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         ​     High-Impact Practices Operational Definitions

Adapted by the CU Denver HIP Taskforce from the AAC&U Descriptions (May 2016)

 HIPs are a list of nationally recognized engaged teaching-and-learning strategies that were developed under the auspices of the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U). Widespread practice and scholarship-of-teaching-and-learning suggest that student participation in HIPs improves their educational experience and their degree success and that underrepresented minority students especially benefit from engaging in multiple HIPs.
Below are working definitions of HIPs and, linked to the name of each, the "Best-Practices Guidelines." These definitions and guidelines were drafted and revised over the course of two years by committees of faculty, staff, and students at the University of Colorado Denver, incorporating feedback from faculty experts in each HIP across CU Denver's downtown campus.

First Year Seminars and Experiences: A course intended to enhance the academic and social integration of first-year students by introducing them to essential skills for college success and a supportive campus community comprised of faculty, staff, and peers. FYSs often place a strong emphasis on critical inquiry, frequent writing, information literacy, collaborative learning, and other crucial competencies. Some FYSs also feature rigorous discipline-based content.


Common Intellectual Experiences:An intentionally designed group of learning experiences (e.g., courses, co-curricula, community-based activities), in which learning in one experience is developed and strategically applied in a linked experience. This includes the horizontal integration of several courses by a shared “big idea” theme or vertical integration, as in scaffolded curriculum, either within a major or linking gen-ed core courses to more advanced applications in major courses. These experiences frequently are multidisciplinary and team-learning-based.


Learning Community:A cohort of students who share a specific set of clustered learning experiences. Typically, these include paired courses, or a single course, integrated by an academic theme, collaborative learning, peer mentoring, and intentional co-curricular activities, such as service, a common reader, and special programming. Such communities tend to be designed with targeted populations in mind, such as first-years, transfers, or majors.


Writing-Intensive Courses​: These courses treat students' production and revision of writing as central to the learning of course content. These courses provide explicit instruction about writing in specific disciplines, including the forms appropriate for different audiences. Student writing receives substantive feedback from instructors and peers, and revisions, when successful, respond to this feedback.


Collaborative Assignments and Projects: Collaborative learning combines two key goals: learning to work and solve problems in the company of others, and sharpening one’s own understanding by listening seriously to the insights of others, especially those with different backgrounds and life experiences. Approaches range from study groups within a course, to team-based assignments and writing, to cooperative projects and research.


Undergraduate Research [and Creative Activity]: “An inquiry or investigation conducted by an undergraduate student that makes an original intellectual or creative contribution to the discipline” ( Ideally, this process is project-based, collaborative, publically disseminated or presented, and within a credit-bearing course.


Diversity/Global Learning: Experiences that focus on student engagement, exploration, and analysis of cultures, life experiences, and worldviews different from their own.  Students explore “difficult differences” such as racial, ethnic, gender inequality, or continuing struggles around the globe for justice, human rights, freedom, and power. Those deepened perspectives support students in interacting and communicating more ethically and effectively with people different from themselves. 


Service Learning, Community-Based Learning: Field-based experiential learning that connects meaningful community engagement, course content, and civic responsibility provides students direct experience with issues they are studying with ongoing efforts to identify needs, assets, and solutions with the community. Focused service learning opportunities allows, students to both apply what they are learning in real-world settings and reflect in the classroom setting on those experiences.


Internships: Internships formally integrate students’ academic studies with practical work experience in a professional environment. These learning opportunities are structured, supervised experiences focusing on intentional learning goals that support the student's educational and career interests while enhancing personal development and professional preparation. Academic internship are curriculum-based, credit-bearing, and ideally involves a “learning agreement” signed by faculty, student, workplace supervisor, and internship advisor.


Capstone Courses and Projects: ​​A culminating experience in a program that requires students to integrate and reflect on what they have learned in the program as well as across their entire undergraduate experience and is demonstrated in the form of a project such as a presentation, performance, portfolio, exhibit, or research paper.



 Office of Undergraduate Expereinces

Phone: 303-315-2133 • Fax: 303-315-5829

Street Address: 1380 Lawrence Street, Ste. 1400

Denver, CO 80204


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