Experiential Learning

Experiential learning is the process of ‘learning by doing.’ It can be a great way to apply the skills you are learning in the classroom with your interests in a variety of settings. You can also benefit from enhanced problem solving and leadership skills, industry connections, and more. Here are some examples:  

  • Service Learning and Community Engagement   
  • Internships and Practicum 
  • Cooperative Education 
  • Research 
  • Field Work 
  • Study Abroad

Service Learning & Community Engagement

While community service in general can be a great experiential learning opportunity, SCI has established some partnerships at the university and community level to assist you in identifying ways to utilize your technical skills in a non-profit setting.  

iServe Program

The iServe volunteer program is a partnership with the Office of PittServes and is offered each fall and spring. SCI students apply and attend a fair, where they can potentially be matched with a local non-profit in need of technical assistance. Previous projects include website development and design, app development and design, database creation, videography, and more. For information on the iServe program, please click here

Community Engagement Centers

SCI students and faculty are involved in the Community Engagement Centers in both the Hill District and Homewood. It’s important to note that the centers decide what their community needs and then SCI works to fill those roles. Opportunities exist throughout the semester and summer break and include teaching coding, certification programs, digital literacy, and more.  

Alternative Spring Break

Each year, students in the School of Computing and Information embark on a 10-day Alternative Spring Break trip where they travel to another country to complete technical skills-based service-learning projects that benefit the local community. This experience allows students to put their education into practice. Previous trips have been made to Ecuador, with other locations being scouted for future spring breaks. For more information, please click here.  

Internships & Practicum

According to a recent NACE study, when recruiters are reviewing two equally qualified candidates, they tend to favor the one who has previous internship experience. Internships (and practicum at the graduate level) not only provide students with a hands-on opportunity to learn, but they are also great ways to try out a company before graduating. They can provide valuable skills, industry connections, as well as professional mentoring that is difficult to obtain in the classroom. In some instances, students can receive credit for the experience as well. 

Cooperative Education

For students looking for a more immersive industry experience, electing to do a co-op can be a great alternative to an internship or practicum. Co-op rotations involve semester long rotations, alternating between working and taking courses. Students typically complete two co-op rotations but must discuss their plan with their academic advisor before accepting any co-op opportunities.  


The University of Pittsburgh is a great place to do research – whether it’s through SCI, the university, or externally, it can be a rewarding experience that could have an impact on future generations. As a student it can seem daunting to reach out to faculty doing research, but it’s the best way to get started, since a lot of the opportunities are found out by word of mouth. Learn more about the research being done here.

Field Work

While not required if you’re an MLIS student, field work can be a great way to build experience and meaningful connections in your intended setting. For more information, please click here.

Study Abroad

In addition to alternative spring break, SCI students can participate in various study abroad programs offered through the university. Visit the Global Hub to discuss your broader career goals that could involve study abroad, as well as the Global Experiences Office, who can discuss with you the many program options.

Additionally, here are some other suggestions on ways to ‘learn by doing’:

  • Hackathons and Competitions
  • Independent and Team Based Projects
  • Industry Based Projects
  • Student Teaching & Tutoring
  • Job Shadowing
  • Micro-internships
  • Business Incubators
  • Case Studies

Feel free to reach out to SCI’s Manager of Experiential Learning for more information here.