Service learning is defined as "a form of experiential education in which students engage in activities that address human and community needs together with structured opportunities intentionally designed to promote student learning and development. Reflection and reciprocity are key concepts of service learning." (Jacoby, Service Learning in Higher Education, 1996)
An increasing number of universities and colleges around the world are incorporating the concept of service learning into their modes of teaching. These programs do not conform to one established model; instead they are adapted to best meet the specific educational needs of each institution and have great flexibility in operation.
Service learning courses connect the concepts, theories and materials covered in the classroom to service experiences in the community. The community experience becomes a core educational text for the class and is as essential to "read" as other textbooks. Such courses provide students with the knowledge, context, and disciplinary and methodological background critical to their ability to engage with societal issues. Whether they conduct surveys and report findings, take and test water or soil samples, or interview local citizens for oral histories, students engage in this work both to deepen their understanding of an academic subject and to benefit the partnering organizations—and their cause.
Service learning courses may feature service as an integral component of the academic course experience, focus on service or community work as subject matter, or offer preparation for community-based internships or fieldwork. Courses may be small, intensive seminars or larger lecture courses with service learning related experiences and discussions. Types of service may include traditional, hands-on volunteer activity, internships at local organizations, or class projects such as policy analysis, development of a marketing plan for a non-profit organization, or prototyping adaptive technology to meet a need for the physically disabled. Service learning courses come in many forms and can be offered by faculty in any department or discipline.
HKUST Connect will gladly work with any faculty member to explore the development of a new service learning course, or to add a service component or community-based assignment to an existing course. For other resources and further information, please contact email@example.com.