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Course Models

There is no single way to "do" service-learning or structure a class so as to engage students in a community-based learning experience.  Here at Loyola, however, four different models are commonly employed by faculty.  Regardless of model, all service-learning courses involve some common elements, including students' engagement in some form of activity that is responsive to community priorities and reflective of course outcomes and the faculty member's integration of structured opportunities for reflection into the course design (via assignments, course discussions, and final projects) to help students make meaning of their community-based activities and connect them to course content.

Placement service-learning courses enhance students' understanding of course content by offering them the chance to volunteer directly in the community at an organization whose mission aligns with the course's academic outcomes.  For example, students in an accounting class may help low-income families fill out their taxes or FAFSA forms, thereby understanding the implications of tax policy first hand; students from a healthcare class might volunteer at a hospital or clinic to see principles of healthcare provision (and disparities in its execution) at work; students in an environmental studies class might spend time working to help local environmental groups restore the dunescape on the lakefront or remove invasive species from tracts of forest preserve so as to better understand the kinds of community effort necessary to improve sustainability in the real world.  Courses of this type generally require students to spend at least 20 hours volunteering with the same organization/project in order to ensure that students have a significant, "deep" learning experience on site.

Project-based classes challenge students -- working individually, in groups, or as an entire class -- to produce some product on behalf of one or more community-based organizations.  The project's deliverables are determined by the organization client(s), for whom the students work in the manner of unpaid contractors or consultants under the supervision of their faculty member.  Often, these projects involve a substantial research component.  Project classes generally do not require students to become formal volunteers with the client organization, nor to complete a specific number of "service hours."  Instead, the project must be completed to the organization's specifications and on the agreed-upon timetable, usually within a single semester.

Community Education
(or "Presentation") classes invite students to share course content with the broader community for purposes of informing them on issues and thus inciting them to action for personal or social change.   Sometimes this involves students putting on events such as a health fair or a public symposium, with the goal of disseminating important information and building networks of students, faculty, and community members to engage in further collaborative work.  Other times, students create and publish materials (such as newspaper articles, magazines, web sites or electronic portfolios, videos, etc.)
designed to make information more accessible to the general public.  As with project-based classes, community education classes generally don't require students to become formal volunteers with client organizations; however, they often integrate community members' input and feedback at multiple points throughout the semester so as to make sure that the students' work is relevant, accurate, and audience-appropriate.

Community-Based Participatory Action Research classes invite groups of students, faculty, and community members representing a diverse range of academic specializations to work together on research and action projects that respond to pressing social and environmental issues.  Unlike many other Loyola classes, these courses are usually offered continuously through multiple semesters, allowing the collaborative efforts of each semester's participants to build progressively on the work done by previous classes.  While these courses can reflect many elements of both Project-based and Community Education course designs, they are distinct because of their interdisciplinarity (both in student and faculty participation), their iterative design, and their potential for integrating the efforts of multiple university and community constituencies for the sake of focused, relevant response to issues of common concern over a longer period of time.  Many of these courses are sponsored by Loyola's various academic Centers or faculty working groups, including the Center for Urban Research and Learning, the Center for Urban Environmental Research and Policy, and the interdisciplinary Women's & Gender Studies Seminar.