In September 2010 the Co-Op/Internship/Study Abroad Semester Conversion Committee submitted a series of recommendations regarding experiential learning to the RIT Semester Conversion Steering Committee.  In that report the committee defined experiential learning as follows:

"The broad term intended to encompass the full array of "experiential" programs offered by the university including cooperative education, internships, clinical rotations, study abroad, undergraduate research a variety of classroom-based activities such as senior capstone projects or senior design courses, studio courses, or artistic projects, student entrepreneurial or business incubator efforts, community service projects, and so forth."

In October 2014 RIT's College of Science refined that definition to include those activities that promote learning through engaging in scientific inquiry and discovery.  Specifically:

"RIT College of Science students engage in experiential learning locally, regionally, and nationally through co-op experience in private or government labs, research experiences in academic institutions and labs, internship opportunities at public and private institutions, and through specific program coursework.  These experiences all emphasize learning through doing or performing actions that promote the skills of critical thinking in iterative cycles of both reflection and active experimentation."

This document describes the elements of the degree programs in the Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science that incorporate experiential learning as defined by the Institute and the College of Science.  These elements include both required and optional experiential learning opportunities which involve critical thinking – applying concepts to new experiences.  They also involve the iterative cycle of concrete experience followed by reflective and re-design portions that lead to next concrete experience.

Required Experiential Learning Elements

1. Freshman Imaging Project/First Year PhD Project

Freshman Imaging Project and First Year PhD Project are year-long sequences of courses (two semesters, three credits each semester) built around a single project aimed at designing, developing, and building a functional imaging system through a unified team effort.  These courses have no lectures, no textbooks, no tests, quizzes, or final exams.  They fully exemplify the concept of experiential learning.  With the help of faculty and staff from across the imaging science program, students plan and organize the effort, conduct trade studies to assess technology options, and validate that the resulting system meets desired levels of performance.  Along the way the students will develop a general understanding of the foundational concepts of imaging science, an in-depth knowledge of at least one aspect of imaging science, a working knowledge of the principles of systems engineering, an appreciation for the value of teamwork in technical disciplines, and proficiency in oral and written technical communication.

2. Senior Project

The Senior Project is a year-long sequence of courses (two semesters, three credits each semester) in which fourth year undergraduate students independently synthesize all of the concepts they learned throughout their academic career within the context of a single capstone research project.  Each student working on a senior project begins by submitting a written proposal for the project which describes the problem they intend to investigate as well as their plan to solve it.  They then design and conduct the experiment in accordance with the approved plan, analyze the data collected during the experiment and draw conclusions from the results.  Finally, they submit a written report on their work and give a formal presentation to a team of at least three faculty and/or staff scientists with experience in the topic being investigated.

3. Thesis/Dissertation Research

Experiential learning is an extremely important element of every graduate studies program.  By their very nature, MS and PhD degree programs require the students to work independently on research projects that emphasize learning through doing or performing actions that promote the skills of critical thinking in iterative cycles of both reflection and active experimentation.

Optional Experiential Learning Elements

1. Undergraduate Research

The Center for Imaging Science is currently the home of 11 active research groups with a diverse collection of laboratories that spend approximately $5.5 million per year on externally sponsored projects.  These projects provide a rich environment for the students to engage in authentic experiential learning.

2. Co-ops/Internships/Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU)

Because of the connections that the CIS research labs have with external funding agencies and collaborators, our students are well known throughout the federal government, the imaging industry, and at other academic institutions.  Consequently many are uniquely prepared to compete favorably for highly sought after co-op, internship, and REU opportunities.

3. Professional Development Opportunities

Professional development opportunities such as presenting a talk at a conference or having an article published in a peer-reviewed journal are an important part of the CIS experiential learning portfolio, since they give students a chance to develop the techniques they will need to master when communicating the results of their work to an audience of their peers.  The Center provides extensive support such activities throughout the year.

4. Student-Initiated Innovative Learning Experiences

Each year CIS devotes resources to support informal experiential learning opportunities which are initiated by the students.  These activities, which fall outside of any formal coursework or thesis/dissertation research, typically involve the development of cutting-edge imaging systems or technologies that are not readily available in the Center.  Students compete for the resources to pursue these projects through a CIS-wide call for proposals.  Those which are chosen for funding are given one year to complete their work, and are required to write a final report on the project at the end of the effort.

5. Study Abroad

The RIT study abroad program provides students with the unique opportunity to enrich their academic studies with an immersive experience in another culture.  While a small percentage of Imaging Science students take advantage of this program, those who have will attest to its value as an important element of our experiential learning program.