Authentic learning activities can help learners integrate knowledge, skills and attitudes necessary for effective task performance similar to those they may encounter in the workplace. We developed a teaching and learning model that was connected and relevant to the students’ future workplaces with the goal of building authentic learning and assessment into a computer-aided design (CAD) course. New authentic elements such as project-based learning (PBL), electronic assessment, 3D printing and peer assessment were added progressively to cultivate life-long learning skills. This study was conducted to determine how the authentic learning activities and assessment methods influenced the overall course satisfaction and experiences of authentic learning among first-year undergraduate students studying the CAD course as part of their engineering degrees. Annual cohorts from Semester 1, 2014 to 2019 were included in this study. A qualitative research design, involving multiple data collection points via an online questionnaire, was used in this study. Content analysis was used to summarise students’ feedback and determine themes used to inform improvements needed. The results of this study suggest that the authentic learning activities had a positive impact on students’ learning outcomes and overall satisfaction with the course. A majority of students believed that the learning activities in the course embraced a hands-on approach that was closely associated with real-life workplace situations and they were able to apply their knowledge to support self-directed and independent learning.