What Is the Experiential Learning Theory of David Kolb?

Experiential learning theory is about learning by doing. Developed by psychologist David Kolb, the theory describes the learning process whereby knowledge is created through experience. Kolb’s theory explains that concrete experience, reflective observation, abstract conceptualisation and active experimentation form a four-stage process (or cycle) transformed into effective learning. Applying Kolb’s learning theory has benefits for students, educators and employers. 

Is It Difficult to Become Involved In Experiential Learning?

Before starting an experiential learning program, it’s wise to figure out how much work is involved. For example, educational researchers Lee Andresen, David Boud, and Ruth Cohen have created a criteria that makes a project to be truly experiential. These include a personally meaningful goal to the student, personal student engagement, and involvement of the whole person in the learning experience (including their senses, emotions, and personality).

Moreover, projects need to recognise relevant prior learning and provide opportunities for students to reflect on their experiences throughout. They add that teachers must establish a sense of respect, trust, openness, and concern for student wellbeing.

How Practera can help

This might seem like a lot to organise, and it is if you’re doing it alone. But with support from Practera, starting an experiential learning program is probably much easier than you think. Our fully supported experiential learning programs help students develop practical employability skills by connecting them to real-world activities with industry partners.

Practera can offer programs across a huge range of experiential learning categories, including team projects, internships, boot camps, mentoring, work simulations and more. Importantly, our experiential learning programs can be scaffolded to foster student competency before undertaking a full placement or internship. Education institutions taking this approach enable more students to experience success in the long term.

Crucially, Practera’s highly engaging experiential learning programs have all been designed for online delivery. Whether you’re providing programs onsite or online, our user-friendly, innovative platform incorporates features that maximise the student experience and quality of learning. 

Practera’s integrated assessment, feedback, and performance tracking devices are all designed to foster premium-quality online experiential program delivery. For example, inbuilt intelligence discerns optimal moments for reflection and encourages students to pause and think deeply, encouraging learning and retention.

During COVID-19, Practera even committed $1 million in funding to support 26 experiential learning projects across 12 universities, which benefited more than 100,000 learners. This helped universities continue to provide quality learning experiences when education was being done completely online.

Learning practical real-world skills withExperiential Learning Theory

Who Is David Kolb?

The model was published in 1984 by David Kolb, an American psychologist, professor and education theorist. Kolb was born in 1939 and earned his undergraduate degree from Knox College in 1961. He then earned a PhD in social psychology from Harvard University.

Kolb’s experiential learning theory was influenced by the work of other education theorists, including Jean Piaget, John Dewey, and Kurt Lewin. Kolb has written numerous books, book chapters, and journal articles. He has been bestowed four honorary degrees and won several awards.

What Is the Experiential Learning Theory Kolb Developed?

As the name says, experiential learning involves the transformation of experience into effective learning. Kolb’s experiential learning theory stresses how our experiences, including our thoughts, emotions and environment, impact the learning process.

Kolb’s theory defines experiential learning as a four-stage process: 

  1. Concrete learning occurs when a learner has a new experience or interprets a previous experience in a new way. For example, a nursing student has to learn a new procedure as part of their clinical education.
  2. Reflective observation – the learner reflects on the new experience to understand what it means. In our example, the nursing student might think about how they could have done the procedure better.
  3. Abstract conceptualisation – the learner adapts their thinking or constructs new ideas based on experience and reflection. For example, the nursing student realises they need to have all their materials ready before starting the procedure.
  4. Active experimentation – the learner applies their new ideas to real-world situations to test whether they work and see if any changes need to be made. This process can happen quickly or over an extended time. Our nursing student might note how smoothly things go consistently when they have everything ready for a procedure in advance.

The Importance of Preferences in David Kolb’s Experiential Learning Cycle

The four stages of Kolb’s model are portrayed as an experiential learning cycle. Learners can enter the cycle at any time. For example, imagine a group of students are learning to use computer-aided design (CAD) software. One student might begin the learning process by observing others using it. Another learner might start by reading about the program. Still, another learner might immediately jump in and have a go at using it. 

Kolb explains learners have natural preferences for how they enter the experiential learning cycle. “Because of our hereditary equipment, our particular past life experiences, and the demands of our environment, we develop a preferred way of choosing,” he wrote.

Experiential Learning Theory benefits students, educators and employers.

Kolb’s learning styles model

These preferences are the basis of Kolb’s learning styles model, which divides learners into four types based on their dominant learning style.

Kolb’s learning styles are:

  • Diverging – In this learning style, learners focus on concrete experience and reflective observation. They prefer to watch and reflect on what they’ve observed before jumping in. 
  • Assimilating – This learning style incorporates learners who favour abstract conceptualisation and reflective observation. They like using analytical models to explore and prefer concepts and abstract ideas.
  • Converging – Learners using this learning style focus on abstract conceptualisation and active experimentation. They like to solve problems and enjoy applying learning to practical issues.
  • Accommodating – Learners using this learning style favour concrete experience and active experimentation. They relish a challenge and using intuition to solve problems. 

How Can Experiential Learning Benefits Students?

Experiential learning has many benefits for students, including:

  • The chance to immediately apply the learning process to real-world experiences, which supports knowledge retention
  • Improved motivation, as students are more excited about learning in real-world situations
  • Promotion of learning through reflection, which deepens and strengthens the learning  experience
  • The chances to make good use of their preferred style of learning
  • Enhanced teamwork because experiential learning often involves working as part of a team
  • The opportunity to prepare for future work through genuine, meaningful real-world practice
  • The chances to meet colleagues and potential employers.

How Can Experiential Learning Benefit Employers and Educators?

For educators, utilising experiential learning can:

  • Allow you to develop highly engaging and appropriate learning opportunities for students, supporting your reputation as an educator of choice for preparing students for the real-world workforce
  • Help you design learning and reflection activities that allow students to learn in ways that suit their preferred learning styles
  • Ensure your students develop skills that enhance employability and optimise their chances of future success.

For employers, experiential learning gives you access to teams of highly motivated students who are equipped with the latest knowledge. It provides a chance to upskill your current workers, identify and attract leading graduate talent, and build relationships with key stakeholders in your industry.

Click Here To Download the ‘Effective Experiential Learning Whitepaper’

Project Based Learning: Benefits and Techniques of PBL

The Benefits of Project Based Learning

Project-based learning (PBL) enables students to learn deeply and develop core employability skills
through participating in real work projects and experiences. It has benefits for students, education
institutions and industry. With Practera’s support, organising project-based learning is cost-effective
and simple.

What is project-based learning?

Project-based learning (PBL) is a teaching method that drives student learning by engaging them in
real-world, meaningful projects. It’s a style of inquiry-based and student-centred learning. In PBL,
students work in groups over a set period on a project designed to solve a genuine problem or
answer a challenging question. Students demonstrate their knowledge and skills by creating a
product or presentation for a public audience.

Project based learning activities allow students to develop deep content knowledge. Importantly,
PBL also supports development of 21 st century skills such as critical thinking, collaboration, creativity
and communication. PBL education is used across various learning environments, including high
schools and universities.

It’s important to distinguish a PBL project from a traditional school or college project. Educators
sometimes use light projects to supplement other learning activities. This can be likened to icing on a
cake. In contrast, PBL is like the cake itself – it forms the substance of unit learning and skill

Why use project based learning?

The simple answer is that contemporary work is often project-based work. Forces including
globalisation, automation and growth of the gig economy mean predictable and repetitive jobs are
increasingly uncommon.

Instead, many current students’ careers will involve working on a series of projects. It therefore
makes sense for them to have experience with project-based work, along with the knowledge and
skills required to be a successful project team member.

What are the benefits of project based learning?

Project based learning also has other advantages for students. These include:

  • Deeper engagement and interaction with learning content
  • Encouragement of higher order thinking and problem-solving skills
  • Development of peer and professional networks
  • Engagement with potential employers and career mentors
  • Fostering of 21 st century skills like collaboration and communication
  • Enhanced autonomy and agency in learning
  • A sense of mastery and self-efficacy
  • Gaining valuable career insights.

Benefits for universities and industry

Universities and other educational institutions can also benefit from offering project-based learning
that connects students with real-world projects and clients. The capacity to offer students high-
quality PBL projects creates a differentiation point that can help you attract and retain students,
improve their employability and satisfaction, and foster important partnerships with community,
government and industry partners.

For educators, the PBL model can expand their repertoire of pedagogical strategies and lead to
greater job satisfaction.

For industry, a PBL approach gives you access to teams of talented students eager to learn and apply
their up-to-date academic knowledge. It creates opportunities to upskill staff in coaching and
mentoring, and to meet potential job candidates.

Establishing a program

If implementing a PBL program sounds like a great idea, it’s important to understand how to do it
well before you get started. Research by the Buck Institute for Education has shown that a successful
PBL unit must include some essential design elements for deeper learning, higher engagement and
better-quality work to occur.
They are:

  • A challenging problem or question – the project must involve a meaningful, real-world
    problem that needs solving or question that needs answering, at an appropriately
    challenging level.
  • Sustained inquiry – PBL projects need to give students the chance to engage in an extended,
    thorough process of questioning, finding resources, and applying information.
  • Realism – the project must involve a real-life situation or task, or be related to the students’
    personal concerns, life issues and interests.
  • Student voice and choice – students need to be included in making decisions about the
    project, such as what they will create and how, and be allowed to communicate their ideas
    in their own voices.
  • A public product for a real audience – the project needs to result in a piece of work that is
    shared with or presented to an audience beyond the classroom, such as industry clients or
    the public.
  • Reflection – educators and students reflect on their learning, the quality of work produced,
    any challenges that arose, and the success of strategies used to overcome them.
  • Feedback and revision – through reflection and critique, students should give, receive, and
    apply feedback (including formative and summative assessment) to enhance their processes
    and products.

When effectively designed, implemented and scaffolded, PBL can have a huge impact on the quality
and success of your teaching practices.

How Practera can help

This might all sound quite complex, and it is if you’re trying to set everything up yourself. But with
Practera’s help and resources, implementing project-based learning is simple. Our fully supported and quality assured programs are designed to easily connect university students with genuine
industry experiences, internships and projects.

These are curated from thousands of global employers, including government departments,
corporates and community organisations. Our expansive library of cost-effective project types
facilitates projects ranging from two-week micro-internships to custom PBL programs to suit your
requirements—all digitally enabled and scalable to thousands of learners.

Importantly, Practera can deliver these PBL programs virtually. Our innovative and user-friendly
platform is designed to optimise learning quality and the student experience, regardless of whether
programs are used onsite or remotely.

Monitoring progress and outcomes

Feedback about progress and outcomes is crucial for successful PBL, and you’ll want to ensure your
PBL programs are achieving the desired results. Practera has you covered with our range of
feedback, assessment and performance tracking tools.

Quality feedback to enhance learning outcomes

Quality feedback is one of Practera’s core strengths. Our platform allows students to receive
individualised feedback from industry, peers and educators at exactly the right time to drive critical
reflection, deep learning, and better performance. Integrated feedback support tools enhance the
quality, consistency and timeliness of feedback—the key ingredient of successful learning! Our
Team360 assessments also allow you to embed a peer feedback loop into your learning programs.

Easily assess educational outcomes

Practera gives you multiple options for assessing and progressing student learning. You can easily set
up different types of assessments, commonly moderated assessments which allow for a feedback
loop, along with question-and-answer options such as multiple choice and checkboxes.

For grading student work, Practera offers user-friendly rubrics that help you efficiently provide
consistent and impartial grading. You can easily track participant engagement, progress and
deliverables, pinpoint any issues with individual students or teams, and support them throughout
their PBL experience.

Advanced technology enhances user experience

You can also monitor and quality assure your programs using Practera’s real-time analytics and data
dashboards. At a glance, you can quickly identify any issues before they become bigger problems, or
dig deeper for more detailed analysis. You can also capture end of program reports.

We even have a world-first AI-assistant, known as ELSA, designed specifically for experiential
learning. ELSA provides 24/7 monitoring to provide real-time recommendations based on research-
backed learning science, saving you time and helping deliver optimal student learning outcomes.

With COVID-19 meaning some PBL must take place virtually, Practera’s inbuilt feedback, assessment
and performance tracking devices allow educational institutions to still deliver PBL activities without
sacrificing learning quality.

Click Here To Download the ‘Quality in Online Project-Based Learning White Paper’

Delivering Student Project-learning at Scale & Remotely- Watch Quality in Online Experiential Learning Webinar Video

Missed our live webinar click the link below and watch our webinar video. To equip students with the skills and capabilities they need for the future of work, educators seek to deliver a range of experiential learning programmes in and around the curriculum. However, experiential learning with high proportions of in-person engagement can be complex and costly to deliver at scale. Watch video click here 

Online models including team-based industry projects potentially offer substantial benefits including lower cost, broader geographic reach and enhanced scalability – but only if quality can be maintained. Watch video click here 

The University of New South Wales Business School partnered with edtech startup Practera to design a new class of digital online ‘nano’ projects. These projects have subsequently scaled up and been deployed with students from >60 other institutions in Australia and around the world, including King’s College London.

Watch video click here 

In this webinar, presenters and panellists will:

  • Share experience with designing & deploying digital industry projects & virtual internships to thousands of students
  • Share Practera’s recently released research into Quality in Online Project Learning, analysing performance and critical success factors across a sample of 7905 participants from 22 universities, across 124 cohorts and 4 types of programs supported by the Practera platform
  • Participate in the live panel discussion, facilitated by host Professor Laura-Anne Bull, Deputy Vice-Chancellor Students, James Cook University, Director Student Experience Strathclyde


Presenters & panellists include:

  • Brigitte McKenna, Manager Career Accelerator UNSW Business School, Sydney
  • Naomi Hewston, Internships Adviser, King’s College London 
  • Beau Leese, CEO & co-founder of Practera 
  • Professor Laura-Anne Bull (Facilitator), former Deputy Vice-Chancellor Students, James Cook University, & Director Student Experience, Strathclyde.

Watch video click here 



Work Integrated Learning – Your Essential Guide

Work Integrated Learning – the Benefits and Opportunities

Work integrated learning allows students to engage in real-world work experiences that support their preparedness for employment. The benefits include the opportunity to apply knowledge in practice, build professional networks, and enhance employability. For employers, it creates opportunities for staff training, meeting potential work candidates, and getting fresh input on projects.

What is work integrated learning?

The term ‘work integrated learning’ (WIL) describes purposeful and supervised learning programs and activities that connect university students with real-world work experiences with an industry or community partner in their field. WIL is all about integrating what you study in the classroom with its workplace application. 

WIL activities are linked with one or more study courses, formally assessed, and applied as credit towards your study program. WIL can take several forms, including:

Work placements

Work placements (also sometimes called clinical placements, internships, or practicums) give students the opportunity to engage in authentic, supervised work tasks during time spent within an organisation. For example, a physiotherapy student might complete a placement within a teaching hospital. They enable students to apply academic knowledge and develop professional competencies. 

Industry projects

These involve university students working, either individually or as a group, to deliver on a project brief for a community or industry partner. For example, a group of information technology students might work on an IT company’s brief to research and develop a client’s network solution. Students get to apply theoretical knowledge to authentic scenarios, plus develop skills such as client communication, project management, and collaborative working. 

Work simulations

In situations where real-world work experience may not be possible, or carry too much risk, work simulations enable students to apply their academic learning in an environment designed to approximate the real one as closely as possible. These activities usually involve using industry-specific activities, technology or equipment in a way that simulates the work environment’s complexities. Examples include university law students practicing in moot courts and trainee pilots using flight simulators.


This approach allows a student or group of students to build skills by partnering with an industry or community mentor. For example, a communications student might enter a mentoring relationship with a working journalist. Students can benefit from their mentor’s workplace experience, practical knowledge, and feedback about their performance. 

The benefits of work integrated learning – for students

Work integrated learning has a plethora of benefits for students. Just some of them include:

  • The opportunity to apply your hard-won academic learning to real-world work scenarios
  • Building relationships with potential employers and industry colleagues
  • Enhancing your resume with evidence of authentic work experience
  • The chance to explore your chosen field and clarify your direction
  • Developing valued workplace skills such as critical thinking, collaboration, project management and professional communication
  • The opportunity to better understand a workplace’s culture
  • A portfolio of work to show potential employers
  • A deepened understanding of your future career and its real-world requirements.

What are the benefits of work integrated learning to the employer?

Students aren’t the only people to benefit from WIL. For employers, advantages include:

  • The opportunity to upskill employees 
  • Building networks with industry and community partners and training organisations
  • The chance to meet, identify and attract leading graduate talent
  • Engaging teams of eager, knowledgeable students for work projects 
  • Giving back to your industry or profession.

How to get involved in work integrated learning

Getting started with WIL might seem daunting, but Practera makes the process simple and streamlined. Our experiential learning platform seamlessly connects students with authentic, real-world work experiences, at scale.

Higher education

For higher education providers, the ability to offer high-quality WIL is a powerful differentiator. It can help your institution attract and retain students, enhance their employability, and build strong relationships with industry and community partners.

Practera partner with higher education institutions in North America, Europe, Asia and Australia to help them deliver exceptional WIL experiences that simultaneously reduce delivery costs and increase scale. 


Practera helps employers develop the skills and capabilities of their teams while enhancing workflows and engaging with the upcoming generation of university candidates. 

Our platform can connect your company with students eager to gain experience through real-world industry projects, internships and experiences. 


For government agencies, Practera can partner with you to build industry and education system collaborations. 

Our programs support the upskilling and reskilling of workers and helps you identify and attract top graduate talent. 

Work Integrated Learning and COVID-19

Organising WIL projects has become more difficult in a socially distanced world by necessitating a shift to virtual delivery. The Practera platform addresses this issue by ensuring virtual WIL can still take place with a high level of quality. 

A vital component of successful WIL opportunities involves providing students with the chance to reflect on their learning experiences. Practera’s experiential learning programs have inbuilt feedback loops designed by industry, peers and educators and backed by research. These are delivered at key moments to help drive critical reflection and deeper learning.

This key ingredient helps university students gain employability skills such as creativity and resilience, and ensures their virtual learning makes them ready for real-life careers.

Download the ‘Effective Experiential Learning Whitepaper’ To Learn More About The Benefits of WIL

Practera advances to the next round of the $5M XPRIZE Rapid Reskilling Competition.

Practera is proud to be one of 10 teams globally advancing to the qualified teams round of the $5M XPRIZE Rapid Reskilling Competition, sponsored by nonprofit venture philanthropy organization New Profit in partnership with Jobs for the Future (JFF).

Working with future-focused workforce boards across the US, Practera will develop and demonstrate breakthrough experiential learning solutions to more rapidly train and place displaced & vulnerable American workers into higher-wage, higher-skill jobs. Qualified Teams were selected by an independent panel of experts from among 118 teams from 20 countries.

At Practera, we are inspired by XPRIZE Rapid Reskilling’s vision of a future in which all workers have access to gainful and meaningful employment. A vision that so closely aligns with our mission, values and work to date.

XPRIZE Rapid Reskilling incentivizes teams to develop and demonstrate the effectiveness of rapid training and reskilling solutions for individuals most vulnerable to employment loss in the United States. The solutions developed in this competition will reduce training time by at least 50% for occupations with a living wage and will be provided at no cost to the individual.

Congratulations to all teams on their achievement – we’re proud to be working alongside some amazing innovators as part of the Future of Work Grand Challenge.

We’re super excited and are looking forward to the competition!

Find out more about our experiential learning technology platform and programs here. https://practera.com/what-is-practera

Happy Lunar New Year

The Lunar New Year marks one year since the start of the current pandemic for most people.

As we usher in the year of the OX, let’s hope it bring along what it stands for. A year of calmness, stability, great opportunity and economic prosperity.

Wishing all our partners, friends, students and families around the world a very ” Happy Lunar New Year.”

We look forward to another year of achieving positive outcomes for “Learners, Students, Businesses, Universities, Educators and Mentors through Practera’s technology platform, learning design and programs.

How can universities ensure that students are work-ready, and develop their employability through virtual experiences?

Dino Willox director of student employability at the University of Queensland, and Laura-Anne Bull executive director for academic partnerships at Practera, explain how to develop employability skills virtually especially after the upheaval of Covid-19 to Times Higher Education The Campus. They emphasise that while there are plenty of options for enhancing employability virtually,  it is how students reflect upon and learn from their experiences as an important factor. At practera, we power experiential learning programs with our feedback loops to drive critical reflection, deeper learning and improved performance. As the authors point out, this important ingredient makes students gain enhanced employability skills and get them career ready.

Feedback from students and employers has indicated that by engaging in digital industry projects, enhanced by feedback loops from industry, peers & educators at the right points students fostered and developed much sought-after employability skills and capabilities such as innovation, resilience, emotional intelligence and creativity.

Read the full article on boosting student employability through virtual experience here  http://timeshighereducation.com/campus/boosting-student-employability-through-virtual-experience

King’s Careers & Employability partners with Practera

We are excited to kickstart 2021 by announcing a new partnership between Practera and King’s College London.

The King’s Careers & Employability team will be using the Practera platform to deliver digital industry projects for students to gain professional insights and develop essential employability skills needed for a modern career. We look forward to unfolding the partnership and its digital projects in the year ahead.


Andrew Wright, Head of Employer Engagement at King’s said, “Practera has demonstrated itself as an industry leader across Australia and other key geographies and we are delighted to help them launch in the United Kingdom in 2020. The platform allows us to develop, design and implement high-quality virtual meaningful work projects for our students, working alongside industry at scale to build unique experiences in these challenging times. We are excited about what we can achieve in 2021 through group projects targeted at final year undergraduate students and those from under-represented groups.”



Practera Co-Founder & Co-CEO Beau Leese said, “We’re proud to be partnering with a leading Careers Service like King’s College, and delighted to be supporting their vision to build success for students, graduates, staff and employers across King’s College London.”



Practera also starts 2021 with a new UK team led by Jane Hallett, Senior Manager Academic Partnerships. Jane returned to London to work with our UK customers following 3 years with Practera in Sydney. Read more about the partnership here. https://www.kcl.ac.uk/news/kings-careers-practera

Practera powered Job Smart Edge wins prestigious global education award.

Practera is very proud to be part of The University of Sydney Business School’s Job Smart Edge “BIG” program win at the Global QS Quacquarelli Symonds “Reimagine Education Awards”.

Job Smart Edge is The University of Sydney’s Employability program powered by Practera. The program prepares young people for a rapidly shifting future through access to career coaching, masterclasses and authentic real-life industry project experience.

The University of Sydney dominated this year’s QS Reimagine Education awards. The Business School’s Job Smart Edge initiative won the overall Global Education Award for its comprehensive program to provide international students employability skills and experience for their future careers.

The Reimagine Education Awards program, the world’s largest awards program for innovative teaching, is led by the Wharton SEI Center for Advanced Studies in Management at the University of Pennsylvania and the World University Rankings. It aims to reward innovative approaches that enhance student learning outcomes and employability.

Massive applause to all involved on a well deserved and outstanding award!

If you want to learn more about our products or discuss how we can help you design an award-winning employability skills program, please contact us here connect@practera.com. We look forward to having a chat!


The Practera team wishes you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

As 2020 draws to a close the Practera team wishes you and your families a happy festive season, and a bright, healthy 2021.  In particular, all our love and support to those who are unable to see friends and family this year. 

In 2020 we were privileged to be able to continue with our mission and help more educators deliver high quality, digitally-enabled experiential learning to students and professionals. Thanks to our awesome customers and team for your support in this most volatile of years – your resilience and spirit have been our inspiration. 

We are also delighted and excited to be ending the year on a hight by being nominated as a finalist for 👉Excellence in International Student Employability and Career Development 👉 Victorian International Education Awards. It’s great to be acknowledged by the Victorian Government and Study Melbourne for demonstrating excellence/innovation in employability and careers services to International Students. Find out  more here 

We look forward to updating you on Practera’s continued success in January. 

For now, if you can’t wait for 2021, here’s some light reading;

If you’d like to learn more or discuss ideas to grow your experiential learning impact in 2021 – let’s have a chat in January! 


Let’s talk

Submit a project

Submit a project brief to gain access to student teams around the world at no cost.

Connect for a discussion

Contact us for a discussion around how Practera can help you deliver your experiential learning vision.