Community-based Learning (CBL)

Adapting your Community-based Course

As you work to adapt your syllabus to this dramatic change in learning, it’s helpful to remember that the core goals are the same in every GU CBL course:

  1. Student learning goals are specific to where students are, to the course/discipline, and to the community partner’s work/population
  2. Student learning that serves community partner needs responds to the needs expressed by the partner in the way the partner requests.

Ideally, these two goals are woven closely together. At this point in the semester, these goals may be so interwoven that they seem indistinguishable from one another.  It is important now to make sure that both goals are being met, and to accept that responding to community needs may/will look significantly different. For some community partners, the best way that your course can be of service to them is to reduce or stop all communication for now, so that they can focus their immediate energy on meeting emerging needs. For others, there will be support that you and your students can provide remotely. Whether or not you are able to continue to be in close communication with your partners at this time, know that you are still supporting them by focusing on goal #1.

Shifting your community-based course online can look many ways. Approaches and resources that we’re seeing students and faculty take include:  

  • Design a virtual or indirect service alternative with your community partner that will allow your students to continue their service remotely.  
    • Here’s a list of ideas from our colleagues at Stanford University:  in place of in-person experiences, explore with your partners whether students could:
  • Write research summaries or case studies on evidence-based practices relevant to the organization;
  • Create annotated bibliographies with links to accessible articles and papers
  • Record or stream workshops, trainings, or performances for partners and/or their clients
  • Analyze data and produce reports or program assessments
  • Develop curricula
  • Create communication materials for an organization’s website or social media platforms
  • Know that community partner relationships will become an art

Here’s one resource on navigating changing relationships with community partners from colleagues at Portland State University.

Questions for Reflection and Course/Project Design

  1. Which course/subject matter are you thinking about in connection to this workshop?
  2. What are the main learning goals for the course/project? (Try 3) 
  3. If you have taught with or benefitted from experiential and community-based methods in the past…
    • what value did the community-based / experiential learning activities create during the year that you employed them?
    • why did you teach with or what did you like about learning through these modalities?
  4. Imagining into an entirely virtual fall semester, which aspects of experiential/community-based learning will be impossible? (Try to list at least 5) 
  5. Returning to your answers to Q #3, which aspects do you wish to keep/integrate into your work this fall, at least in spirit? In other words, what might or must be possible, even if you’re not sure how, yet?
  6. What do you need to make this (#5) possible?

Virtual and Hybrid Experiential Learning Approaches

If in-person experiential learning allowed… ... try this in a virtual environment to mirror that same pedagogical “win”:

The experience made students want to reflect, it made “what is important” really clear

  • Introduce contemplative practices into classroom time or as a part of assignments
  • Assign a daily “report in” from a different student each classroom time of “what is important to me today”
  • Share the ways in which you personally are choosing what information to consume at this moment
  • Share what you personally are reflecting on, or new ideas that challenged you and why

“The experience is the course text”: the experience immersed students in a reality or difference that it would have otherwise been easy to ignore or hard to stay with:

  • Assign media that create in-depth exposure to a reality :
  • Consider co-teaching a course with someone who is concretely different from you in identity or scholarly/political opinion
  • Utilize the moment
    • Ask students to research the impacts of the pandemic, in relationship to the course subject matter and a community they care deeply about, ex: their geographical community, racial/ethnic/religious community, or 
    • chosen/activist community
    • Ask students to research the impacts of the pandemic in relationship to the course subject matter and a community they feel they know nothing about, ex: a political opponent, a racial/ethnic/religious community they don’t know, a place they have only been once

The experience built a sense community and resilience or belonging among students

The experience revealed and created space for social and emotional learning

The experience taught humility: it revealed assumptions, showed us all what we didn’t know

  • Increase texts or assignments that contextualize the subject matter 
  • Increase texts and assignments in the course that require critical or collaborative thinking, or challenge or reveal assumptions
  • Increase how time in reflection is valued
  • Develop more nuanced rubrics for reflection
  • Consider co-teaching or finding a TA to supportcommunity reflection activities

We learned from a community partner’s wisdom

  • Invite community partners to guest speak in your class and create assignments around these discussions. 
    • Consider finding a way to donate to the guest’s organization if they join your class
  • Invite students to find or interview voices of wisdom within their own communities, and social networks
  • Invite students to fundraise within their communities for the speaker’s cause

Learning about a cause from the people who experience it

The class gave me hope

  • Share about ways that you are continuing to find hope in this time and ask students to share theirs

Who to Contact and When?

*news = community partner e-newsletters, social media posts, news articles on their work

Human Resources

The Georgetown Capitol Applied Learning Labs (CALL)

Center for Social Justice Research, Teaching & Service  (CSJ)

Center for New Designs in Learning & Scholarship (CNDLS)