Strategies for Engaging Learners with High-Impact Practices

The American Association of Colleges & Universities (AAC&U) has outlined 11 high-impact practices in higher education. High-impact practices are those that have significant educational benefit, especially for historically underserved students. Here we share an overview of 6 high-impact practices that center on course design.

Strategy #1: Capstone Projects

The basics: A capstone project is completed at or near the end of a program of study. In a capstone project, students apply the knowledge and skills gained throughout their program to an assessment such as a research paper, portfolio of work, performance, or exhibit, among other possibilities.


Variations on the Strategy: Capstone projects could incorporate teaching approaches such as:

Strategy #2: Collaborative Assignments and Projects

The basics: Collaborative assignments and projects help students:

  • Effectively work in groups,
  • Solve problems collectively, and
  • Build understanding through active listening and dialogue.

Collaborative assignments and projects could include things like small group activities, team-based writing, study groups, and group projects.


Variations on the Strategy: Additional resources for exploring collaborative learning include:

Strategy #3: Diversity/Global Learning

The basics: Incorporating global learning and diversity in the classroom supports students in learning about:

  • Cultures, experiences, and perspectives different from their own,
  • Challenging topics such as racial, gender, or disability inequality, and
  • Advancing human rights, freedom, and power around the world.



Technology tools for high-impact practices:

Variations on the Strategy: Explore these teaching approaches that support diversity/global learning:

Strategy #4: Service Learning/Community-Based Learning

The basics: Service and community-based learning allows students to:

  • Gain personal experience with the issues they are studying,
  • Apply their learning and experience to propose solutions, and
  • Reflect on their service experience.

Service and community-based learning communicates that giving back to the community is an important outcome in higher education and prepares students to be active citizens, workers, and community members.


Variations on the Strategy: Some teaching strategies that support service learning/community-based learning include:

  • Service Learning: Students engage in two key components: community service and reflection.
  • Engaging Learners with Open Pedagogy: In open pedagogy projects, students are empowered to engage in information creation through non-disposable or renewable assignments. Service Learning can work well as an Open Pedagogy method.

Strategy #5: Internships/Experiential Learning

The basics: Internships are one common form of experiential learning. Experiential education can provide students with direct work or career-related experiences, usually with support and feedback from a professional in the field.


Variations on the Strategy: Learn more about experiential learning and education in these resources:

Strategy #6: ePortfolios

The basics: A portfolio is a collection of work over time, perhaps during a single course or over an entire program of study. An ePortfolio is a digital or online portfolio. An ePortfolio:

  • Provides a formal space for reflection on learning,
  • Creates an archive of gained knowledge/skill, and
  • Can be readily shared with an instructor, academic advisor, potential employer, etc.


Variations on the Strategy: Some additional ideas to explore related to portfolios include:

  • Competency-Based Education: An approach to education where the emphasis is on what graduates know and can do.
  • Backward Design: A process that educators use to design learning experiences and instructional techniques to achieve specific learning goals.
  • See also the resources in Strategy #1: Capstone Project.



“High-Impact Practices” (2023). American Association of Colleges & Universities (AAC&U). Retrieved from https://www.aacu.org/trending-topics/high-impact



Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License

Maverick Learning and Educational Applied Research Nexus Copyright © 2021 by Minnesota State University, Mankato is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

Share This Book