In the fall of 2023, USM will be piloting Research Learning Experiences as part of UMS Transforms. RLEs will satisfy student’s Engaged Learning requirement in the Core.

RLEs across the University of Maine System are part of the UMS Transforms RLE program funded through the Alfond Foundation.

RLE overview

Research Learning Experiences are first or second-year courses that engage students in research,  scholarship, and creative activity that is open-ended, inquiry-based, iteratively designed, and shaped by discoveries that occur during the course. RLEs support our students’ transition from passive knowledge consumers to active knowledge producers. RLE courses involve at least one credit hour’s worth of:

  • student-led, inquiry-based scholarship and creative activity, and 
  • student-directed work that aligns with professional practices in a particular field, 
  • student-led inquiry and creative activity that has  meaning that students can see outside of the classroom.

All first-year RLE’s must include a bridge experience. 

Bridge or early immersion experiences involve students in

  • cohort building
  • building a trusted rapport between students and instructor
  • using that trust to lay a foundation of resiliency skills that will help with both the RLE course and the transition to college in general. 

Bridge experiences will involve an intensive, multi-day experience, scheduled either just prior to the start of classes (preferred), or on weekends/evenings during the first weeks of the semester. 

Within the UMS Transforms RLE framework, the student-initiated and directed nature of the inquiry process is key. Within the context of first-year students’ knowledge and experiences, the primary focus of RLEs is that students themselves define, pose, and address the questions, rather than an instructor assigning students a research, design, or creative task pre-designed to address an already identified question or process. The other primary feature of RLEs is that the questions or processes themselves must have a clear purpose outside the classroom, and must be the type of questions and processes that professionals in the field might ask and/or engage in.

Grant Support:

While USM is awaiting final budget approval, we will have access to approximately $500,000 over two years to launch RLEs. Grant funding may be used to pay for a range of expenses associated with the development and launch of RLEs, from supporting faculty course redesign to providing funds for student access to and engagement with immersive, experiential learning.

Fall 2023 Pilot Phase Courses

ANT 101 Anthropology: The Cultural view (Sarah Lockridge)

ART 124 Cre8: The Art of Creativity  (Kimberly Bentley)

CHY 116 Laboratory Techniques II  (Seth Staples, spring 2024)

ENG 102 Academic Writing (Jessica Ouellette)

HON 115 Introduction to Honors (Amy Amoroso, Richard Bilodeau) 

TAH 150 Professional Practices Immersion in Tourism & Hospitality (Tracy Michaud)

UMS Transforms- Research Learning Experiences Program Learning Outcomes and Assessment

Cognitive Outcomes (changes in cognitive skills

1. Students will formulate appropriately scoped topics or questions that will guide their scholarly exploration.

2. Students will describe their iterative approaches to exploration for work without a defined answer.

3. Students will effectively communicate with collaborators about their experience.

4. Students will demonstrate responsibility for the discovery process.

Dispositional Outcomes (changes in beliefs or attitudes)

1. Students will identify the relevance/applicability of their experience beyond the RLE course.

2. Students will reflect on how their exploratory process has helped them develop as learners.

3. Students will explain the importance of belonging to a community for their learning.

Students will have the opportunity to register for an RLE during their Advising and Course Selection (ACS) appointment.

For more information, contact Susan McWilliams.