Supporting Community Engaged Courses via Remote Learning
For faculty planning to offer a course this academic year that integrates immersive or service-learning, the following provides some considerations for the safe and effective implementation of this important aspect of your course whether instruction is remote, in person, or a hybrid form of engagement.
Eigel Center for Community Engaged Learning Virtual Workshop
Strategies for Implementing Community Engaged Learning During a time of COVID-19
Informational workshop providing strategies for implementing remote and hybrid forms of community engagement for faculty planning to continue or introduce service (SERL) or immersive (ILE) courses, or considering integrating community-based knowledge into their classrooms. The use of technologies and assignments that promote online engagement in community-engaged curricula is a well-supported pedagogy that can enhance course outcomes and expand student experiences beyond the classroom. The workshop supports integration of remote community engaged learning strategies into courses, as well as exploration of flexible options that may engage students with off-campus communities safely and effectively.
What to Consider When Implementing Community Engaged Learning in Online Courses
While it might seem less than ideal, the introduction of online technologies in community-engaged and experiential curricula is a developing, but well-supported pedagogy that can enhance course outcomes and expand the effect of engagement well beyond the classroom (Guthrie & McCracken, 2010). Online education has the power to bring students and ideas together from diverse geographic, cultural, social, and economic areas and utilizing it in support of community-engaged courses is growing in popularity with faculty.
If you are currently teaching a course that integrates immersive or service-learning, the following provides some considerations for implementation of this important aspect of your course while teaching remotely, suggested assignments to promote online engagement and strategic reflection, and virtual opportunities and resources.
- Rest assured, the four primary components of service-learning pedagogy— preparation, action, reflection, and evaluation—can be adapted to online environments;
- Communicate with your community partners, set up a time to talk through possibilities and ask how it would affect their work. Also, ask how the current crisis is affecting the services they provide and consider shifting your resources to the areas where they most need support. You might find inspiration in how your students might alter their engagement in response.
- Immersive Learning Canvas Modules are a great way to prepare students for immersive and community-based experiences, but also continue conversations online. Four adaptable modules are utilized to prompt critical reflection of issues related to immersion, including immersive learning terminology, identity and self-awareness, and an overview of frameworks that reinforce inequity. A faculty guide is available as a resource for ease of integration and inclusion of these modules in an existing course, as well as a pre- and post-assessment to provide an indirect measure of students’ growth. Contact the Eigel Center for access to this resource!
- E-service-learning (electronic service-learning) holds massive potential to transform both service-learning and online learning by freeing service-learning from geographical constraints and by equipping online learning with a powerful and much-needed tool to promote engagement. Existing mentoring/tutoring partnerships can move online, or one on one with technology. “Placements” may include those service opportunities that can be completed exclusively in a virtual environment;
- Canvas provides a number of existing resources for collaboration, giving students a shared space that enables them to collaborate on assignments, projects, discussions, files, and more. Zoom and Big Blue Button features allow students to start their own videoconferencing meetings within Canvas. Students are familiar with and can share Google documents with community partners for feedback and information exchanges.
- “Indirect” service-learning assignments allow student-related course work to happen outside of the service site, remotely, to deliver tangible work product that benefits the work of the nonprofit or community partner. Often these can be capstone or project-based experiences already integrated into your syllabus, or take the form of research and writing assignment.
- Provide students with options: If your course previously integrated a localized direct service or immersive experience, allow students to choose from a variety of projects and offer options that can be completed individually as well as virtually with partners or in groups. This helps to reduce barriers for students whose current location, work, health and/or life situations might otherwise prevent them from participating. If direct, local service was a required component of your course, have students identify and develop individual action plans to complete any remaining hours of service in their current (permanent) location with a similarly situated partner. (Insure they observe and follow proper health and location protocols);
- Reflection Journals are powerful tools to document student progress and experiences, as well as personal insight and self-evaluation towards learning outcomes. Students can include analyses related to course content and materials, previous community service experiences, and chart personal growth throughout the semester.
- Good communication with students is vital to ensure there is reciprocity and to work through unexpected situations. Keep open lines of communication with community partners as well, and schedule check-in phone calls, Canvas Chats/Discussions, or virtual meetings regularly.
- Leverage the internet to expand the localized scope of the community-engaged work to working in a global community. Learnings from global communities can be benchmarked and shared with a local partner to heighten or benefit existing community outcomes and demonstrate the connectivity of issues and problem-solving strategies to students. For example, have students identify global nonprofit, NGO, or community facing similar issues (employment, safety, literacy, youth engagement and mentoring, health conditions, and environment).
- Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL) is already a powerful tool that pairs students with peers internationally for dialogue around salient, course-related issues. In light of the global reach of this pandemic, it can also be utilized to bring students together for reflection and discussion about how the current crisis is affecting service and immersion issues in diverse settings.
- Consult Xavier and health authorities first for the best information on risk and recommended precautionary steps. Updates are available from local and state public health departments and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
It is important to remember that students have their own individual challenges, and in addition to adapting to online learning – a pedagogy they may be unfamiliar with – they are also dealing with the possible loss of an on or off-campus job, access to housing and meals, lack of peer support, and socialization which could lead to additional wellness concerns. Do not hesitate to direct your students to Xavier’s excellent health and wellbeing counseling services remotely. The good news is integrating community-based learning within an online course can serve as motivation for students and reduce their feelings of isolation. Community-engaged learning is well documented in the literature for supporting a sense of belonging and purpose, student retention, and increased academic gains.