficult to take part in what would once have been considered an essential ingredient of the higher education experience: clubs and societies, sports, volunteering, socialising. These activities can be an important part of personal development and learning, and moreover they give life to a campus.

In order to avoid universities losing the idea of the campus community, they should consider incentivising extracurricular activities. The most obvious way of doing this is to attach formal credit to such activities, thereby allowing students to use them to qualify for their degree. This was done by my former university, DCU. In Canada it has now also been suggested by a professor of higher education. It is time for others to consider such a move also. Only then can we preserve some of the values and benefits of a full university education.

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2 Comments on “Promoting the extra-curricular experience”


  1. Another way to “incentivise” participation is to build a stronger culture of professional self-development for all students centred on the use of eportfolios, in which extra curricular participation can be aligned to formal learning as the basis for thoughtful goal-setting. This has the added benefit of being more inclusive of those students who have relevant extracurricular lives that don’t happen on campus (students who are practising leadership in the context of community sports or church participation, for example).

    Eportfolios can make it easier for students to share all these experiences with each other and build community where they already are: online. But rich and collaborative portfolio take-up requires really substantial institutional commitment, not just a one off purchase of a portfolio solution.

    So I’m not sure that the campus community model is the poorer for the more distributed model of community engagement; it’s just that we need to figure out how to make this wide engagement a more visible part of the university experience.

  2. Al Says:

    Amen.
    Could be improved if the touristic/ socialising element was taken out?
    Or incorporate an employed element?
    Seen too many of these promos where students come back from an experience transformed, changed, “looking at the world differently”!


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