The rapidly changing circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak affect all aspects of UVM life, and in particular how we think about community engagement. For faculty teaching community-engaged learning (particularly service learning) courses, who need to think about how to run those courses for fall in uncertain circumstances, please read CELO's guide to adapting your community-engaged course for flexible delivery. You can find additional CELO Resources below. 

PLEASE NOTE: If your SL course includes in-person or field activities with a community partner outside of UVM, you will need to administer some just-announced student and community partner COVID safety checklists. All students and partners must complete these forms before non-classroom activities are allowed. Implementation of these forms has been assigned to the Deans in each unit, and leadership in each School/College will be working out their own methods for completing these forms (CELO is not administering them). If your students' community-engaged work is remote, these forms are not necessary.

Resources from CELO

CELO Director Susan Munkres offered an Introduction to Community-Engaged Learning workshop on August 26th, as part of the Pivotal Pedagogy series put on by CTL, WID and the Libraries.

We are also happy to offer individual or departmental consultation for faculty and academic units seeking to adapt their community-based teaching amidst the pandemic. We can offer sample syllabi that effectively build in community engagement, and/or help in re-drafting your syllabus.

For faculty who will require some additional support to administer aspects of a service-learning project, CELO supports a cohort of Service-Learning Teaching Assistants (SLTAs). Please email Tom (tom.wilson@uvm.edu) if you're are interested in the SLTA Program.

We can also offer any of our in-class workshops remotely to your students, either syncronously or in pre-recorded form. Please email Susan (susan.munkres@uvm.edu) and Tom (tom.wilson@uvm.edu) if you'd like to discuss possible options. Workshops could include (but are not limited to):

  • Intro to Service-Learning Pedagogy 
  • Reciprocity & Community Partnerships — Help students understand and define reciprocity in service-learning projects, and critically reflect on how they can contribute to positive community partnerships.
  • 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.

As faculty may need to adjust their course plans for the fall, if plans for a Service Learning ('SL') course have fallen through, we can brainstorm alternatives, and/or consider redesignating it as Civic Learning ('CL', meaning the course has an engaged or applied component, but no specific partner). Contact Susan (susan.munkres@uvm.edu) to discuss or request any designation changes.

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.

 

Additional Resources

Drawing on work of colleagues around the country, we have also compiled some resources and initial guidance below for faculty needing to adapt their community-engaged courses. 

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 content
  • 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.

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.

 

And 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.

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.

PUBLISHED

09-01-2020