Service Learning Support

The Office of Volunteerism and Service Learning Support offers guidance and support for faculty who wish to incorporate service-learning opportunities in the classroom. 

What is service-learning?
Service-learning is defined as a "credit-bearing, educational experience in which students participate in an organized service activity that meets identified community needs and reflect on the service activity in such a way as to gain further understanding of course content, a broader appreciation of the discipline, and an enhanced sense of civic responsibility." Bringle and Hatcher

A service-learning partnership involves a community partner (usually a nonprofit organization, governmental agency, or PK- 12 public school,) and faculty member working together to develop a service placement or project that will engage students in serving the community partner's needs while gaining an enhanced understanding of the learning objectives in an academic course. These partnerships involve an entire class, or occasionally a small group of students, serving with an organization for an entire semester.  Our program is founded upon a reciprocal relationship between students and community partners.

How is service-learning different from volunteerism or internships?

  • Service-learning is designed to benefit both the student and the community. The service activities meet community needs and enhance student understanding of course content. Service goals are aligned with learning objectives.
  • Volunteerism and community service activities are designed to benefit the community. The benefit to the student is limited to learning how service makes a difference in the lives of the service recipients.
  • Practicums, field education, internships and co-op education are designed to benefit the student by providing experience in a particular field of study. The student typically works in the private sector rather than for a nonprofit and may even be paid for the work.

What is the advantage of taking (or teaching) a service-learning course?
Studies indicate that students forget half of what they learn passively, but they remember 90% when they DO the "real thing." An Astin HERI study indicates that service participation shows significant positive effects on all its outcome measurements, including: GPA, writing skills, critical thinking, values, self-efficacy, and leadership.  This educational approach enhances the total learning experience, as students are encouraged to consider their service within the context of the larger social, political, and economic issues that impact their project. As such, they are empowered to make positive contributions to their communities utilizing concepts and principles learned in class.  Students' academic experience through service learning opportunities gives them the knowledge, awareness, and impetus to become engaged with their communities. 

Benefits for Faculty and Students

  • Promotes the development of innovative approaches to instruction. 
  • Provides opportunities to collaborate with and meet special needs of community agencies. 
  • Sharpens critical thinking skills, improves mastery of academic material, and demonstrates the relationship between theory and practice. 
  • Strengthens sense of civic responsibility. 
  • Supports exploration of career options. 

What services does VSLS offer to support faculty and staff in service-learning courses?

  • We maintain an online system that allows students to log their service hours and communicate with their community partners.
  • We develop and maintain partnerships with over 300 agencies in the metro Atlanta area and maintain a database that allows them to keep updated agency profiles.
  • We assist in linking faculty with community partners whose needs are relevant to academic goals
  • We maintain and track service hours for students enrolled in service learning courses.
  • We develop new community partnerships based on the needs and interests of faculty members.
  • We organize an annual Volunteer Fair, which assists faculty/students in identifing potential organizations that would meet the objectives of their course.
  • We provide classroom presentations to prepare students for their community work.
  • We coordinate numerous volunteer projects annually that faculty and/or students can participate in.

To qualify as a service-learning course, what should a course do/include?

  • address an identified community (campus, local, regional, global) need
  • service-learning supports the attainment of one or more course objectives
  • demonstrate a clear connection between the service activity and the course content
  • involve reciprocity between course and community that has the potential to result in students' increased civic awareness and engagement
  • involve structured student reflection on the service experience and its relation to course goals
  • involve collaboration with an appropriate community partner

When designing a service-learning class, what should faculty consider?

  • How will my community partner be involved in project planning, implementation and evaluation?
  • What kinds of reflection strategies will I use?
  • How will I evaluate student learning?

Is assistance available for faculty who choose to include service-learning activities in their classes?
Yes, VSLS can assist with everything from restructuring syllabi to selecting community partners. If you are a faculty member interesed in utilizing our services to assist you with your service-learning course (or a student interested in taking a course that has a service-learning component), please visit the Faculty/Staff section of our website HERE for more information and/or contact us at