Design a Course

VCU courses that meet specific exemplary practice standards can be designated as service-learning courses in the VCU Schedule of Classes. Designation offers several advantages:

  • The letters “SRV LRN” will appear on the students’ official transcripts, indicating that they have completed a university-approved service-learning course.
  • Instructors who teach designated service-learning courses are offered the opportunity to have a trained teaching assistant assigned to them.
  • Instructors may request to receive confidential end-of-semester feedback from student-completed online service-learning course evaluations that may be used in their annual reports and tenure and promotion portfolios.

When developing a service-learning course at VCU, instructors should consider the following:

  • Each student in a designated service-learning class provides a minimum of 20 hours of service during the course. Commuting to and from the service site does not count toward this 20-hour minimum.
  • Students' service addresses one or more community-identified needs. The instructor is responsible for insuring that student service activities meet community-identified needs.
  • The service experience elucidates the relevancy of the academic content of the course, and knowledge from the academic discipline informs the service experience.
  • The service experience often furthers the students’ civic education while providing skill development valuable for career preparation.
  • Service activities may involve direct service (e.g. mentoring youth, volunteering with patients, working in community gardens), indirect service (e.g., creating research reports, designing online or print materials) or a combination of both direct and indirect service.
  • Students should be encouraged to learn from each other as well as from community members they meet while completing service.
  • Course assessment should focus on the students' ability to demonstrate learning related to the academic content of the course and to the connections between this academic content and the service activities, rather than for the completion of service hours.
  • Service that is provided throughout the semester provides a richer learning opportunity than service that occurs as a one-time experience.
  • The instructor is responsibile for soliciting feedback from the community partner(s) related to the helpfulness of the service provided as well as to the quality of the service-learning class partnership processes (e.g., ease of communication with the instructor, dependability of volunteers, etc.)

Designating a Course as Service-Learning

Requests for course designation are considered on an ongoing basis. All faculty members who wish to teach a VCU service-learning course are encouraged to meet with Lynn Pelco, VCU Service-Learning program director, to discuss their course development plans and to learn more about resources available to service-learning instructors. To have a course reviewed for designation, faculty members must submit the following:

  1. VCU Service-Learning Course Designation Form (Electronic)
  2. Current course syllabus - Upon completing the VCU Service-Learning Course Designation Form, faculty members must immediately email the course syllabus to Katie Elliott at All designated service-learning course syllabi must show the VCU Statement of Service-Learning (shown below) and evidence of reflection activities.

VCU Statement of Service-learning

Service-learning at Virginia Commonwealth University is a course-based, credit-bearing educational experience in which students participate in organized service activities that meet community-identified needs. Service activities vary based on the individual course, but may:

  • be direct (e.g., mentoring youth, volunteering with patients, working in community gardens) or indirect (e.g., creating research reports, designing online or print materials);
  • be individual or group-based;
  • occur either on- or off-campus;
  • be scheduled at varying times of the week/day;
  • be focused in different parts of the city or state;
  • and involve a single community partner or a variety of community organizations.

While individual service-learning classes do not offer all of these options, there may be some flexibility within the service partnerships and/or activities to be completed by individual students. Students are expected to familiarize themselves with the service activity options that are available in this class and, with their faculty member, to select from available options. Students in all VCU service-learning classes participate in reflection activities that are designed to increase students' understanding and application of course content and to enhance their sense of civic responsibility.

Maintaining course designation

Service-learning course designations are reviewed on a three-year cycle to ensure that the course retains the above-noted exemplary practice standards. Service-learning course designation will be removed if the course no longer meets the criteria outlined above.

About these procedures

These procedures and criteria were endorsed by the VCU University Undergraduate Curriculum Committee on Oct. 9, 1997.