Getting Creative with Community Based Learning During a Public Health Crisis

Posted by GivePulse on March 17, 2020

The Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) is presenting a number of challenges to our local and campus communities as the nation works together to mitigate its spread. GivePulse has been following the developments across the country as institutions make modifications to their in-person classes and campus gatherings and has compiled ideas and resources to help alleviate the challenges.

A number of helpful conversations among colleagues are happening on the HE-SL listserv and in the Community Service and Service Learning Professionals Facebook Group regarding how best to support students, faculty, and partners as institutions move courses online for the remainder of the spring term.

Here is a quick summary of a few ideas being discussed:

  • Campuses are hearing from nursing homes, hospitals and other facilities with vulnerable populations cancelling all volunteers/interns for the foreseeable future. Could there be a way to work with staff to share videos or use technology to continue visits with residents or patients of these facilities?
  • How can direct service, be transitioned to project based work? This would be an important conversation to have with partners and explore how students might continue to support the organization. A few suggestions made include…
    • Create marketing or social media content for future use
    • Conduct research on best practices or develop tools for program assessment
    • Support the development team by researching grant opportunities
    • Provide support via phone or web based meetings with agency team member support to those being served by the organization or others in the community
  • One campus prepared reflection questions for faculty to discuss public health and the intersectionality of their course topic in light of the global health crisis.
  • Another colleague commented that we must take into consideration the impact on our partners and their capacity to support alternatives at this time, particularly if they are an organization attempting to mitigate risk.

Given these challenging times, we must work closely with community partners, faculty, students and staff to develop equitable and fair alternatives. It is a poignant reminder that community engaged learning is not about meeting an hours requirement, but rather about the quality of the learning experience. Certainly the interruption of a students experience is an opportune time to reflect and respond to the challenges faced by the community partner, the clients served and the student learner themselves. Our colleague Emily Shields, with Iowa and Minnesota Campus Compact wrote an excellent blog post with a number of helpful tips and ideas.

Most importantly, as we make modifications to students engaged learning experiences, we should follow the guidance of local public health authorities and our campus administration. Here are some helpful links:

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