Service learning courses offer new volunteer opportunities for students

By Kaitlyn Aiello, News and Layout/Design Editor

February 6, 2013

Service_learning_1With the start of the semester comes the offering of eight different service-learning courses for students at High Point University. Rather than learning in the typical lecture-style course, students have the opportunity to volunteer in and around the community in areas pertaining to class studies. According to the Service Learning website, “It intentionally aligns and integrates a course’s academic objectives with meaningful community service so the academic goals drive the service and the service enhances the academic goals.”

Dr. Joe Blosser, Director of Service Learning, was hired a year and a half ago by the university to change the program’s focus from religion and philosophy to include the entire campus. He says that the biggest struggle since his 2011 arrival has been getting students to recognize the unique classes. “Some students don’t realize that they have signed up for a Service Learning course until they get to class the first day. Then they find out they will be volunteering. That’s what we trying to avoid,” Blosser says. To notice the difference upon registration, students will find an SL next to the course number on MyStuff, indicating that that particular course is not a lecture-style course.

Service_learning_2Students will accompany the faculty member in charge of an SL course into the community doing volunteer work, bringing the learning and experience back to the classroom. “The idea is that the students become active learners or experts just like the faculty,” Blosser says. Each course volunteers in a different aspect of the community: teaching dance classes at the local YMCA; tutoring immigrants at a family center; creating a community garden; and teaching a high school class how to complete college applications.

The Service Learning program offers $2,000 grants for faculty members to attend workshops where they learn the appropriate way to teach the course. Students alone can raise questions and observations, enabling them to contribute to the classroom environment instead of solely depending on the professor. Service Learning classes are open to all students, with a 75 percent focus on general education courses.

Last fall, the program enrolled 104 students that together completed 1,820 hours of community service. The courses offered include: Environmental Ethics, Religion in America, Strategic Communication Campaigns, Literature and Community, Political Philosophy, Campaigns and Elections, and Collaboration in the General Education.

Service_learning_3Overall, research has shown that service-learning classes return higher and more positive evaluation results than the class and university average. And according to A Crucible Moment: College Learning & Democracy’s Future, “College students who participate in civic engagement learning activities not only earn higher grade point averages but also have higher retention rates and are more likely to complete their college degrees.”

“Students learn in different ways; students are hands-on learners,” Blosser says. “Part of what we need to do is get the word out so students who like to learn this way and like to volunteer can take these courses.”

To learn more about the Service Learning program, contact Dr. Joe Blosser or visit http://servicelearning.highpoint.edu.