students engaged in society

Combining academic teaching and volunteering

Service Learning applies scientific expertise for the specific purpose of meeting societal needs. The difference between this teaching and learning concept and classic teaching methods, such as lectures and tutorials, lies in its theoretical considerations. 

Service Learning projects address aspirations, needs, or challenges in civil society. The projects are developed and implemented in close collaboration between students/universities and non-university cooperation partners. Students get the opportunity to apply their theoretical knowledge in real-life problem contexts. Service Learning can be easily integrated into university processes and structures. (Backhaus-Maul, Roth, 2013, p. 31)

The teaching and learning method …

  • makes courses more attractive
  • addresses new groups of students
  • has a dynamic effect on the academic structure
  • supports the establishment of networks involving lecturers, students and institutions 
  • facilitates the perception of lecturers as links between the local environment and the university

Service Learning in practice

Learning and service provision in and outside the lecture halls requires comprehensive planning and excellent coordination skills. Lecturers may be leaving familiar territory when they take their first steps towards organising this type of course. On top of well-known course requirements, they will also have to deal with the conditions in partially unfamiliar practical contexts. Non-university cooperation partners often follow their own logic and have their own practical orientation. 

These challenges have also been analysed by J. Halberstadt, Ch. Schank, M. Euler, and R. Harms in their study on the education of sustainability entrepreneurs. The study revealed Service Learning to be a promising didactic approach for educators. However, the qualitative interviews with those educators also indicated a framework composed of personal and institutional factors that they have to navigate when providing Service Learning. The study

Service Learning is thus an undertaking with many unknowns. To ensure its success, lecturers must join forces with the students and cooperation partners to mould joint objectives into a structured and controllable format. 

For this purpose, you have two tools at your disposal: firstly, the iooi Service Learning tool which helps lecturers derive concrete steps from the principal course objectives, and secondly, the Social Canvas project management tool which allows students to organise resources, skills, and objectives.