Bridges Beyond the Classroom, the framework for the academic initiative, articulates our University’s experiential learning goals for its students and creation of a portfolio that tracks performance of every graduate inside and outside of the classroom.

archaeology field school students cataloging artifacts
physical therapist working with ballet dancer
biology teacher and student collecting aquatic species

Goal 1 of the UTC Strategic Plan seeks to Transform lives through meaningful learning experiences. Experiential learning provides a compass for all academic departments to identify ways to extend the classroom experience, so every UTC student has opportunities for hands-on learning in their area of study.

A recently conducted campus and community-wide survey on experiential learning received an overall positive reaction. Its effectiveness will come from greater definition, implementation and measurable impact that adds increased value to a UTC degree and more opportunities for UTC graduates.

Topline finds from the survey:

UTC has a strong academic platform that includes classroom instruction linked with external opportunities.
The overall UTC experience can be better defined and reinforced.
There are distinctive programs in the Colleges of Business and Engineering & Computer Science and the Nursing program.

Opportunities exist to better define a UTC education across the campus.
Areas of excellence should be stressed: provide information that differentiates a UTC education and promote the University’s external relationships, such as with the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the Innovation District in Chattanooga and the MetroLab Network.

Survey results also indicated perceived inequities across the campus when considering collaborative learning. Some departments offer courses that link the classroom with an external learning experience, but these opportunities do not exist campus-wide. Finding the best ways to bridge these experiential learning gaps is an important step for discussion among our faculty, staff and students.

Survey respondents identified these points as enhancing the educational experience for UTC students through experiential learning:

  • Applying critical thinking, problem solving, big picture issues
  • Combining collaborative experiences among academic departments
  • Knowing how to help solve business, industry, non-profit, government and other sectors’ problems
  • Offering an immersive experience

Survey numbers show that applied learning experience is a critical component of a UTC degree. These learning experiences develop the whole person, provide an education grounded with real world experiences, community-connected learning and the opportunity to work in a diverse setting.

Assessing the survey, the demographics reflect a greater number of female respondents, a majority of respondents were in the 18-24 age group and 82% were UTC students, faculty or staff. The other survey numbers are:

Survey Results

Female 58.63% 292
Male 37.95% 189
No Response 3.41% 17
Classification (can select more than one category): 
Note: 82.13% from faculty, staff & students
Faculty 20.10% 117
Staff 15.64% 91
Alumni 8.59% 50
Community Member 8.76% 51
Student 46.39% 270
Elected Official 0.52% 3
Under 18 1.97% 10
18-24 42.01% 213
25-34 11.64% 59
35-44 12.62% 64
45-54 14.99% 76
55-64 11.64% 59
65-74 4.73% 24
75-84 0.39% 2

What is UTC known for? (select 2)

Top tier teaching 10.57% 71
Community-connected learning 29.02% 195
Applied problem solving 11.31% 76
Cross-department & college learning 9.08% 61
Transformational learning 5.21% 35
Private liberal arts education at public institution 10.86% 73
None of the options 10.71% 72
Other 13.24% 89

What should define a UTC education? (select 3)

Hands-on learning 15.38% 155
Beyond classroom experience 18.15% 183
Freshman experience  4.86%  49
Teams/bridge building  3.97%  40
City/region learning labs for students 12.40% 125
Learning experiences to develop whole person to prepare for profession or advanced studies 20.83% 210
Education in real world grounded experiences/opportunities 20.44% 206
Unsure  3.97%  40

Bridge between classroom and external, applied learning experience provides UTC students with broader portfolio, creates peer-to-peer interactions and encourages problem solving in a team setting.
Which point describes the experiences? (Select 2)

Face-to-face interaction 19.64% 132
Positive interdependence helps students learn how to rely on others  7.14%  48
Each person accountable for results 12.35%  83
Learning to work together is a lesson in collaboration 15.92% 107
Group processing assists in understanding assignments & responsibilities  5.06%  34
Working in diverse setting is learning tool for future 25.00% 168
Creating individual portfolio adds value to UTC degree 14.88% 100

Would you participate in a 20-30 person learning community that included students on track toward the same major and with a common faculty interface?

Yes 73.33% 110
No 26.67% 40