Department of Campus Involvement

What is Service-Learning?

Service-learning is an exciting teaching strategy that enriches the curriculum by combining meaningful community service with academic learning. Service-learning provides "real-life" experiences by linking students with local communities and service providers. Reflection and reciprocity are key concepts of service-learning.  Definitions of service-learning vary and the term is often mistakenly used interchangeably for volunteerism and community service.

St. Cloud State Definition of Service-Learning

“Service-learning is a credit bearing, educational experience in which students participate in organized service activity that meets identified community needs and reflects on the service activity in such a way as to gain further understanding of course content, a broader appreciation of the discipline, and an enhanced sense of civic responsibility.”
Robert Bringle & Julie Hatcher, Office of Service Learning, 
Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis

Breaking It Down

  • Credit bearing: For the purposes of the university, there is a credit based incentive attached to service- learning.
  • Organized service activity: Activities are thought out and organized with community partners so that there is a deliberate relationship connecting the service opportunity with course material.     
  • Identified community needs: Projects meet need(s) identified by community partners. Projects do not attempt to create a need for the results of service-learning. Instead, projects assist organizations with needs they already have. Communication with community partners is essential.
  • Reflects: Time is spent specifically on reflecting and analyzing the volunteer experience in relation to course content and personal experience. 
  • Course content: Service is not simply an added component of a course, but integrated into the course as a tool used to reach course goals.
  • Civic responsibility: Explores the social connections to scholarly research and academic exploration.

For instructors who are thinking of incorporating service-learning into their course curriculum, or those who just want to know more about this teaching and research method, please contact the Faculty Liaisons for Service-Learning at 308-3898 or e-mail at