Relevant Experiential and Applied Learning

What is REAL?

Students work outside at the river

Above all, VCU's Relevant, Experiential and Applied Learning represents a promise. To our students, its a promise to engage you in meaningful, hands-on work directly relevant to both your personal and to addressing today's social, scientific, and economic challenges.

For our faculty and university professionals, REAL is a promise for support as you create unique ways to provide these types of meaningful experiences for our students. We believe the REAL initiative works best as an organic, faculty-driven and student-led process.

REAL is not a hard reset; instead, it’s an intentional organizing of the types of career-building and civic-minded activities that VCU already does well.

While we're currently still shaping what REAL will look like (so stay tuned for updates!), the general categories REAL activities fall into could include:

Examples include courses and experiences certified by VCU Service Learning, community service projects, alternative spring breaks
Examples include projects and assistantships certified by the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program, study abroad experiences
Examples include certified internships, work-study, field research, practicums and clinicals, LEAD LLC certificate completion or other leadership programs
Examples include entrepreneurial activities, student startups, public performances or juried show of artistic work

REAL is the thread that connects everything students do, because academics, community service, professional development and creativity are not buckets that students fill up independently.

Proposed REAL characteristics

While we continue to work with our academic units to shape the final definition of what will constitute a REAL activity, we propose that these activities have some combination of these four characteristics in common:

  • Hands-on opportunities that apply disciplinary knowledge in real-world contexts
  • Guided reflections that articulate personal, civic/social or academic learning
  • A mentorship model where a faculty member or activity supervisor respond regularly to student work
  • Integrative learning as a specific measure of a student's capacity for social consciousness

Recent news

A collection of recent articles about REAL:

REAL next steps

REAL goals for the spring 2019 semester include:

  • Completing our opportunities audit to capture comprehensive data record about current experiential learning
  • Convert short-term task force to standing REAL council, charged with establishing criteria for categorizing experiential learning activities
  • Hold a follow-up workshop with campus partners and academic units