Canadian Communication Studies and Experiential Learning

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Sandra Smeltzer


In this article, I provide an environmental scan of experiential learning (EL) activities – internships, community engaged learning, co-ops, and practicum placements – offered by Canadian communication / media studies programs. These forms of ‘hands-on’ pedagogy can provide students with an opportunity to put their academic training into practice, to gain ‘in the field’ experience, and to collaborate with myriad community partners. However, the growth of EL must be contextualized within the neoliberalization of higher education in Canada, including concerns that universities are being cultivated as utilitarian conduits for job preparedness in a capitalist society. With the demand for EL opportunities unlikely to diminish, I argue that our field needs to proactively engage in determining the future of this form of pedagogy and ensure that it is ethical for all involved in the process. This discussion is informed by anonymous, semi-structured interviews I conducted with faculty, staff, students, and community partners associated with a selection of communication / media studies programs in three Canadian provinces. Further, I highlight recent shifts that have taken place in Ontario vis-à-vis EL as a case study to demonstrate the fast and furious policy changes underway at a provincial level.

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