Importance of Hands-On-Learning in Higher Education
Dr Sri Niwas Singh, Vice-Chancellor, 1111 | the education magazine

To acquire knowledge, reading and writing has always been used since long. In early days, getting the knowledge, the main way was through the experience. Studies show that people learn the best and retain it for long when learning is hands-on. Learning is about how one perceives and understands the subjects. Learning may involve understanding, remembering the information and ideas, etc. Hands-on, in general, means learning by doing. It is often not easy to properly understand something you have never experienced. Scientists believe that the mental growth of children increases if it is through the activities. Hands-on learning is a learning style in which learning takes place by the students carrying out physical activities, rather than listening to a lecture or watching demonstrations.

Students in higher education are also more diverse than at any time in the past. Students vary enormously in their financial status, social class, family circumstances, age, their previous educational experience, reasons for attending higher education, and aspirations and ambition, their abilities and disabilities and special needs. Students are increasingly heterogeneous and have an array of identities, which in turn create a multiplicity of learning needs. One cannot assume that there is a common understanding by students of the purposes of higher education. Reading does not provide the kind of authentic experiences that one needs. Students cannot be educated by reading content alone, and as a result, their overall academic performance is likely to be affected.

Hands-on learning is a philosophy that learning is more durable and lasting when students are cognitively engaged in the learning process. It helps in long-term retention and better transfer of knowledge and understanding in real world problem which is result of mental work on the part of learners who are engaged in active sense-making and knowledge construction. The best example is to teach someone to swim. We can try and teach them in a classroom, but to learn they should go out and practice it. Thus, our education system demands for hands-on learning experiences.

Many people are habitual of same traditional, formal education and are conditioned to see one-way transmission as the norm and their comfort zone. Sometimes it suited for students also as they are interested in grades/marks and which they can achieve easily in traditional way. The purpose of traditional, formal education is evaluation and not learning. Presently most effective educational systems are having more vocational courses providing work-based experiences than ever before. Subjects such as design, science and technology incorporate many aspects of hands-on learning, and give students the opportunity to develop skills, knowledge and understanding of designing and making functional products.

Students have access to a contemporary and flexible learning environment that facilitates individual and collaborative learning. They participate in an academic community, where technology is integrated in active and diverse methods for teaching and assessment providing students with advanced academic and digital qualifications. To be logical thinking and creating, hands on learning is very important.  It also creates the job creators and facilitates in job seekers as well.

Experiential learning is the process of learning through experience, and is more specifically defined as “learning through reflection on doing”. Hands-on learning is a form of experiential learning but does not necessarily involve students reflecting on their product. Presently Institutions of Higher Education are offering different modules of Hands-on-learning which includes industrial taring, prototypes etc. Such type of hands-on-learning will certainly help in better teaching and learning outcomes.

About the Author

Dr Sri Niwas Singh

Vice-Chancellor, Madan Mohan Malaviya University of Technology Gorakhpur


He obtained his M. Tech. and Ph. D. in Electrical Engineering from Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur. Before joining IIT Kanpur as Associate Professor, he worked with UP State Electricity Board as Assistant Engineer, with Rookree University (now IIT Rookree) as Assistant Professor and with Asian Institute of Technology, Bangkok, Thailand as Assistant Professor. Dr Singh received several awards including Young Engineer Award 2000 of Indian National Academy of Engineering (INAE), Khosla Research Award of IIT Roorkee, and Young Engineer Award of CBIP New Delhi (India), 1996. He is a receipt of Humboldt Fellowship of Germany (2005, 2007) and Otto-monsted Fellowship of Denmark (2009-10). He became first Asian to receive 2013 IEEE Educational Activity Board Meritorious Achievement Award in Continuing Education. He is also recipients of INAE Outstanding Teacher Award 2016 and IEEE R10 region (Asia-Pacific) Outstanding Volunteer Award 2016.

His research interests include power system restructuring, FACTS, power system optimization & control, security analysis, wind power and has published more than 440 papers in International/national journals/conferences and supervised 29 PhD (10 PhD under progress). He has also written two books one on Electric Power Generation, Transmission and Distribution and second is Basic Electrical Engineering, published by PHI, India. Prof Singh has completed two dozen of projects in India and abroad.

Prof Singh was Chairman, IEEE UP Section for 2013 and 2014, and presently, he is IEEE Region 10 (Asia-Pacific) Conference and Technical Seminar Coordinator 2015-18.  He is also India Council Chairman-Elect 2017 of IEEE, the largest professional body in engineering.

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