eCommunity Engagement

Community-Engaged Teaching

While many of you have already committed to establishing a practice of community-engaged teaching and learning in your classroom, the act of transitioning that practice to an online, or hybrid model is most likely a new process for you. Although this is new and unfamiliar territory for all of us, together we can make it work. One of the most transformational components of community engagement is its grittiness-the way in which we combine forces to navigate community needs and address social issues and public problems. It is never a seamless process, and that is okay. We need to keep this in mind as we move forward with our plans for the upcoming academic year. That being said, the information below does not supplant directive from University administration or government guidance related to social distancing or exposure protocols. We encourage you to use your best judgment and work with your school's leadership, as well as your community partner, to determine a partnership structure and plan that best fits everyone's needs and comfort level. However, we do want to provide some guidance for moving forward with your course and project planning.

Structural Options

Adapted from Waldner, L. (2015). eSERVICE-LEARNING. In J. Strait & K.J. Nordyke (Eds.), EService-learning: Creating experiential learning and civic engagement through online and hybrid courses (pp.20-39). Stylus.

    • Traditional: Instruction and service take place in-person

    • Hybrid I: Instruction online with locally on-site conducted service

    • Hybrid II: Service online with in-person course instruction

    • Hybrid III: Blended instruction and service partially on-site and partially online

    • Extreme: Both service and instruction take place fully online

Project Examples

There are many ways to engage with our communities at this time. However, these are some initial ideas for both direct and indirect engagement options that can be performed on-site and online.

Direct Engagement Indirect Engagement
Tutoring Creating marketing proposals, communication, and business plans
Collecting & analyzing data Researching a community-based issue
Organizing a community event or program Building a database or model
Assessing and evaluating community issues, projects, and initiatives Soliciting donations (financial or in-kind)
Capturing oral histories Developing program itineraries or curriculum
Hosting educational workshops and forums on community issues Designing a structure for community construction or a map related to public safety, green spaces, infrastructure issues, etc.

Negotiating Existing Partnerships

Adapted from Lifting Bridges (2020). CBL & COVID-19. Retrieved May 17, 2020 from //

    • Determine how your partner is currently operating (if at all). Examine their web presence to determine if they are operating with limited services, hours, and options so you better understand their situation.

    • Reach out to your regular contact. If the partner site is operating remotely, then an email will be the easiest mode of communication. Let them know about the institution's current plans, as well as your plans for your course. It may be helpful to come with idea(s) for projects that would be feasible for your students to participate in remotely.

    • Maintain transparency. Have honest conversations about what is reasonable at this time. Perhaps pausing the partnership is what's best for all parties at this moment. Maybe decreasing the scope of work is the most responsible way of moving forward. Just remember that community engagement is all about addressing community needs-not about a certain deliverable, amount of contact hours, etc. So, in these unprecedented times, we may have arrangements that are different than our usual partnership models in an effort to create partnerships that work for all involved.

    • Construct your plan. Only you and your partner can decide what is best for your course and your partner agency-so this process is highly personalized. CETR is here to help you negotiate your partnerships and projects at this time-don't hesitate to reach out if we can be of any assistance. You have options for your plan that include: moving forward with a renegotiated action plan or project, temporarily suspending your community-engaged learning component, or even considering other partners that are better suited for your current course structure.

Keep in mind that whatever project changes made should match original course learning objectives. Moreover, student assessments and learning assignments will need to be adjusted to align with your new partnership and project structure. As we are all adjusting to our ‘new normal', it is crucial that students are afforded opportunities to reflect on their experiences and the context in which they are learning, as well as given the chance to apply their learning to real-world problems, even in their new virtual environment.

Connecting to Community without a Designated Partner

Given the economic and emotional effects of this unprecedented moment, it is quite possible that a formalized semester-long partnership will not be possible for you, or your partner, to implement. That does not, however, mean that transformative community-based learning cannot still occur. By adapting your coursework, regardless of discipline, to allow students to discuss, unpack, and reflect on the current crises, you can afford the individuals in your course the opportunity to apply prior learning while asking them to situate their experience in the current cultural context. Activities for reflection can ask students to consider ways in which they and their field can effect change at this moment, while also considering what the long-term effects of the pandemic may have on their field and discipline.

• Some options for connecting a course to community without a partner include:

    • Discuss and reflect on the concept of community, noting the forms it may take in different spaces, cultures, contexts, etc.

    • Grapple with social issues and public problems engaging in dialogue and debate after reading about different issues and connecting them to your course and discipline. The National Issues Forums offers great resources for this approach.

    • Utilize a civic learning approach, asking your students to consider their responsibility as citizens to respond to the current crisis, social issues, etc.

    • Students can also spend time learning about law and policy, discovering how legislatures are involved in decision-making that impacts their field as well as the populations they will serve as a professional.

    • Organize a donation-based course project, whether collecting cash or in-kind donations, students can research an organization or initiative related to your course and/or discipline to determine what resources and support are needed at this time. Students can then create and implement a campaign to collect said resources.

While eCommunity Engagement is new for many of us, high-quality academic partnerships for community change are not. The standards, values, and principles that the Center for Community-Engaged Teaching and Research has built to guide students, faculty, and staff still hold true for hybrid and virtual engagement. As we work to sustain our partnerships and community-engaged teaching, learning, and research opportunities over the course of this pandemic, it is important to remember our institution's mission and the values that guide our work as active and engaged students, faculty, and citizens. We are here to help you navigate this process and are looking forward to learning, adapting, and succeeding alongside you and our community in the upcoming academic year.