Welcome to the Experiential Learning Program risk management toolkit!

The University recognizes that the student, host site, and University receive long-term, mutual benefits from experiential learning programs. Students gain practical experience, host sites have the opportunity to fill future positions, and academic curricula are enriched and serve to fulfill the University’s strategic plans.

Experiential learning policy

This webpage provides tools for managing the risk of off-campus experiential learning programs. The content of this webpage is closely tied to the content of University policy POL-U2100.03 Managing the Risks of Off-Campus Experiential Learning Programs, which should be read and closely followed.

It is designed to provide flexibility to accommodate the diverse range of program types around the University from simple one professor/one student arrangements to full-scale programs with multiple placements and fulltime staff. The intent is that risk mitigation practices will be incorporated into all decisions related to program offerings.

What are experiential learning programs?

The policy mentioned above applies to experiential learning programs, which are University programs that integrate the resources of the University with the resources of an off-campus host site in order to provide students with an opportunity to gain supervised practical experience by applying their classroom knowledge, theory, and skills. Experiential learning programs may include internships, applied learning, practica, service learning, student teaching, or similar kinds of student placements that satisfy a University requirement for academic credit or otherwise.

For the purposes of this webpage and policy, experiential learning programs do not include fieldwork or field courses involving student research in a natural environment under the supervision of University faculty or staff.

The policy applies to Western’s “outbound” students.  It does not apply to “inbound” students from Western or other institutions doing experiential learning at Western as student-employees, student volunteers and unpaid students (per RCW 51.12.170), or registered volunteers (per RCW 51.12.035). Many of the risk mitigation principles and tools (such as learning plans) referenced in the policy may be used by Western to improve “inbound” arrangements, as departments see fit.

Who is responsible for the risk of experiential learning programs?

The student, host site, and University share the risk of liability for their actions under an experiential learning program. Host sites and the University are legal entities with legal representatives such as their corresponding advisors. College students are legal adults, unless they are minors under the care of a parent or guardian, so they are expected to assume any liability resulting from their own actions. Additionally, each of the three parties are expected to be individually responsible for their own liability insurance coverage.

Specific responsibilities for Department Heads (Chairs, Deans and Directors), University Advisors (Faculty or Staff), Host Sites and Students are described in POL-U2100.03 Managing the Risk of Off-Campus Experiential Learning Programs and other applicable University policies.

Sample forms and written agreements

University Advisors administer written agreements and forms that may be used for an experiential learning programs:

Learning Plans - A learning plan is a written plan, syllabus, practicum description, or other guiding course document regarding a student’s placement that outlines learning/service objectives and activities and individual roles and responsibilities for the student, host site supervisor, and University Advisor.

Affiliation Agreements - An affiliation agreement describes the host site and University's respective responsibilities, expectations, and liability relating to an experiential learning program. An affiliation agreement may also be called a memorandum of understanding (MOU), memorandum of agreement (MOA), or something similar. Either party may request the use of an Affiliation Agreement. If proposed, Affiliation Agreements will be vetted by University’s Contract Administration and signed by an authorized University signatory.

Host Site Forms - These forms are normally provided by the Host Site for student, faculty, or staff signature, such as nondisclosure agreements (NDA), waivers, releases, and hold harmless forms, and will be vetted through the University’s Contract Administration.

Host Site Evaluation Forms - University advisors may recommend that the student and/or host site complete a host site evaluation form prior to the start of an experiential learning program, depending on the structure of the program. A student and University advisor may also evaluate a host site collaboratively by adapting one of the forms below.

Other policies

Other University policies may apply to experiential learning programs:


University advisors may consult with Western’s Risk Manager for assistance related to managing their department’s Experiential Learning Programs. Call x3065 or email Paul Mueller.


Note: This toolkit is for use by Western Washington University only. Neither WWU, nor any officer, employee or volunteer of WWU warrants the accuracy, reliability or timeliness of any information shown on this toolkit, nor endorses any content, viewpoints, products, or services linked from this toolkit, and shall not be held liable for any losses caused by reliance on the accuracy, reliability or timeliness of such information. Portions of this toolkit may be incorrect or not current. Other than WWU employees, any person or entity that relies on any information obtained from this toolkit does so at his or her own risk.

Page Updated 11.22.2017 4-14-2017