Hands-On, High Value: Illinois Tech Ranks High for Experiential Learning



By Thaddeus Mast
An Illinois Tech student conducts research

Illinois Institute of Technology’s emphasis on learning through internships, research, and other hands-on experiences caught the attention of the student work platform Forage, earning Illinois Tech a spot among the top universities utilizing experiential learning in 2022.

At Illinois Tech experiential learning lets students apply their knowledge outside of the classroom and gain twenty-first century skills that employers seek. The university’s one-of-a-kind Elevate initiative is listed by Forage as a leading experiential learning program, with Forage acknowledging, “‘...it takes more than a top-tier education’ to set students up for success, and therefore [Illinois Tech] guarantees real-world experiences to all students in the program.” 

In addition to guaranteed experiences, Elevate promises students personalized mentorship, offering each student a peer mentor and team of academic, career, and alumni advisers, as well as exceptional job readiness. Illinois Tech boasts a strong 90 percent career placement rate based on the reporting of its 2020 graduates.

Illinois Tech has a long history of pioneering experiential learning. In 1995 the university launched the Interprofessional Projects (IPRO) Program, a required academic offering that joins students from a variety of different majors to work in teams on projects that address real-world problems, often on behalf of companies or community organizations.

Forage’s Experiential Learning Awards judging committee analyzed student engagement—how actively students participate in experiential learning activities available to them—as the most important factor in ranking institutions. Faculty involvement and early participation, or how quickly a student can get involved in real-world experiences during their university career, were also included. At Illinois Tech students can begin participating even before they arrive at the university through virtual internships, which are available to both undergraduate and graduate students.

Examples of student engagement include on-campus diabetes research, the university’s cybersecurity student organization CyberHawks win at a national competition, and internships with Capital One, among many others.

Forage is a virtual platform that works with Fortune 500 companies, including Red Bull and General Electric, to create work programs. Ranging from two to eight hours long, they are virtual bite-sized work experiences, such as a “Back-End Engineering Virtual Experience Program” by Lyft, estimated to take 4–5 hours. The work is not paid, but students are given a completion certificate that they can add to a resume or LinkedIn account.

Photo: An Illinois Tech student conducts research, one of many experiential learning opportunities the university offers its students