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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

Guidance for Faculty Considering Service‐Learning in Distance Courses

Provided below is step by step instruction on how to prepare and implement a distance service‐learning class. Throughout these instructions, you will be referred to the appendix for examples of forms you can use. The appendix is not an exhaustive list of forms; instead, it contains a few limited examples you can structure as appropriate to your own course.

Developing the Course Requirements (3-months prior to course start date)

  1. Determine your learning outcomes

  2. Work with an instructional designer to map your outcomes to distance delivery

  3. Prepare a logistics schedule to help students meet deadlines and to give community partners accountability dates during which they can expect reports from learners

  4. Prepare reflection exercises (see templates)

  5. Prepare rubrics or grading schema (instructional designers can help)

  6. Consider ADA-requirements for web-based courses (video and visual aids and preparing resources for readability)

    1. If you are choosing community partners for your course, determine how and when you will bring partners into the distance course site (designers can help)

    2. If you are allowing your students to propose their own projects to you (voice-and-choice), then determine when students will have to deliver on their project outcomes (scheduling--a designer can help)

A Deeper Dive into Accessibility Design

Higher education institutions across the country are rising to the challenge of an increasingly digital world and its impact on persons with disabilities.  Many institutions have faced legal actions related to the inclusion of inaccessible digital content, including course websites, software, learning materials and pathways to communication.  In most cases, with due care and with additional support  (as needed) these technologies can be made accessible.

The goal is to create educational equity, so that students, regardless of disability will have access to the same quality of educational experiences and opportunities to meet learning outcomes.  In regards to Civic Engagement experiences, this means that (not only) should your course materials be accessible, but also that thoughtful planning should be made with the community partner to ensure that “Reasonable Accommodations” [1] can be made to ensure that the student can fully experience the Civic Engagement action.

When creating video course materials, it is a best practice to include closed-captioning and a written transcript of audio and video content used for instructional purposes in classes. There are many reasons why learners benefit from written versions of things they would otherwise listen to or watch:

  • Transcripts can be helpful teaching aids and provide an outline for note-taking

  • Captions can assist English learners trying to develop written and spoken language skills

  • Captions can help overcome noisy or distracting environments for learners

  • Transcripts and captions both provide a technology-safe alternative for when a browser fails to load a video or image properly, or for when a video streaming service is offline

  • Transcripts provide an ADA-compliant (or accessible) option for individuals who are sight or hearing impaired, or who may experience processing delays

  • Transcripts and captions also provide a means to search a video for a specific reference, term, vocabulary word, or moment without rewatching

  • Instruction, in general, can be clarified for learners when it is presented in multiple modes (video, audio, and text, for instance) 

If you are including live video or audio, you may also need to consider a live captioning and transcription service to support learners who have processing, hearing or visual impairments. When bringing in a Community Partner, you will also need to ensure that the partner engages with your learners using accessible formats should accommodation be required. Check with your campus Accessibility Coordinator’s office to determine what options may be available to you if an accommodation request is made for your course or partnership.

Developing the Service-Learning Projects (first quarter of course)

If you are allowing students to choose their own partners, walk them through the process of self-selecting and proposing their projects and timelines to you.

Community Agency Contact

Have students make contact with a few organization; this step includes establishing a community partner and communicating mutual expectations. Have students define their learning and service agreements with partner, including the timeline for which they’ll deliver outcomes to partners and to you. Suggest students seek a service‐learning agreement with their community partner.

Developing the Reflection and Assessment (throughout and at end of course)


Review plans for each session and keep on track with goals, reflecting on progress and problems, and continuing to strive for solutions.

Assessment & Tracking

Community Partner: Check in with the organization at midterm and at the end of the semester to evaluate the service‐learning project. How will the community partner share lessons learned? How will partners evaluate the project? 

Share and discuss the information received from community partners with the students. Draft a schedule for students and community partners to check in with one another, as well as a report-back schedule for checking in as a class/cohort and with the instructor.

Student: Determine students’ progress and impact. How will students self-assess progress toward goals? How will you assess progress toward learning? 

Ask students to report progress periodically through the course site. Ask students to culminate an end-of-project report and a reflection of the experience with spot-checks along the way.  Using a rubric can help both you and learners stay on target from the beginning.


  1. Khubchandani, Anju. “The ADA and Internships: Your Responsibilities as Internship and Postdoctoral Agency Directors.” In American Psychology Association. 2017. Web. Retrieved 12 April, 2017 from http://www.apa.org/pi/disability/resources/internship-directors.aspx

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