What is Service-Learning?

At VCU, service-learning refers to an intentional teaching strategy that engages students in organized service activities and guided reflection. The service activities benefit the community and, in combination with reflection and other classroom-based learning activities, enhance the academic curriculum of participating students.

Service-learning designation is reserved for those credit-bearing academic experiences that involve each enrolled student in a minimum of 20 hours of service per semester, as well as in planned reflection activities. Classes that meet these criteria appear in the university’s Schedule of Classes and on the students’ transcripts as designated service-learning courses.

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.

If you would like to learn more about service-learning, several websites can provide you with basic information about service-learning theory and practice. We recommend you visit the National Service-learning Clearinghouse and Campus Compact to learn more about the pedagogy of service-learning.