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How to Create a Community-Engaged Learning Course

Through Community-Engaged Learning, faculty can help achieve USU’s goal to prepare Citizen Scholars who participate and lead in local, regional, national and global communities. Any USU course can be designated as Community-Engaged Learning (SL) in Banner. The SL designation (course attribute) indicates that the course involves community engaged teaching or research. The designation can apply to all sections of a course or an individual section and specific instructor. The Community-Engaged Learning component can either be required or optional. Before courses can receive the SL designation, faculty must complete a brief Community-Engaged Learning course designation form, outlining the learning outcomes, community engagement activity, and reflection. Submitted forms and syllabi are reviewed by the Community-Engaged Learning Faculty Advisory Board each semester for the upcoming semester.

Students apply information from a class in authentic settings while addressing real needs of the community that have been identified by the community. Faculty often mention that Community-Engaged Learning courses offer an opportunity for students to better internalize course materials, and lead to deeper student engagement and beneficial class discussion.

Additional benefits for teaching Community-Engaged Learning courses include:

  • Lead to new avenues for research and publication

  • Promote students' active learning; engage students with different learning styles

  • Develop students' civic and leadership skills

  • Boost course enrollment by attracting highly motivated and engaged students

  • Provide networking opportunities with engaged faculty in other disciplines

  • Foster relationships between faculty and community organizations, which can open other opportunities for collaborative work

CEL components

1. Learning - Community-Engaged Learning is tied directly to course material and the knowledge gained from that course material. Learning outcomes must be identified to ensure the link between the course material and community engagement is clearly understood. Through Community Engaged Learning, students not only apply course material, but also learn valuable skills such as teamwork, communication, and critical thinking

Courses are now designated as Community-Engaged Learning (SL) in Banner. Before courses can be listed as SL, faculty must complete a short Community-Engaged Learning designation forn outlining the learning outcomes, service activity, reflection, and course information. Submitted forms are reviewed by the Community-Engaged Learning Advisory Board and can be approved at any time.

Prior to completing a Community-Engaged Learning designation form, we highly recommend checking in with the Center for Community Engagement for support identifying a community partner or service activity appropriate for your course.

2. Meaningful Service Activity - Community-Engaged Learning is not adding “volunteer” activities to a course. Rather, it is integrating community engagement so that students can apply the knowledge and skills they are learning in class to meet real community needs. The community engaged activity/project is incorporated as part of the “out-of-class” work expected of each student registered in the course. Student learning is graded and impact is measured through structured reflection and assessment activities.

3. Reflection – Reflection is an essential element of a Community-Engaged Learning course. It is a structured time for students to recount their experiences and the learning acquired in the community setting. It can be accomplished in a number of ways, depending on instructor preference. Some common forms of reflection include journal entries with prompts, reflection papers, class presentations, or facilitated small group discussions

the process

The Process:

With the roll out of the new Community Bridge Initiviative (CBI) partnership program in Fall 2016, all Community-Engaged Learning faculty and community partners will participate in an updated partnership process, aimed to improve communication, establish clear goals and objectives, and develop agreed upon deliverables. Under the new CBI program model,faculty can feel more confident knowing that all community partners have completed a Memorandum of Understanding, indicating that the organization has liability insurance and requirements for background checks that students are expected to uphold. The Community Engaged Learning program will also maintain a database of community partner project proposals to be matched with courses. Once you have decided to teach a Community-Engaged Learning course, you must adhere to the following process:

CBI Process Steps:

  1. Course Matching – Community partners and faculty consult the Center for Community Engagement (CCE) office to identify project and course matches. Although CCE staff do their best to identify course matches, there is not always a good course fit each semester, and some community agencies /classes might need to wait until the following semester or academic year.

  2. Designation Form – Faculty are required to complete and submit a Community-Engaged Learning Course Designation Form to have their class officially designated as a SL course. This form can be submitted at any time, but it must be received prior to student registration to be included in Banner. For more information on the designation process, please view our Faculty Resource Page.

  3. Scope of Work – Prior to the start of the semester, community partners and faculty will meet to complete the Scope of Work (SOW), outlining goals of the project, roles and responsibilities, and deliverables to be completed by the end of the semester. Both parties will be involved in the completion and signing of this document. The Scope of Work form can be found in the ‘resources’ section of this website.

  4. Orientation – At the beginning of the semester, the community partner should schedule time to provide an orientation to students who will be involved in the SL project—either during class time or on-site. Orientation should include a discussion of the issue, agency background/history, and an overview of the project.

  5. Mid-Semester Check In – A mid-semester meeting provides time for faculty and community partners to assess the progress of the project, determine if any changes to the Scope of Work are necessary, and address any challenges or concerns.

  6. Assessment – After the completion of the semester and the project, community partners, faculty, and students complete a short survey assessing their experience, determining impact, identifying areas for improvement, and sharing accomplishments.


Course applications and syllabi are reviewed by the Community-Engaged Learning Faculty Advisory Committee.

 Materials must be submitted by the following dates to be included in Banner registration information:

  • October 1 for Spring classes

  • March 1 for Summer classes

  • March 1 for Fall classes

Any Questions? Feel free to email Kate Stephens: