As an educator, you have heard of the term “Service learning.” You probably thought of it as a community service project taken on by students and supervised by a teacher. Well, your hunch was partially correct. Although service-learning classes at college comprise different activities intended to improve a community, there is still the learning factor.
Therefore, we can define service-learning as both teaching and learning strategies between communities and students. These strategies comprise activities to strengthen communities and improve the learning experience among students at college. However, stay glued on this page as we are going to discuss the following;
- Why Service Learning at college?
- Types of service-learning
- 11 benefits of service-learning classes at college
Why Service Learning at Colleges?
You are probably wondering why the need to use service-learning rather than find other alternatives. Here is why; service-learning is an approach that benefits everyone involved, ranging from the students and faculty to the communities. Students who engage in this approach tend to build their interpersonal skills, confidence and gain more academic knowledge. However, faculty can also improve their teaching approach and become open to more opportunities for research.
For the communities, the members receive support from the institution and services from the students involved. Engaging in service-learning classes provides students with opportunities to develop their employability skills as they get to meet and work with various community members. Students also get to enhance their communication skills, teamwork, gain academic knowledge and build self-confidence. On the other hand, the faculty get to improve their teaching and get opportunities to do more research. However, the community is not left behind as they receive the services offered by the students and institution.
The importance of this learning method to students needs more emphasis. In essence, it’s a win-win situation for the students, faculty, and the community as everyone benefits from this learning approach. Service-learning is not merely a goal for institutions but a concept that reinforces the institution’s teaching strategic plan. Moreover, you can achieve teaching and advising, research and scholarship, community outreach through student and faculty participation via this approach.
Types of Service-Learning
Before we dive into the benefits of service-learning classes at college, let’s quickly look at the different types of service-learning. The different kinds of service-learning projects depend on the various skills that students possess. It also gives students a sense of how they can apply these skills when they are out there in the community.
Direct Service Learning
Direct service-learning is more of a person-to-person or face-to-face service where students offer their services directly to individuals. Examples include tutoring students, including adults, and organizing presentations to address drug abuse and violence. Students can also assist in a homeless shelter, organize art, music, and dance lessons for youths. Direct service learning means students impacting the community on a one-on-one meeting with the members involved.
Indirect Service learning
Indirect service-learning involves students working on more significant community challenges such as environmental projects or community development projects. These projects will positively impact the community, and not necessarily one-on-one. In essence, students participating in service-learning classes still collaborate with community members but not individuals. Some of the examples include coming together to raise low-income housing or fixing historic structures. Students can also work together to remove unwanted plants and restore ecosystems in selected areas for community use.
Research-based service Learning
This type of service-learning involves students gathering and presenting information of specific areas of interest and need. They find projects, gather credible information, and report the challenges of the community. Examples include collecting data, compiling them in brochures or videos, and making them available for nonprofits and other agencies. Students can also map state lands, monitor flora and fauna, and conduct longitudinal studies of local water bodies.
Advocacy Service learning
The advocacy type of service learning is all about educating community members on topics of public interest. These projects seek to create awareness of specific challenges that the community faces and possible solutions. Examples include organizing and putting on public forums on particular topics that affect the community. Students can also create general information campaigns on the community’s needs and their challenges.
11 Benefits of Service-Learning classes at college
Service-learning, over the years, has become a learning approach that fosters an improved awareness of community resources. This approach also extends what the students know in a class by presenting them to real-world situations. Service-learning so far has demonstrated numerous positive impacts on students’ social skills, understanding, awareness, and empathy concerning real-life situations. Research has shown that it’s at the forefront of making America more robust, and many countries are also recognizing its importance. Here are 11 benefits that students at college, faculty, and the community enjoy when they practice service learning.
Development of Leadership, Teamwork and Communication skills
As students work on projects, they ensure that they apply any crucial skill that benefits them as they begin their transition to the labor market. Since the service-learning project involves different components, students will learn to work together and share their ideas. It will help improve their ability to work with other students as a team and communicate effectively. Students are known to always rise to the challenge when allowed to take charge of essential tasks.
Now, service-learning is student-driven, and irrespective of their age, they acquire a broader worldview. Coming together as a team will help identify the challenges in their communities and proffer possible solutions. Effective communication and teamwork while on service learning will help build valuable skills that will benefit them in the future.
Opportunities for career exploration
Service-learning, as earlier stated, is an approach that exposes the students to the challenges in the community with an emphasis on academic connection. This service-learning makes it possible for students to experience their classroom learning and applications in the real world.
It is also a window for students to begin to think about their career fields. Getting the students involved in service-learning will provide them with beneficial insights into careers. Depending on the type of projects assigned to them, they can learn basic ideas and even spark interest in that field. After the project, some students may decide to continue investigating that field to gain more knowledge.
Awareness of social issues
Approaching a student of any age and asking them to share the challenges affecting their community more often than not results in them giving a long list. A college student would rattle out several challenges such as drug abuse, poverty, homelessness, and other problems.
However, there is a difference between what they observe in their community and media and the reality. Some students have gone through and still live with these challenges, and others can imagine; this is where service-learning comes in. Getting the students involved in service learning will help them identify specific community challenges and help create awareness. Creating awareness for particular challenges might eventually lead to the students giving total commitment to service. In the long run, this act helps make the impact of social issues less abstract, especially for college students.
Building solid relationships in the community
As earlier explained, service-learning involves getting the students out of the classroom to meet the community’s local leaders. Networking is a skill that has been somewhat overlooked and needs to be brought back among college students. Having them meet influential people in their community is a great way to build good, solid, and beneficial relationships.
The service-learning approach is an icebreaker that prepares a common ground for effective communication between the students and adults. Students get the opportunity to build solid relationships in their immediate community, which will eventually be beneficial to them in the future. We all know networking is a crucial skill for career success, and with service learning, that is achievable.
Personal and Social development
Service-learning is also an excellent approach to help students increase their efficacy and also improve their moral development. Students get to understand more of their identity, improve their interpersonal development, and increase their service commitment. Meeting and working with others in their community helps enhance social responsibility, citizenship, and activism skills. Taking their learning outside the class will help facilitate racial and cultural understanding, which will eventually help reduce stereotyping. Service-learning classes also allow students to directly add value to the community by making a positive difference.
Improved learning for students with a political focus
Service-learning is an avenue for increased academic learning as students see the practical aspect of their education. Therefore, students with interests in politics can take advantage of this learning approach to build up their knowledge of essential civic learning. It is also an opportunity to build a solid network with leaders they get introduced to and begin mentorship in college. It is also helpful as it increases students’ critical thinking and problem analysis skills.
Real-world problem analysis
Service-learning also supports faculty teaching by presenting actual-world situations rather than the theories discussed in class. Faculty members get a better understanding of different community challenges when they get involved in real-world problems. It fosters an excellent dynamic learning environment for better class engagement and connects theoretical lessons to real-life situations. The participation of faculty members in their communities helps strengthen the relationship between institutions and their communities.
Implementing the mission of the institution
Another benefit of service-learning classes at college is that it helps the faculty by revitalizing teaching efforts and breeds new directions and confidence in members involved. It is also a teaching style that brings about more interaction between faculty members and students. These classes are an avenue to extend resources into the community and integrate the institution’s mission.
The community benefits from the students’ efforts
There are several benefits of service-learning classes that communities get to enjoy. Engaging these students is one of the best ways to create awareness of any organization’s mission and challenges. Community members enjoy valued services and opportunities to present their problems that they may not have the resources to solve.
Networking between organizations and community
Another benefit of service-learning is connecting students to nonprofit organizations and agencies in need of a volunteer. It also connects community members to these agencies, which aids the implementation of the agencies’ community-focused missions. Implementation of service learning helps increase awareness of community needs and also promotes responsibility and empathy among students.
Collaboration between students, communities, and nonprofit organizations brings about job opportunities for college students. Service-learning gives most organizations and students the chance to meet potential employees and employers, respectively. Students who exhibit a level of leadership, confidence, and other employability skills tend to get a possible job offer. Involvement in service-learning classes will broaden your knowledge of the skills you need to get employed and remain successful while working. It is also an opportunity to build your resume and have potential contacts for future employment.
Service-learning is more of an experimental learning and teaching strategy that combines academic coaching with significant community service. There are several benefits of service-learning classes at college, and we have only mentioned just a few. This strategy is beneficial for students, faculty (instructors), and the community at large.
Service-learning has great potential since it is flexible and more experimental than the theoretical lessons in class. However, before engaging your students in a service-learning project, you must ensure the project aligns with the curriculum. Service learning is more than just community service; It makes learning more realistic and beneficial for students and the community. We have provided a detailed list of the benefits of service-learning classes at college, and we hope they’ve helped broaden your knowledge.