Experiential Learning & Internship Resouces
Experiential learning is the application of theory and academic content to real-world experiences, either within the classroom, the community, or the workplace, which advances program or course-based learning outcomes that are specifically focused on employability skills. Experiential learning comes in many forms, including but not limited to:
Experience Type / Definition / Resources
An internship is a work experience within an organization where a student is looking to gain relevant skills, knowledge and experience in a particular field related to their major or career goals.
Internships are typically one-time work experiences that involve working in professional settings under the supervision and mentorship of practicing professionals.
Internships can be paid or unpaid, and the student may or may not receive academic credit for performing the internship. (5)
Cooperative Education, or Co-Op
Co-ops offer students multiple periods of hands-on work experience related to their major or career goal. Students typically alternate terms of full-time classroom study with terms of full-time, discipline-related employment. Since the program participation involves multiple work terms, the typical participant will work three or four work terms, thus gaining a year or more of career-related work experience before graduation. Virtually all co-op positions are paid, and the clear majority involve some form of academic credit. (5)
Undergraduate research is the formation of a collaborative initiative between student/scholar and faculty member/mentor. This collaboration hopes to facilitate a four-step learning process:
- The identification of and acquisition of a disciplinary or interdisciplinary methodology
- The setting out of a concrete investigative problem
- The carrying out of the actual project
- The dispersing or sharing of a new scholar’s discoveries with their peers or discipline where scholars experience some independence, have room for creativity, and feel ownership of the research project. (2)
Volunteering is generally considered an altruistic activity where an individual or group provides services for no financial or social gain “to benefit another person, group or organization”. Volunteering is renowned for skill development and is often intended
to promote goodness or to improve human quality of life. Volunteering typically has positive benefits for the volunteer as well as for the person or community served. (1)
Community Engaged and/or Service-Based Learning
Community engaged or service-based learning usually includes an academic coursework component with the partnership of institutional resources to address challenges facing communities through the following:
- engagement that addresses societal needs identified by a community
- intentional integration of learning objectives co-created with community partner(s)
- student preparation and ongoing critical reflection
- clearly articulated benefits for students, community, and campus partners
- opportunities to critically examine social issues and situate self within a community setting (1)
In a practicum, a students’ primary task is to treat the experience like an observational learning experience. It is common practice for students to enroll in a practicum course which outlines goals and expectations and confers academic credit. The academic course facilitates learning and participation with reflective assignments and follow-up discussion. Students connect their experiences during the program to the theories and concepts they have learned.
An education abroad experience can develop critical skills for any career field to include language learning, adaptability, independence, and cultural knowledge. These experiences offer the unique opportunity to learn about another culture through the opportunity to live and work within a global society; all with the security through a host institution that also allows the transfer of credit to a student’s degree program. (7)
Leadership & Involvement
Students can develop skills such as leadership and teamwork through participating in student clubs and organizations. These groups bring together students with a common interests and values where they build strong peer relationships and develop relevant career experience along the way. Student involvement may offer leadership training to gain crucial skills like communication and teamwork. Leadership training can happen informally through your involvement with campus organizations, and/or through leadership programs, workshops that train and mentor students. (6)
A capstone is an assignment that serves as a culminating academic and intellectual experience for students, typically during their final year in an academic program. Students may be asked to select a topic, profession, or social problem that interests them, conduct research on the subject, develop findings or results, and create a final product demonstrating their conclusions.
Capstone projects are generally designed to encourage students to think critically, solve challenging problems, and develop skills such as verbal communication, public speaking, research skills, technology, teamwork, planning, self-management and goal setting that will help prepare them for the workforce. (3)
Learning communities are high-impact instructional practices that engage a cohort of students, staff and faculty to develop an collaborative and supportive learning environment While each learning community may represent a unique focus, most offer groups who collaboratively engage in a learning experience for a prescribed period of time often ranging from one semester to a year.
Fellowships are short-term learning opportunities that typically span from a few months to two years. Many associations sponsor fellowships by providing financial support to promising scholars and professionals in exchange for their work in the field. Fellowships are traditionally merit-based awards granted to full-time masters or doctoral students with high GPAs and career promise. Fellowships are often structured to deliver significant focus in a particular specialty and often have many opportunities for Fellows to learn from mentors and even publish their research. (8)
1. Center for Community Engaged Learning – Michigan State University. (n.d.). What is Community Engaged Learning? Retrieved June 17, 2020, from https://communityengagedlearning.msu.edu/faculty/what-is-community-engaged-learning
2. Council for Undergraduate Research. (n.d.). Mission Statement. Retrieved June 17, 2020, from https://www.cur.org/who/organization/mission/
3. Glossary of Education Reform. (2016, March 23). Capstone Project Definition. Retrieved June 17, 2020, from https://www.edglossary.org/capstone-project/
5. NACE. (n.d.). Position Statement: U.S. Internships. Retrieved June 17, 2020, from https://www.naceweb.org/about-us/advocacy/position-statements/position-statement-us-internships/
6. Princeton Review. (n.d.). 6 Ways to Get Involved at Your Green College. Retrieved June 17, 2020, from https://www.princetonreview.com/college-advice/green-guide/green-college-experience
7. University of Texas – San Antonio. (n.d.). Education Abroad. Retrieved June 17, 2020, from https://studyabroad.utsa.edu/
8. University of Texas – San Antonio. (n.d.). Fellowships. Retrieved June 17, 2020, from https://careercenter.utsa.edu/fellowships/