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Distance Teaching with Service Learning and Civic Engagement BETA

A Toolkit from University of Maine at Augusta, and University of Southern Maine

Print Version of the Toolkit: uma.edu/faculty-cedoc

Checklist for Designing the Course and Project Components (for Faculty)

How Can I Design a CE Course at a Distance?

  • Identify Course Learning Objectives

  • List some major questions, problems, or concepts that the course addresses and consider how this course raises issues about the community

  • Develop what outcomes you want your students to achieve and what skills and competencies their projects should demonstrate: Service Learning Agreement

  • Provide tools for students to develop a list of possible action projects, or to propose a project to you or a community partner

  • Provide resources to help students identify potential partners who might benefit from the goals of your course or who might be related to the discipline

  • Consider how to incentivize and evaluate (grade) assessments

  • Plan how students will evaluate substantive community need and ensure that the community partner’s voice is heard in the development of a student-driven or faculty-created project

  • Provide all the project organizational details upfront, in the syllabus and course site so students can plan: Planning Your Action Component

  • Define the reflection activities upfront so students can incorporate reflection across the scope of the project

Who Can Help?

  • Review the University of Southern Maine and University College Collaborative Civic Engagement Toolkit for resources, templates, guides, and instruction for implementing your course at a distance

  • Consider working with an instructional or learning designer and a technology integrator through your campus

  • Check with your dean or department chair about service learning, community or civic engagement, or other campus resources that may be able to help match you with a partner

  • Work with information technology services and accessibility coordinators to ensure your students, course materials, technology, and partner connection meet with social media and accessibility policies

  • Reach out to the Campus Compact, a national organization with local state chapters that has a mission to promote civic engagement and service learning across disciplines and modalities

How Can I Promote Student Connection to the Community?

  • Design interaction and encourage that interaction with clear expectations

  • Identify tools that both the partner and students can use together. Does the partner have an intranet? Do they have a private social media group that students could join?

  • Refer students to campus offices of civic engagement or service learning to seek out partners, or connect them with University College Center Directors to match them with potential partners

  • Identify a shortlist of possible projects related to your learning outcomes, achievable in most communities, to provide to students as suggestions [1]

  • Refer students to:

What Limitations Should I Consider?

Please observe the following limitations adapted from the Corporation for National & Community Service: the project cannot include the following activities:

  • Organizing or engaging in protests, petitions, boycotts, or strikes

  • Assisting, promoting, or deterring union organizing

  • Impairing existing contracts for services or collective Engaging in religious instruction; conducting worship services; providing instruction as part of a program that includes mandatory religious instruction or worship; constructing or operating facilities devoted to religious instruction or worship; maintaining facilities primarily or inherently devoted to religious instruction or worship; or engaging in any form of religious proselytization.

  • Providing a direct benefit to a labor union

Activities for which a student is paid or earning a wage or stipend should be carefully considered and reviewed

How Might I Assess and Evaluate Projects?

  • Think about the ways you see that the project has contributed to the course and the community

  • Provide space for the Community Partner to weigh in both with your student and class, as well as privately with you so that the partner has a private or anonymous space to voice concerns and suggested changes


Consider giving us your feedback! Tell University College and University of Southern Maine’s Center for Technology-Enhanced Teaching and Learning how your experience went using any part of this toolkit to inform it for future use-cases, share experiences with Civic Engagement at a distance, and discover new methods with your colleagues.


  1. It is advisable to work with an instructional designer if you need help conceptualizing manageable project lists that map to your learning outcomes and that can work well in a distance course. Instructional designers can also help you manage logistics of distance civic engagement and boost the social interaction and reflection activities between students and community partners at a distance.

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