Experiential Learning Definitions


An internship is a form of experiential education that integrates knowledge and theory learned in the classroom with practical application and skill development in a professional work setting.


Externships let you explore a career by visiting professionals in the workplace. Activities may include: a tour of the workplace, attending site visits, observing day-to-day activities, meeting with other department members, involvement in hands-on projects, attending department and client meetings, and/or receiving an overview of the organization and workplace culture.


An apprenticeship is a formal employment program that trains you to do a specific job. Unlike internships, apprenticeships employ people who already know which career path they wish to follow. If you join a program, you’ll sign a contract with your employer and learn specific skills during your apprenticeship. This usually includes a mix of on-the-job training, work experience, and formal, classroom-based learning. Programs last from one to six years, and at the end of your apprenticeship, you’ll have a formal qualification and the skills needed to work in your chosen field.

Co-Op (Cooperative Education)

Co-op is a full-time, paid work experience for undergraduate students. This is a CR/NC option that will be indicated on the student’s transcript and a certificate will be awarded. A minimum of two semesters (either Summer I/Fall or Spring/Summer I) must be completed to obtain a certificate with a maximum of four semesters. Experience may be with the same employer or multiple employers. The Registrar/Financial Aid Office will be notified for the student to retain full-time status for financial aid or student housing to remain in effect if needed


Provide tuition or aid to support the training of students for a period of time. They are usually made by educational institutions, corporations, or foundations to assist individuals pursuing a course of study or research.

Field Work

Field work allows students to explore and apply content learned in the classroom in a specified field experience away from the classroom. Field work experiences bridge educational experiences with an outside community that can range from neighborhoods and schools to anthropological dig sites and laboratory settings.


Practicums are often a required component of a course of study and place students in a supervised and often paid situation. Students develop competencies and apply previously studied theory and content, such as school library media students working in a high school library or marketing majors working in a marketing research firm.

Service Learning

Service learning is distinguished by being mutually beneficial for both students and the community. Service learning is growing rapidly and is considered a part of experiential education by its very nature of learning, performing a job within the community, and serious reflection by the student.

Student Teaching

Student teaching provides candidates with an opportunity to put into practice the knowledge and skills they have been developing in the preparation program. Student teaching typically involves an on-site experience in a partner school and opportunities for formal and informal candidate reflection on their teaching experience.

Undergraduate Research

Undergraduate research is increasingly common at universities across all disciplines. With strong support from the National Science Foundation and the research community, scientists are reshaping their courses to connect key concepts and questions with students’ early and active involvement in systematic investigation and research. The goal is to involve students with actively contested questions, empirical observation, cutting-edge technologies, and the sense of excitement that comes from working to answer important questions.


Volunteering allows students to serve in a community primarily because they choose to do so. Many serve through a nonprofit organization—sometimes referred to as formal volunteering—but a significant number also serve less formally, either individually or as part of a group.