Online/Remote Service Learning
Service learning in online/remote environments has a variety of definitions, as indicated below:
- E-service-learning (electronic service learning): “a service learning course wherein the instruction and/or service occurs online” (Waldner, McGorry, & Widener, 2012, p. 123)
- Service-learning: “an integrative pedagogy that engages learners through technology in civic inquiry, service, reflection, and action” (Daily-Hebert, Donnelli-Sallee, & DiPadova-Stocks, 2008, p. 1)
No matter the language, it is important to know that UNO faculty members, partners, and students learn and serve together in online environments as well as in-person spaces. The literature review below reveals a variety of reasons to use service learning in online/remote spaces:
- Bridges the geographic barrier (Waldner, McGorry, & Widener, 2012)
- Engaging way to animate online course delivery (Gayton & McEwen, 2007; Hill, Song, & West, 2009; Muirhead, 2004; Swan, 2002; Waldner, McGorry, & Widener, 2012)
- Community partner access can increase and expand outside of local community (Malvey et al, 2006; Waldner, McGorry, & Widener, 2012)
- Links students to technology they need to be successful in the workforce (McWhorter, R. R., Delello, J. A., & Roberts, P. B., 2016)
- High impact practice (Kuh, 2008)
Serving in online/remote environments
In-person service learning courses give students the opportunity to interact directly with individuals. When there are no distance requirements, faculty members can create experiences with community partners that outline when students visit an organization. In remote/online service learning courses, the service experience is typically indirect/capacity building, research, advocacy, or connected to the Maverick Philanthropy Initiative at UNO.
- Indirect/capacity building: This is a type of service that does not require direct contact with individuals. Indirect and capacity building service often includes building structures or resources that support an organization or initiative behind-the-scenes. Examples: Building a website, writing a grant, conducting an evaluation, writing a business plan
- Research: Students can conduct research as a part of an online/remote service learning course. Examples: Collecting a literature review for a grant application or analyzing data for an organization/business
- Advocacy: Students persuade actions by writing letters, speaking to groups, or performing. Examples: Online performance, letter-writing campaign
- Maverick Philanthropic Initiative: Students learn the basics of decision-making choices of giving their time, talents, or treasure while learning course content and contributing to a community organization. Examples: Developing persuasive speeches and donating to the chosen organization
Tips to developing your online/remote service learning course
The Service Learning Academy is eager to support the development of your online/remote service learning course. We are happy to meet with you at any stage of course development—the earlier, the better! Below are a few considerations for your online/remote service learning course:
Identify learning outcomes: be sure to closely link course learning goals to the community-identified service. Faculty members often start by amending an individual assignment to include a community-based experience (in online environments, those are indirect, research, advocacy, or philanthropy)
Connect to meaningful service: community partners identify the opportunities for service in service learning courses. It is important to start by listening to partners about opportunities for asset-sharing and collaboration. The Service Learning Academy can help you make partner connections.
Include training for all stakeholders: set expectations for everyone involved by providing some context building and preparation for the project to be completed.
- Ensure everyone has access to the technology being used
- Make sure the project is relevant to the course learning goals and student interest
Include reflections before, during, and after the experiences
- Be sure the faculty member (and, if possible, community partner) is actively engaged in discussion
- Use discussion boards, chat rooms, blogs, web-based journaling, presentations in creative ways
- Ensure learning is explicitly linked to experience by creating thoughtful prompts
- Include student personal growth/self-reflection
Assess student learning
- Use a rubric to assess student learning (reminder, the grade is for learning, not service)
- Include community partner input and feedback as much as possible
Empower students to communicate their successes: students can document their experiences and skills developed on resumes. Documenting their ability to learn and serve in an online environment is an essential skill!
Don’t be afraid to start small: the Service Learning Academy team is excited to support your online/remote service learning course!