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Curricular Experiential Learning Categories and Definitions

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These are the categories and the definitions used at the University of Windsor for courses that are experiential learning courses. In order to meet the criteria of experiential learning, students must be exposed to authentic demands and the activity must include self-assessment/reflection and evaluation.

A program that alternates periods of academic study with periods of full-time paid work experience in workplace settings related to the student’s field of study. Typically involves three unique work terms over the course of the program. Placements are developed and/or approved by the university in a block placement model ending on an academic semester. Students are engaged in productive work and receive feedback from their employers; the time spent in periods of work experience must be at least 30% of the time spent in academic study (CACE, 2016; Sattler & Peters, 2012).

For example: (Engineering with Co-op) Work Term I, GENG-2980; (Business Admin with Co-op) Co-op Work Term I, STEN-2050

Program-related experience in a professional work environment (Sattler & Peters, 2012). Internships generally involve the integration of theory and practice, personal development, career exploration, and professional socialization. Placements are supervised by an experienced professional.  Students are compensated through course credit/credential completion and are normally paid.   

For example: (Chemistry/Biochemistry) Internship Work Term I, CHEM-3909. 

Experience in a professional work environment, often referred to as a field placement. Internships generally involve the integration of theory and practice, personal development, career exploration, and professional socialization. Placements are supervised by an experienced professional in a field that is academically related. Students are compensated through course credit/credential completion and may also receive payment.

Note: This category accounts for work-integrated educational experiences not encompassed by co-op, clinic, professional practicum, and community service learning. 

For example: (Communications, Media and Film) Internship I, CMAF-3990.  

(clinical placement, practicum work experience, professional placement, mandatory professional practice)

The experience required by both an academic program and a regulatory college/ professional association by which professional capabilities are developed in a work setting or simulated work setting (i.e., simulation lab), under the supervision of an experienced registered or licensed professional (e.g., preceptor), with the aim of meeting the work hour requirements for professional licensure, certification, or registration (Sattler & Peters, 2012).

For example: (Education) Practicum, EDUC-5499; (Social Work) Field Education I, SWRK-4730.

Active participation in a field experience where the experience is systematically and fundamentally integrated throughout the course to foster learning of academic content and to gain work related skills (Sattler & Peters, 2012).

For example: Evolutionary Ecological and Environmental Genetics, BIOL-4008 (sampling microbial communities); Geomicrobiology class, ESCI-3755; Great Lakes Field Biology, BIOL-4864; Outdoor Recreation, KINE-4770; Anishinaabe Student Law Camp, LAWG-5971-75.

(This category, according to MCU, would not count towards the SMA3 EL metric.)

Exposure to the work setting, as a component of the course, through participation in activities such as site visits, study tours, or field trips, and more. Experience is used to enhance learning of academic content and to gain work related skills. 

For example: (Integrative Biology) Plant Ecology, BIO-3281 

Course integrated presentation of a dramatic, artistic, media, or musical performance or exhibit where the presentation is open to the public and there is an opportunity to get feedback to inform systematic reflection on the achievement and limitations of the performance/exhibit.

For example: (Dramatic Art) Directed Studies in Performance, DRAM-4530.

Provides practice-based work experience, under the supervision of an experienced licensed professional, and opportunities for reflection and development of professional identity where the experience is not required for discipline-specific professional licensure or certification.

For example: (Law) Clinic Practice Program; LAWG-5926 (Legal Assistance of Windsor). 

Meaningful community service with classroom instruction and critical reflection to enrich the learning experience and strengthen communities. Students work in partnership with a community partner or community-based organization to apply their disciplinary knowledge to address identified needs or issues (Sattler & Peters, 2012).

For example: (Business) Management and the Organizational Life, MGMT-2400; (Education) Service Learning Specialization, EDUC-5207; in law these are typically referred to as externships.

Work with an external partner(s) (ex. community, organization, business, or industry) on specific project(s) to identify opportunities and develop solutions or strategies to address a challenge, issue or idea.

For example: (Business) Enterprise Development Consulting, STEN-4960.

(Studying abroad does not count towards the SMA3 EL metric unless coupled with another qualifying EL category.)

International study or work involving immersion in a culture and/or environment for a defined period and for a specific course or courses of study. 

For example: Student Exchange (see: or International cooperative education (Schaeffler Group, Germany).  

Learning opportunities intended to enhance a student’s skill development in service to communities, organizations, business, or industry to address their specific challenges through the research process. Applied research projects encompass a wide variety of activities and include products, processes, and services (Sattler & Peters, 2012). Students do not typically receive a regular salary or wage from the employer (e.g., design projects; community-based research projects).

For example: Manufacturing Process Design, INDE-3210

A final-year course that consolidates everything a student has learned in their major during their program of study that is generally project based.  Students draw on the skills and knowledge they have already gained and they are often required to learn additional skills or acquire further knowledge on their own initiative to complete the activity, much as if they were engaged in professional, creative, or scholarly practice. 

For example: (Environmental Engineering) Capstone Design Project, ENVE-4000

Allows a student to cultivate and/or manage a business, social enterprise or creative idea by leveraging resources, space, mentorship and/or funding to take the initiative from development through implementation with an intention/view to generating profit and/or social impact. This may take the form of partnership with a start-up or the opportunity for students to work on the development of their own business idea.

Engage with academic content through interactive simulations such as workplace and applied practice situations. These activities require most of the cognitive demands the learner would encounter in the “real world”. The experiences occur within environmental circumstances and surroundings that mimic those present while engaged in the activities outside of the university.

An inquiry or investigation conducted by a student, whereby the students’ participation involves various components of the research project and, requiring demands similar to a real work context, where the student makes an original intellectual or creative contribution to the discipline (Council for Undergraduate Research, 2012).

For example: (Integrative Biology) Undergraduate Research in Biology, BIOL-4904; (Kinesiology) Undergraduate Research, KINE-4780; (Psychology) Thesis: Research, PSYC-4970. 

A rubric to identify EL Courses is available in Microsoft Word format and as a pdf.