What is Applied Learning

Applied learning refers to an educational approach whereby students learn by engaging in direct application of skills, theories, and models. Students apply knowledge and skills gained from traditional classroom learning to hands-on and/or real-world settings, creative projects, or independent or directed research, and in turn apply what is gained from the applied experience to academic learning. The applied learning activity can occur outside of the traditional classroom experience and/or be embedded as part of a course.

Common Definitions in Applied Learning

Cooperative Education:

An applied learning experience that alternates classroom learning and productive paid work experiences in a field related to a student's academic and career goals. Co-ops are formal partnerships between an educational institution, an employer, and one or more students, and they typically provide meaningful work experiences for students. Co-ops are off-campus, and they are full or part time.

Internship – Credit Bearing/Non-Credit:

Applied learning experiences for which a student may earn academic credit in an agreed-upon, short-term, supervised workplace activity, which may be related to a student's major, field, or area of interest. The work can be full or part time, on or off campus, paid or unpaid. Some institutions offer credit and non-credit bearing internships. Internships integrate classroom knowledge and theory with practical application and skills developed in professional or community settings.

Clinical Placement:

Students rotate through a variety of health care agencies with faculty supervision focusing on the health care field process, with individual patients or groups reflecting diverse settings. Emphasis is on mastering theoretical concepts, improving skill competency, and developing clinical reasoning skills with a focus on evidence-based practice.


A period of practical experience undertaken in academic, professional, or community settings/agencies/organizations as part of an academic course. This approach is grounded in application and practice of theoretical/technical concepts/skills and cultural competency relevant to the course or to a profession.


A credit-bearing educational strategy that integrates meaningful community service with instruction and reflection to enrich the learning experience and strengthen communities.

Community Service:

Volunteerism and community service performed by students for community benefit. This service can be, but is not necessarily integrated with a particular program of study. This may include structured projects (days of service), smaller group projects, fund-raising events, or individual volunteerism, which is acknowledged by the campus.

Civic Engagement:

A teaching and learning focus on educating students as global citizens. Classes or programs include meaningful civic education and activities for social good.

Creative Works:

A capstone, senior project, performance, or other creative work that occurs as a culminating experience for a student in an accredited class or program.


Mentored, self-directed work that enables students to make an original, intellectual, or creative contribution to the discipline by exploring an issue of interest to them and communicating the results to others.

Entrepreneurship (Program, Class, Project):

Students develop a broad-based entrepreneurial skill relevant to any organization - start-up, established, and for and not-for-profit agency, organization, community or industry.

Field Study:

Collection of information outside of an experimental or lab setting. This type of data collection is most often conducted in natural settings or environments and can be designed in a variety of ways for various disciplines. May be mentored, self-directed work, or comprise a full course. The projects include inquiry, design, investigation, discovery, and application.

International and Domestic Travel/Exchange:

An instructional program delivered in either an overseas location or domestic location. Often, the program is delivered as a semester-long or intercession sequence of courses, the content of which is enhanced by the location of instruction, by distinctive historic or cultural features available in the location, or by a unique approach to the subject matter that is specific to the locale. Exchanges are often conducted by individual students traveling independently to a location that has been pre-approved by their home institution, and where they determine their specific course of study in collaboration with home and host institution faculty.

Contact Us

Linda Cunningham
Technical Specialist-Applied Learning & Adv. Comm. Liaison
Room 4658
(585) 785-1317

Mon-Thu: 8:30 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Fri: 8:30 a.m. - 4 p.m.

Please make an appointment by email or schedule in Starfish.

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