COVID-19 Faculty & Staff Resources

Continuing community engaged teaching during COVID-19

As you are moving your teaching online, we are presuming that those of you with community engaged learning courses are needing to shift and reconsider how community engagement will continue in this virtual environment.

While you, our community, and our campus continue to work through the evolving nature of the impacts of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), we in the Center for Service and Learning want to provide some guidance for how to plan for community engaged work and teaching for the rest of this semester.

Step One: Reach out

Reach out to community partners to jointly determine how to move forward the rest of the semester

  • How will social distancing measures and online teaching impact service delivery for the rest of the semester?
  • How will community agencies want to interact with volunteers and interns moving forward over the next two months?  
  • Is there a way for service delivery to continue virtually? 
  • What does the partner see as most critical to address during the interruption period? 
  • Keep in mind that even if IU’s suspension is lifted, the partner agencies may have their own protocol regarding volunteers coming into their facilities. This helpful post from Minnesota Campus Compact has a summary of recommendations for talking with community partners as well as potential virtual engagement ideas.

Talk to your students

  • Be transparent with your students regarding new expectations around the course’s service requirement.
  • Let students know they will not be expected to complete service hours or requirements per the original course plan if those requirements can no longer be completed in light of current IU policy.
  • Share as much as you can when you can regarding how requirements will change for the course in light of the virtual teaching environment, including how these changes can shift quickly given the uncertainty and fluidity of what’s happening.

Step Two: Be creative and plan

Below we offer some ideas and links to resources for teaching and learning activities that can be completed when in person community engagement is suspended.

Take this time to focus on integrating critical reflection to generate discussion and learning. (Utilize Canvas as a space for online discussion or responding to one another’s reflective responses.) This packet was created for IUPUI’s recent workshop on strengthening the quality of critical reflection across HIPs and has some good tools and prompts for you to consider.

The Center for Civic Reflection fosters the practice of reflective discussion through the use of readings, images, and videos to “help people consider the values and beliefs that underlie their commitment leading to . . . more committed, effective action.” You can use one of their already developed discussion plans, facilitator summaries, and additional resources to engage students in reflective dialogue on a range of topics with the current crisis as the source of experience. Here are some examples:

      1. Fear and leadership
      2. Is crisis a destructive force or an opportunity for renewal?
      3. What are our responsibilities as citizens? Who or what are we responsible for?
      4. How should we respond in a crisis?

Think about the particular social issues that your community engaged learning projects are addressing and have your students complete online research on those social issues; in particular, have them look at how those particular issues or populations are affected by a crisis such as coronavirus. Have students examine what is currently happening in response to the pandemic in regards to underlying structures of power, inequity, bias, and discrimination.

Discuss advocacy as a social impact tool, research current policies or bills being presented that affect the social issues you are discussing, consult the United Way’s Public Policy agenda for ideas (or have your students research other organizations’ public policy agendas), and create a plan of action.

Review your learning outcomes for the community engaged learning project part of your course. Try to translate what students are doing in/with community partners into course goal-oriented statements (e.g., skill development, checking for understanding, collaborative project work, problem solving, relationship development, fact finding). Determine how you can still help your students meet those learning outcomes even if the community project/service they were supposed to do is suspended or altered.

Try online games as a means to teach disciplinary and civic skills, deepen civic knowledge, and simulate real life encounters. Gamification has been a growing dimension of civic learning and social innovation for the last decade. Games span informal apps as well as formal online games and are complete with discussion guides that can be linked to Canvas. Here are a few to get you started:

Adapt classroom social justice focused simulations for online environments. Here is an example:

Have students read through this community organizing toolkit and write up a plan of action.

Find a couple of TED Talks (or podcast episodes) for students to watch and then respond to via guided reflection prompts. Some suggested talks are linked below:

    1. Science in service to the public good
    2. Activism needs introverts
    3. The economic injustice of plastic
    4. How urban spaces can preserve history and build community

Things to keep in mind

Patience is key. Don’t try to force service in order to ensure completion of hours as part of your course. Like IUPUI, community agencies are working through how to best respond to the pandemic right now. As they work through this, they may identify ways in which partners, like IUPUI faculty, staff and students, can help them. If you are already working with an agency and they identify something you and your students can do that protects the health and safety of everyone, and if this is something your class can reasonably do, then go for it. However, do not assume that you know what agencies need right now. Don’t create your own project without first consulting the agency. Also, understand that an agency may not have an answer for you right now, but may have something in a week or two as they work through their own contingency plans. 

Understand that we are all figuring this out right now. We need to give everyone room for accommodating a very unknown timetable. This may mean that a certain project gets suspended for the semester. This may mean that students do not complete a certain set of hours at an agency. This may mean that assignments get tweaked in terms of their expectations.

Consult resources

We will continue to add to this post as new information becomes available. 

At this time, the Center for Service and Learning is available for virtual consultations should you want to reach out to us to talk through any of these ideas. We can set up a phone call or Zoom meeting to best assist you.

Please reach out to our faculty development team with any questions you may have or to set up a virtual consultation.

Mary F. Price | Director of Faculty Development |

Morgan Studer | Director of Faculty and Community Resources |