The Office of Experiential Learning and Community Engagement (ELCE) brings together faculty, students, business, non-profit organizations, and government agencies in a seamless process that supports rich student learning experiences and ensures that all students are developing clear learning outcomes that will be properly evaluated for success.
Our staff is comprised of a director, experiential coordinators who act as liaisons to the degree-granting colleges, internship staff that support more than 400 full and part time internships through the internship program, and the coordinator of the Feinstein Civic Engagement Program. Our office works closely with faculty and staff across campus to build partnerships for experiential learning in all disciplines.
The experiential coordinators in each degree-granting college are charged with:
- Facilitating a connection between community partners and URI faculty with the goal of building experiential learning opportunities;
- Identifying barriers to integrating experiential learning into the curriculum in the quest for a changed educational climate;
- Working with faculty in each degree granting college to support and assist in developing, instituting, and evaluating internships and service learning projects, courses, and course components;
- Ensuring that liability is addressed to protect all students and faculty;
- Marketing experiential learning as the hallmark of undergraduate education at URI
Types of Experiential Learning
Experiential Learning is a broad term used to describe a student’s application of analytical, oral, written, and other skills obtained in the classroom to an external setting. Experiential learning includes all of the following:
The National Association of Colleges and Employers defines internship as “a form of experiential learning that integrates knowledge and theory learned in the classroom with practical application and skill development in a professional setting. Internships give students the opportunity to gain valuable applied experience and make connections in professional fields they are considering for career paths; and give employers the opportunity to guide and evaluate talent.” In addition, an internship is a semester in duration, may or may not carry credit, may be paid or unpaid based on the department of labor criteria.
Externships provide an initial exposure to a career for a brief period of time (such as one day a week or a couple of hours per week) by having students “shadow/observation” an experienced employee or professional. Externships may include academic credit when connected to a course.
Project Based Learning
Project Based Learning involves students working on a problem or project based on the knowledge attained in a previous course and/or courses. This is different than an internship since the focus is for a specific project or problem to solve and requires the assistance of a faculty member serving as a mentor.
The difference between a problem based learning experience (PBLE) and an internship is that a PBLE provides both a deliverable to the faculty mentor and a third party.
A Capstone course is the culmination of learning in the major. A student generally works on a single large project, such as a thesis paper or large research project, for the entire semester.
Service Learning is curriculum-based service that emphasizes hands-on learning while
addressing real world concerns. The service experience provides a context for translating
discipline-based theories into practice.
A Volunteer is a student who performs a service willingly and without pay or credit in order to support a cause.
Civic Engagement offers a broad concept of community involvement and awareness that can include service, advocacy, service learning, volunteerism, and political participation with the goal of helping to develop community based knowledge, values and skills.