COVID-19 UPDATES & GUIDANCE
for COMMUNITY-ENGAGED LEARNING
The rapidly changing circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak affect all aspects of UVM life, and in particular how we think about community engagement. The recent memo from Provost Prelock clarified that all community-engaged learning activity associated with academic courses must be transferred to remote delivery for the remainder of the semester, which may significantly impact faculty, students, and community partners.
Drawing on work of colleagues around the country, we have compiled some resources and initial guidance below for faculty teaching community-engaged courses.
If you are hoping to address community needs arising from the current crisis, the United Way of Northwest Vermont has a volunteer connection page specifically set up for COVID-19 response.
Please, please stay in touch and let us know how we can best support community-engaged learning during this difficult time.
- Please communicate directly with your community partners. Partners are likely aware of UVM's decision, but may not be clear what options remain to them, or how UVM's policies may affect their capacity or work plan.
- Communicate directly with your students to reassure them that you will proactively support them in this challenging time.
- Adjust your syllabus to reflect the new course reality. You may find these Principles shared from UNC Chapel Hill to be a helpful adjusted syllabus example.
- We suggest recording a video of yourself assuring students of your support and flexibility, and asking them for genuine effort in completing coursework to the extent possible.
- Make clear that students will not be held accountable for work/service that cannot be completed in light of both UVM's policies, local/state directives and evolving community partner needs.
- UVM's Center for Teaching & Learning has a shared Google document on Teaching with Compassion & Focus Amid Disruption.
- Transforming COVID into a Learning Opportunity for Your Students from Simon Fraser University contains valuable resources organized by discipline.
- Plymouth State University has a helpful Keeping it Simple as You Go Remote for COVID19 resource and worksheet for faculty (distilling online delivery down into manageable Guiding Principles, Tools, Content Chunks, etc.).
- Emphasize to students that the flexibility required in community-engaged learning is exactly the kind of resilience needed in crises like the one we are currently facing. Remind them that they are continuing to learn through this experience, regardless of being able to complete service/work; they are not being "cheated" of a learning experience!
- Consider providing resources on social distancing and opportunities for reflection on the COVID-19 pandemic itself to students (see below). Community partners may be in different stages of accepting social distancing: while some community partners in Burlington are restricting all non-staff (e.g. King Street Youth Center just shut down all volunteer programs), other organizations may wish that UVM students could continue in person. Help students reflect on and learn from any variation in community response.
- Center for Teaching & Learning (CTL) staff are working hard to figure out the technology options; contact them for resources on teaching continuity.
- Iowa & Minnesota Campus Compacts has released a helpful Coronavirus and the Engaged Campus resource, which includes (if you scroll down the page) ideas for virtual engagement.
Continuing with Project-Based (aka Consultant-Model) Service-Learning
- Prepare yourself and your students for the possibility that circumstances will continue to change and even projects initially continued remotely may still need to be suspended.
- If the project can't continue as planned, ask community partners if alternative project-based work can be completed. Examples may include:
- conducting background research
- gathering best practices
- creating a list of grant opportunities
- remote interviewing
- creation of online resources (i.e. web content, podcasts, etc.) and/or social media conten
- Consider adding your community partner(s) to your Microsoft Teams group for your course.
- You can migrate the learning outcomes of the SL project directly into other assignments, such as fact finding, project management exercises, skills assessments, research, critical reflection, etc. Spelling out these connections for students may be helpful.
- Students can also analyze their progress to date and work through various scenarios to guess at results/conclusions/recommendations. They may also be able to develop plans of action for the project(s) to go forward in future semesters.
Continuing with Direct Service Partners
- Some partners may be able to accommodate remote service delivery, such as virtual tutoring of youth, or virtual visits to a senior facility. It may be worth exploring these possibilities.
- However, coordinating this with students in multiple locations and with varying technological resources may be challenging. Prepare your students for the possibility that circumstances will continue to change; even if work can initially be done remotely, continuing that work may or may not be possible.
- It may also be possible that students can transition to doing project-based work for the community partner(s) — see above for examples. Always check with partners first, and recognize that they may not have capacity to engage with new projects. CELO can help brainstorm possibilities based on other successful service-learning partnerships if a community partner is interested.
- Consider adding your community partner(s) to your Microsoft Teams group for your course.
Suspending Engagement with Community Partners
If it's not possible to continue your community partnership, the syllabus and course assignments can be redesigned to draw upon the initial service period and the intended learning outcomes for community-based work.
- Retrieval practice may be a tool to use previous reflections and service to access knowledge in reflection and analysis assignments, allowing students to re-analyze their service experiences.
- Similarly, students could spend time analyzing similarities and differences among their various sites and projects, reflecting on each other's service experiences.
- Identify key learning outcomes established for the community-engaged learning component(s) of the course, and assign relevant articles, TEDtalks, podcasts, etc. that engage with those outcomes. Make explicit to students how and why you are translating these learning outcomes into new assignments.
- Add material related to COVID-19 to address course learning outcomes that can no longer be achieved through community-engaged work. Connecting the virus's differential impact on communities, responses of leadership, personal civic responsibility, etc. We are happy to help find materials and resources (and have included a list of reflection resources in the section below).
Critical Reflection Ideas & Resources
Even in normal circumstances, community-engaged learning requires a flexible definition of success and the opportunity to learn from real-world challenges. As students and faculty alike are now faced with uncertainly, this may be a good opportunity to increase the time for critical reflection, allowing students to make meaning and achieve learning outcomes in the face of an unprecedented societal crisis.
- The Center for Civic Reflection offers discussion plans, facilitator summaries & additional resources to engage students in reflective dialogue on a range of topics, including many that can use the current COVID-19 crisis as the source of experience. Here are a few of the relevant topics (though you may find value in many others):
- Political Science Now offers Promoting Civic Literacy & Engagment, and Civic Action Projects for Your 100% Online (COVID-19 ADAPTED) Courses resources to help students build civic responsibility during a time of social distancing. (Students can also participate in civic-minded online games.)
- Transforming COVID into a Learning Opportunity for Your Students (from Simon Fraser University) contains valuable resources organized by discipline.
- Loyola University in Chicago has compiled a set of reflection questions related to COVID-19 and global health.
- Consider conversation about how crises trigger scapegoating, in this case against Asians and Asian-Americans. This episode of NPR's Code Switch focuses on COVID-19 and racism and xenophobia.
- The Chicago Tribune posted a lovely poem called "Pandemic" by Lynn Unger, which explores community and collective responsibility, care and generosity. Students might reflect upon reading the poem about their own skills and how they can be useful in the face of this crisis, or perhaps ways that they can reach out to people in need during a time of social distancing.
- This commentary in the New York Times discusses the way pandemics (with a particular focus on the 1918 Spanish Flu) can also destroy compassion for our fellow citizens. Students can reflect on how to maintain and/or rebuild community during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.
- People are struggling to embrace social distancing and there is inconsistency in policies across communities and areas. (Some recommended articles related to social distancing & COVID-19 can be found here, here, here, and here. A webinar with UVM's Associate Dean for Public Health Jan Carney is also a helpful social distancing primer.) Students can reflect on how social distancing is likely to impact people in the communities that they're engaging with.
Resources from CELO
We are happy to offer our any of our in-class workshops
remotely to your students. If there is interest, we can create a recorded workshop to offer asynchronously to students as well. Please email Susan (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Tom (email@example.com) if you'd like to discuss possible options. Workshops could include (but are not limited to):
- Transferable Skills — Help students identify the personal & professional skills they've gained in their service-learning experience, and how to convey those skills in job searches and future professional settings
- Critical Reflection — The importance of critical reflection, and ways to do it effectively
- Burlington/VT Communities — Helping students make sense of new cultural experiences, and orient them to some of Burlington and Vermont's historically marginalized communities
Above all, please don't hesitate to reach out to CELO if you want any support in determining how to move forward with your community-engaged courses. We are happy to help you adjust work, reconfigure assignments, reconsider grading, and so forth.
This is, of course, a rapidly evolving situation for everyone, and we plan to update this site with additional guidance and resources as they come available. Please contact us if you have other specific questions or concerns related to community engagement, or if there are other resources you would like to see us include in this space.
UVM's Center for Teaching & Learning is also offering a wide range of technical assistance and consultation for all the logistics of remote instruction, including their website, and FB group. We are extremely grateful for the CTL's efforts, and encourage all faculty to take full advantage of the assistance they are offering.
Many community engagement professionals have contributed resources that we are drawing on. Gratitude in particular to: The Center for Civic Reflection, Iowa & Minnesota Campus Compacts, IUPUI Center for Service and Learning, Loyola University, Indiana University, Plymouth State University, UNC Chapel Hill, Simon Fraser University, Political Science Now.