Applied Learning

The State University of New York has been focused on civic engagement  as a key component of liberal education over the past four years, starting with a call from campuses to engage with the topic through SUNY and the Vibrant Community, one of the Six Big Ideas put forth in The Power of SUNY: Strategic Plan 2010 & Beyond. To measure progress on this initiative, SUNY tracks the number campuses that are awarded the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll and the Carnegie Elective Classification for Community Engagement.

In 2014, civic engagement was included as part the SUNY’s Applied Learning Initiative, which seeks to provide every SUNY student the opportunity to engage in hands-on, real-world learning before graduation. As part of Applied Learning, civic engagement has been defined and formally added to the SUNY Institutional Research Information System (SIRIS), to allow for annual student tracking and participation analysis. This working definition of Applied Learning is intended to be flexible enough to be used system-wide to encompass the more specific institutional definitions and approaches used by SUNY campuses. These definitions should be used in conjunction with the SUNY Criteria for Approved Experiential and Applied Learning Activities.

COIL-enhanced modules connect SUNY students to a community of students at an foreign institution.  While elements of the current political climate contests the very notion of interconnectedness and interdependence across national boundaries, COIL allows students to understand civic engagement beyond one's immediate local or culture. As such, every COIL course meets the Applied Learning Criteria for Civic Engagement defined as:


teaching and learning focus on educating students as citizens. Classes or programs include meaningful civic education and activities for social good. Classes and projects have components of reflection and engagement. These focus on one’s civic responsibilities, including engagement in local politics, voter participation, social action and service to the community. 


For more information about the SUNY Applied Learning Initiative, including current resources, partners, and events, visit the Applied Learning website.  To inquire about designating a COIL-enhanced course as an Applied Learning experience, send an email to