On April 30, 2017, I submitted a final deliverable for a service-learning massive open online course (MOOC) developed by Designers for Learning on Canvas.net. Designers for Learning is a not-for-profit corporation that “promotes service-learning opportunities through collaboration with schools, students, and volunteers.”
I finished the course (Higher Education) Instructional Evaluation Service Course: Gain Experience for Good on schedule with renewed enthusiasm for instructional design. This is significant because I have signed up for several MOOCs in the past but did not finish one.
Why was this course so successful? The service-learning course was project-based, engaging, and relevant. Before registering for this course, I did not know the definition of service learning. According to Fayette State University, “Service learning is a teaching and learning strategy that integrates meaningful community service with instruction and reflection to enrich the learning experience, teach civic responsibility, and strengthen communities (Learn and Serve America National Service Learning Clearinghouse).”
Service learning, a type of experiential learning, uses project-based activities relevant to the course topic. Students develop critical thinking and communication skills while addressing a real-world community need. Community organizations collaborate with K-12 schools, community colleges, and universities to address those community needs.
Problem: Service learning offers many benefits to students and community organizations. Schools must keep students engaged and community organizations struggle with lack of resources to build awareness and carry out initiatives.
Solution: Community organizations can collaborate with schools and universities to provide meaningful, service-oriented projects that engage students and address a community issue/need or solve a problem in the community.
Success: The Office of High School Programs highlights a successful Environment Science and Invasive Species service-learning project. “In an Environmental Science course, students learned about the concept of biodiversity and its importance in the natural world. During their studies, students read about a variety of threats to biodiversity in nature including invasive species. The teacher made a contact with a local forest preserve and organized a trip to study and plant and animal life at the preserve including invasive species. The students spent part of the day clearing a prairie area of invasive buckthorn. The class decided to return to continue their work clearing invasive plants, because they learned that native plants only flourish if invasive plants are contained. After the trip, the teacher guided students through a process of reflection where they considered various strategies to contain invasive species and discussed what might be done to control the introduction of invasive species.”
According to the Office of High School Programs, which houses the Service Learning Initiative of Chicago Public Schools, students and community organizations benefit in many ways.
|Enhance student learning by joining theory with experience and thought with action||Fill unmet needs in the community through direct and indirect service that is meaningful and necessary|
|Enable students to help others, give of themselves, and enter into caring relationships with others||Assist agencies to better serve their clients and benefit from the infusion of enthusiastic volunteers|
|Assist students to see the relevance of the academic subject to the real world||Cultivate future volunteers and qualified talent|
|Enhance the self-esteem and self-confidence of your students||Enhance community and organization images|
|Expose students to societal inadequacies and injustice and empower students to remedy them||Foster positive relationship with the university and schools|
|Keep students motivated and interested class and serve as a tool for reflection||Impact local issues and local needs|
If you work for a community organization or school, encourage educators and administrators to reach out to one another and make use of this rich resource.
Bartholomew, Keith and Basinger, Nancy. “Service-Learning in Nonprofit Organizations: Motivations, Expectations, and Outcomes.” Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning. Spring (2006): 15-26.
Designers for Learning. “Home.” designersforlearning.com. http://designersforlearning.org/ (accessed May 6, 2017).
Fayetteville State University. “Definition of Service Learning.” uncfsu.edu. http://www.uncfsu.edu/civic-engagement/service-learning/definition-of-service-learning (accessed May 6, 2017).
The Office of High School Programs houses the Service Learning Initiative of Chicago Public Schools. “Service Learning. Successful Projects.” servicelearning.cps.k12.il.us. http://servicelearning.cps.k12.il.us/Successful.html (accessed May 6 2017).