Beyond the classroom

Community learning, commonly known as “service learning”, includes a set of teaching and learning practices that incorporate work in and with publics beyond the university classroom as a critical means for achieving course objectives.  It is typically a component of credit-bearing coursework in degree-granting departments. However, co-curricular and extra-curricular programs can facilitate community learning if clear learning objectives and methods for reflection on learning are in place.

What does it look like at Tech?

Service-learning is defined by Virginia Tech as “a course or competency based 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 and an enhanced sense of civic responsibility” (Virginia Tech Task Force on Student Engagement, 2007.) 

At Virginia Tech, service-learning is the most common form of community learning.  Examples include:

  • Courses that incorporate an optional or required community service experience of at least 15 hours for the semester;
  • Academic clubs that carry out significant community service projects related to their disciplinary areas;
  • Academic programs that have a community service requirement of at least 10 hours for its participants;
  • Co-curricular programs that integrate a structured service and learning experience for its participants;
  • Internships or field work experiences that intentionally integrate civic learning objectives and impact a public entity;
  • Community-based or action research projects with clear deliverables to a public entity.

The 2012 Plan for a New Horizon calls for pedagogical models that “spark curiosity, facilitate creative thinking, and develop the tools for effective communication” involving “hands on” as well as “minds on” approaches to problem solving. 

Within this vision, community learning that integrates diversity, internationalization, and service is an expected component of the Virginia Tech educational experience. VT Engage is pleased to play a vital role in facilitating the university’s Strategic Plan.