What is experiential learning?

Experiential Learning (EL) is a pedagogical strategy that advances learning, personal growth and competency development by engaging learners directly in the application of theoretical concepts in diverse contexts, and critical reflection on those experiences. 

At its core, Experiential Learning occurs when students learn by doing and then reflect on those experiences to make meaning of them. Experiential Learning takes many forms, as embodied in the twelve types that are now recognized by the University of Manitoba Senate. It can occur in formal and informal learning spaces, on the land, in a community setting and in a workplace. Ultimately, Experiential Learning provides students with opportunities for deep engagement with theory through relevant activities or immersion in a particular learning environment. It is more than career preparation – it is preparation for life.

The six criteria 

At the University of Manitoba, EL occurs within the curriculum and in co-curricular settings. Institutionally recognized EL must meet each of the following six criteria: 

  1. The learning experience is grounded in an intentional experiential learning approach that is respectful and inclusive of diverse worldviews and approaches to teaching and learning; 
  2. Institutionally recognized learning and/or competency development outcomes are embedded in the course curriculum or co-curricular program; 
  3. The experience takes place in a formal learning space, workplace, practice, campus, digital, community or land-based setting;
  4. Students engage in experiences that are relevant to their intellectual, personal and professional growth, promote meaningful relationships with others and the natural world, and include opportunities for self-directed learning, role-modelling, co-creation and transfer of knowledge; 
  5. The experience has relevant supervision and is either integrated within a credit/credential-bearing course or academic program, or formally recognized by the Institution as an official cocurricular EL offering; and
  6. Students have opportunities to process what they have learned by engaging in critical reflection, and to demonstrate reflective practice.

Twelve types of experiential learning

The 12 types of experiential learning identified here are integrated within the curriculum, intentionally designed to address specific outcomes in co-curricular settings and/or situated within a workplace. They provide opportunities for students to respond directly to the TRC’s Calls to Action, and reflect our commitment to the education of the whole student, the diversity of learning experiences at UM, and the dynamic, seamless nature of the experiential learning landscape.

Applied Research

Systematic investigation and original research, including research that utilizes Indigenous methodologies, conducted by a student under faculty guidance and/or cocreated through collaboration with a community partner and faculty researcher.

Community Engaged Learning (CEL)

Learning opportunities developed through collaborative and reciprocal partnerships between community, faculty/staff and students. The site of learning can be the classroom, the community or a land-based setting and the spectrum of engagement can vary from knowledge exchange and consultation to involvement, collaboration, and co-creation with community partners.

Campus and Global Integrated Learning

Intentionally designed and institutionally recognized experiences with a strong focus on personal growth and competency development with clearly defined learning outcomes and regular coaching, mentorship and/or supervision. For example, Elder or ceremonial helpers, elected and appointed governance and student leadership roles, orientation leaders, peer helpers, engagement in student mobility experiences (i.e. student exchange), student participation in Sweatlodges and other ceremonies. 

Co-operative Education

A Senate-approved academic program that alternates academic study with paid, fulltime, supervised work experience. It is linked to the student’s area of study in appropriate fields of business, industry, government, social services, academic research and the professions in accordance with minimum criteria.

Creative Works

Intensive creative effort that results in the production of fine artwork, dance, writing, filmmaking, musical compositions and other forms of creative expression. Examples include oral tradition and storytelling, design, self-organized paid performances, noncourse-related rehearsals and music practices.


Engagement in the early-stage development of business start-ups and/or the advancement of ideas that address real-world challenges, while leveraging resources, space, mentorship and/or funding to achieve the desired outcomes.

Industry Project

Students, individually or in teams apply discipline-specific knowledge to address an organizational challenge, explore a new idea, or start a new venture. Examples include business clinics, UMIDEA, and capstone projects.


Supervised, discipline-specific work experiences where learning is formally assessed and academic credit granted. Unlike Co-op, students do not alternate work experiences with academic terms.

Laboratories and Studios

A distinct component of a course that includes the self-directed application of course concepts in a controlled setting. 

Program-Based Experience

Unpaid program- and field-based activities that engage students in exploring and practicing discipline-specific concepts and competencies in a purposeful way for academic credit or recognition. Examples include fieldwork, clinical and professional practice, dental clinics, field placements, law externships, practica, social action participation, field trips, and professional presentations.


Intentionally designed opportunities for students to engage in contextual experiences that require the application of disciplinary knowledge and critical analysis to demonstrate learning or to address a problem or unmet need. Examples include case studies, hackathons, simulations, incubators, problem-solving for industry/community, game-based learning, clients, moot court. 

Work Experience

Paid work in an on-campus or off-campus setting that is designed to promote the development of clearly defined competencies, is supervised, is approved by the Institution, and engages students in concrete opportunities to reflect on their learning (e.g., work study, graduate and undergraduate research awards, Teaching Assistants, Mini U Leaders, Residence Advisors, tutors).