Virtual and Online Service-Learning

The Center for Civic Engagement & Social Impact is committed to assisting faculty and students in serving the community remotely. Please refer to the PowerPoint document for an overview of direct versus indirect service in order to make alterations to existing service-learning course, and for ideas for creating new opportunities.

Benefits of virtual service-learning

  • Virtual service-learning enhances engagement online—online education can sometimes be viewed as disconnected and unengaging, and virtual service-learning can remedy that.
  • Online learning facilitates service-learning—use of discussion forums can stimulate students to think deeper about their experience and engage with one another in more authentic ways.
  • Virtual service-learning can free service learning from geographical constraints, and broadens the visibility of campus and students
  • Virtual service-learning can engage populations that otherwise may be unable to participate (e.g. students with disabilities, time-constrained, rural areas).

Best Practices for virtual service-learning courses (Waldner, McGorry, & Widener, 2012):


  • Thorough training for students, community partners, instructors
  • Bridge synchronous and asynchronous methods
  • Trial runs prior to live sessions
  • Assess community partner and student technical capacity


  • Clear expectations in memorandums of understanding
  • Community partner access to course shell
  • Use of groups; group space on course management system

Course Design

  • Service related to learning objectives
  • Use of appropriate typology
  • Reflection
  • Community partner and student feedback

Alternatives to direct service projects:

  • Engaging in research, assessment, or evaluation requested by a community partner organization
  • Creating deliverables, such as social media guides and content, print program materials, or other methods for information-sharing
  • Taping, recording, or streaming performances or workshops to benefit community partners
  • Creating virtual materials such as webinars or presentations
  • Explore ways in which direct service could be offered virtually using video conferencing (zoom, skype, facetime, etc.)
  • Conducting virtual or phone-based supports for youth and adults
  • Consider using this time to reflect on COVID-19, global health, the pandemic’s impact on communities, and ways that community members can support one another while remaining socially distant

Online resources:

(For finding volunteer opportunities)

(General Higher Ed Resource Links)

(Other Community Engagement Links)



Waldner, L. S., McGorry, S. Y., & Widener, M. C. (2012). E-service learning: The evolution of service-learning to engage a growing online student population. Journal of Higher Education Outreach & Engagement, 16 (2), 123-150, via:



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