Implementing a service learning course

As Loyola Marymount University noted, "Sometimes we think of community-based work as only focused on direct service, such as tutoring youth, preparing food for individuals who are homeless, or planting trees.  These are well-suited for some courses but not for others."

Other types of engaged learning courses that Loyola Marymount has identified include:

  • Direct service: Working in an organization providing a service to the community, could include anything where you are working to help another, typically as individuals.
  • Project-based work: Working with an organization on a particular issue problem or program. May tie more closely to the course content. For instance academic papers may be swapped for engagement project writing projects. Or exams may be swapped for presentations in communities that illustrate the students’ grasp of the course content.
  • Engaged research: Researching that directly benefits the community by clarifying the causes of a community challenge, mapping a community’s assets, or contributing to solutions to current challenges and also fits a faculty member’s research agenda. Could be original research with data collection, analysis and discussion.

If you would like to have your engaged course designated as a service learning course, here are the steps.  

  • Sign up for a Service Learning workshop if you haven’t already taken on OR discuss your course idea with the Coordinator for Service Learning or the advisory board representative from your college/school. 
  • Fill out the application form available below and attach your syllabus. 
  • Email your syllabus to the Coordinator of Service Learning ( for approval by the advisory board (see scoring rubric for details). 
  • If notified of approval, make sure your course is scheduled with an “S” preceding the section number (e.g., ARC 350-S01)

All service learning courses require one of the course descriptions below to help students understand what a service learning course entails and how it benefits their learning. Use this in Part XII of your approved syllabus.

  • Option 1: Academic service learning is an educational approach that combines learning objectives with service objectives in order to deepen a student’s understanding in a specific discipline. It’s a form of experiential education, where students participate in community service projects that fulfill an actual community need. An important part of academic service learning is reflection, during which the student sees how the community service experience ties in with what he or she learns in class. Reflection can be carried out through reading, writing, doing, or telling. The ultimate goal is to apply the knowledge gained through reflection to real-life situations.
  • Option 2: This course includes a Service Learning experience. As a result, this course has the SL (Service Learning) Designation. You will gain valuable experience putting theory into practice into the community. Because service learning broadens perspectives, enhances critical thinking skills, and improves communication skills, graduate schools and employers are increasingly seeking students with experience in service learning and community engagement.
  • Option 3: Combine options 1 and 2 into a single statement.

Additional resources and examples