Experiential Learning Initiative

Completed Initiative 2018

The Experiential Learning Initiative (ELI) is a 3-year pilot program to support and develop experiential learning opportunities for undergraduates at the University of Texas at Austin.  Taking up the challenge of implementing such an initiative, Provost McInnis, in late 2017, assembled the Experiential Learning (EL) Faculty Working Group: 12 faculty from colleges, schools, and units across campus. Based on the recommendations in the group’s final report, ELI is partnered with UT Austin faculty members to develop, scale, and integrate experiential learning into degree programs at UT Austin.

Why do Experiential Learning?


To spread the culture of “learning by doing” in UT Austin courses and degree programs, and thereby unlock the potential of our students.


  1. Raise awareness of and celebrate course-based EL opportunities that faculty have already developed and piloted.
  2. Incentivize faculty to develop new EL opportunities for students at the course or curricular level.
  3. Develop a supportive Faculty Ambassador program in each undergraduate college/school.
  4. Assess various digital portfolio options for publishing and preserving student work.

Hallmarks of Experiential Learning

Graphic about the Hallmarks of Experiential Learning

Experiential learning opportunities offer students assignments and activities based on real-life situations or primary research that engages them in reflective problem-solving with multiple potential avenues of inquiry. These opportunities have the following hallmarks:

  • Instructor & student preparation for experiential learning opportunities
  • Integration of student autonomy and agency
  • Multiple opportunities for student reflection
  • A final product for an audience beyond the course instructor and peers
  • Recognition that setbacks are instrumental to the learning process

These hallmarks will vary somewhat according to the level of the course. First-year students will likely need more preparation and less autonomy in pursuing their goals. For all students, the educational goal is to inspire them to learn not only how to use primary materials to answer questions but also how to manage their own learning, a necessary and lifelong skill.

In fulfillment of our first three goals, ELI currently offers two programs to UT Austin faculty members:

ELI Faculty Course Developer Program

The ELI Faculty Course Developer Program awarded faculty with $5,000 a year for two years to develop and implement experiential learning in an undergraduate course.

Learn more

ELI Faculty Ambassador Program

The ELI Faculty Ambassador Program awarded faculty with $3,000 a year for two years to publicize experiential learning and mentor faculty who receive course stipends.

Learn more

In fulfillment of the fourth goal, ELI supported a faculty task force that investigated digital portfolio options for hosting and preserving student work at UT Austin. The task force is chaired by Adam Rabinowitz of the Department of Classics.

Why do Experiential Learning?

ELI Contact:

Heather M. Pleasants, Ph.D.
Faculty Innovation Center

1912 Speedway Room 450
Mail Code: G2100
Austin, TX 78712-1604

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