How Can I Create a Meaningful Service-Learning Project for my Online Class?

March 08, 2023

How Can I Create a Meaningful Service-Learning Project for my Online Class?

Authors: Angela Beyer, Jodie Nehrt, Matt Schmitz – IDLT

Stephanie Delaney describes service learning as " a teaching and learning strategy that integrates meaningful communication skills with instruction and reflection to enrich the student learning experience, teach civic responsibility, and strengthen communities." While service learning traditionally happens in a face-to-face class, service learning can also be an option for online-only courses. Dr. Stephanie Delaney had several suggestions for how to accomplish this in a recent MidWeek Mentor "How Can I Create a Meaningful Service-Learning Project for my Online Class? "

The “meaningful communication skills with instruction and reflection” element of Dr. Delaney's definition positions service learning as something well-suited to the asynchronous activities and tools of online teaching and learning. Options within Blackboard for student interaction include discussion boards, blogs, and wikis. Checkpoints are important in any long-term projects to ensure students are not losing focus, and collaborative communication tools both allow faculty to keep in touch with students and encourage students to build community with their peers by sharing reflections, feedback, and ideas at regular intervals.

Dr. Connie Frey-Spurlock, faculty in the SIUE Sociology Department and SIUE Successful Communities Collaborative (SSCC) director, moderated the session and discussion with faculty attendees afterwards. Dr. Frey-Spurlock has extensive experience with service learning and offered several tips including providing more structure to guide student choices and the option to coordinate with a specific organization and help all students find their project within their needs. Reaching out and understanding the needs of the organization are critical to a student's success in a service learning project. However, Drs. Delaney and Frey-Spurlock both stressed that any outcome is a success in a service learning project, even ones that did not fully meet their goals. Failure is a success because it provides a learning opportunity for the students and a chance for them to analyze how to adjust for future projects or plans.

Dr. Frey-Spurlock encouraged faculty interested in service learning to visit Get Involved at SIUE to determine opportunities for them and their students to become involved in community service projects.


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