Frequently Asked Questions

What is SAIL in a nutshell?

SAIL—Self-Authored Integrated Learning—is the latest advance in experiential learning at Northeastern. It’s an approach to learning that extracts meaning, not just from courses or co-op and study abroad, but from everyday experience.

In this world of constant change, SAIL’s goal is to help people become adaptable, lifelong learners, who are able to grasp concepts deeply and then apply them to new, unfamiliar contexts.

SAIL provides a common framework and vocabulary for talking about learning along five broad dimensions of personal and professional growth and leadership. Within each dimension, SAIL helps learners master skills and traits, from critical thinking to empathy.

Why was SAIL created?

SAIL takes experiential learning to a new level. Instead of defining it as learning that happens “out there”—on co-op, on a Dialogue, during study abroad, in service to the community—SAIL helps us extract meaning from everyday moments, throughout life. As anyone who has accumulated wisdom knows, learning happens everywhere, from late-night debates in a dorm room to meetings with strangers in Beijing.

SAIL is grounded in decades of research about how people learn. A primary but challenging goal in education is to help learners master “knowledge transfer”—to help them understand concepts so deeply that they can apply them to entirely new situations and contexts with ease. This is SAIL’s ultimate goal.

Finally, SAIL aims to imbue graduates with skills that employers say they want and need in survey after survey.

Who developed SAIL?

A team of educators—faculty members and others with deep expertise in how we learn, including student development specialists and educational psychologists —came together from across the university to develop SAIL beginning in 2015. They were led by Susan Ambrose, Senior Vice Provost for Educational Innovation; Laura A. Wankel, Senior Advisor for Strategic Initiatives to the Senior Vice Provost for Educational Innovation; and Cigdem Talgar, Associate Vice Provost for Teaching and Learning.

Who is SAIL for? Can other universities adopt it?

SAIL was developed for use by everyone in the Northeastern community. Students at all levels, faculty, staff, and soon, alumni will learn about SAIL. In theory, other universities that support experiential learning could adopt SAIL, or features of it. However, SAIL’s learning dimensions reflect Northeastern’s mission, culture, and values. In many ways, it is tailor-made for this university.

How important is the SAIL app? Do I have to use it?

No one has to use the app. SAIL’s learning goals are independent of technology. That said, the app—still in the beta phase of development—offers many valuable features. You can use it now to document and track your learning on a timeline. Create a mosaic-style graphic to record and plan areas of personal and professional growth. Share that growth profile with others. And search a database of learning opportunities.

In the coming months, as more people use SAIL’s app, you’ll gain access to Northeastern’s worldwide community network. Be able to organize special-interest groups of like-minded people. And explore a learning-opportunities database that is Northeastern’s most comprehensive, even global.

How private is SAIL data?

As more and more people use SAIL’s digital tools, they will generate data with the potential to advance how learning happens at Northeastern.

SAIL values data transparency, privacy, and handling data in an ethical manner. Users can control who sees their data and what data are made visible to other SAIL users. You can view and adjust privacy settings in your SAIL profile. SAIL data administrators will only provide access to de-identified data in the aggregate, for the purpose of enhancing the overall educational experience at Northeastern. Read the full privacy policy.

Further Reading