Public Good Impact

Community Engagement and Remote Teaching: Reflections and Resources

By: Cara DiEnno, Julie Olomi, Anne P. DePrince, CCESL

Faculty across campus and the country are working to adapt courses for remote learning – including many of us teaching community-engaged courses.

At this time of transition, we offer some reflections and resources to support remote community-engaged teaching.  

Community-Engaged, Not Necessarily Community-Based

Community-engaged classes incorporate activities and projects that are mutually beneficial to student learning and the community. Sometimes this sort of reciprocal work is based in the community – but not always.

In fact, community-engaged classes at DU frequently tackle projects that advance student learning and meet community needs without in-person service. For example, classes have carried out remote research, such as conducting video or phone interviews, designing surveys, or analyzing historical documents or existing data. Classes have also developed products, such as:

For example, Dr. Amy Balough’s (Religious Studies) RLGS/JUST 3891 Justice: A Biblical Perspective class partnered with the Episcopal Church in Colorado to produce a 32-page report detailing historical and practical information about how the statewide organization might alter their policies and behaviors to best engage marginalized groups in the area, specifically people experiencing homelessness, immigrants, and Indigenous Peoples.

Often classes that pursue these kinds of community-engaged (but not community-based) projects do kick off and wrap up the quarter with in-person meetings with community partners – perhaps a guest lecture by the community partner at the start of the project or student presentations to partners at the end. As faculty pivot to remote practices for the spring quarter, these kinds of important exchanges may be very well suited to Zoom or other online platforms.

Evolving Community-Based Activities for Remote Circumstances

Some community-based activities may simply not be possible in the remote learning environment. However, others may be ripe for reimagining as community-engaged, but not community-based.

For example, Dr. Cara DiEnno’s Spring 2020 School-Based Civic Engagement class was going to lead workshops for elementary-aged youth at a community partner site. Instead, students will develop and deliver the lesson plan and accompanying materials to the community partner who can then implement the workshop themselves at a later date.

Dr. Christy Rossi’s (Psychology) Autism Spectrum Disorder class offers another example of a course that could be adapted in the current remote learning environment while still meeting learning objectives and community needs. In that course, students met with staff from The Joshua School, a nearby school for individuals with developmental disabilities, before beginning work to create learning materials for children with autism. Students created interactive materials connected to children’s books that were accessible to students with autism with a variety of different communication profiles. In the new remote learning environment, the teachers from The Joshua School could be invited to join the class via Zoom so that the students and partners can collaborate ahead of the students beginning work on their curricula projects.

Resources

Here are a few resources on community engagement to consider as you adapt your courses:

Remote Community-Engaged Teaching Articles: CCESL’s Portfolio site has a folder with a handful of curated articles relevant to online community-engaged teaching. To access, visit here (if you have difficulty accessing, please login to Portfolio first).

Community Partners with Remote-Friendly Projects: CCESL’s Scholar Shop helps connect faculty with community organizations for collaborative learning and scholarship. Many community partners have shared questions for collaboration that are amenable to remote classes. Visit https://duscholarshop.com/ to explore by partner, type of project, or keyword tags or contact cara.dienno@du.edu.

Learning from Colleagues around the Country:

General Information: In addition to checking out other general resources in CCESL’s Portfolio site, CCESL offers handouts that may be especially relevant as you adapt your courses that you can find here:

Additional Ideas Specific to this Moment: