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This month, Michelle Bartlett, teaching assistant professor and coordinator of the master’s in training and development and adult, workforce and continuing professional education graduate certificates in the Department of Educational Leadership, Policy, and Human Development, talks about incorporating eService Learning into her online courses.
Integrating eService Learning in Online Courses
Service learning has been shown to increase student engagement with community. I teach primarily online and have integrated eService Learning (eSL) into an online graduate course. I evaluated the impact on student connectedness using Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) research to inform my teaching and course assignment design.
There are different types of eService Learning. eService Learning provides students with the opportunity to connect with people in the community and use skills learned in the course and degree program to benefit the community. Further, students are more likely to retain the skills learned when they actively put them to use in a real-life project. My students were in an online course with some teams working with clients in the local community, face-to-face (Type II), and some teams working with clients remotely (Extreme).
Integrating an eService Learning Project
Students are put into teams at the beginning of the semester. Teams are encouraged to select and connect with a client to discuss project scope. Students who are unable to connect with a potential client are helped by the instructor. I often reach out to different areas on campus or with clients in the community from previous semesters. A learning contract is created with each team so that the students, client, and instructor are aware of the project expectations. This is an important time for the instructor to ensure the project is large enough for the learning experience and credit hours earned but not too large that students will not successfully complete. Students then check in throughout the semester with brief status reports.
Pros of Integrating eService Learning
eService Learning has been shown to have the same impact as service learning projects. Two overarching pros of integrating eSL are the positive increases on student connectedness and labor market outcomes. After integrating the eService Learning assignment in the online graduate course, students were surveyed. Findings indicated an increase in student connectedness with the course, peers, instructor and most importantly, the community. Students later contacted me with stories of how they were positively impacted in applying for jobs as a result of the project. Students were able to use the project client as a reference and many showcased their final project in a portfolio for their job interview. These labor market outcomes were impacted by the students’ service in the community and would not have happened with an assignment that had students create a project in the class and present. Students were further impacted by the opportunity to learn information beyond what is in the textbook and manage real-life obstacles beyond typical course group work.
Cons of Integrating eService Learning
One difficulty of eSL integration is managing the clients, whether they get busy and are difficult to reach, back out of the project, have unrealistic expectations of the students, etc. Everyone must be mindful of the client’s schedule. Another difficulty is ensuring everyone on the team contributes and that team members communicate (i.e. figuring out time zones, work schedules, etc.) Facilitating the course can require more effort for the instructor, however the projects are exciting and usually include a final presentation at the end of the semester to showcase the student work. It is vital to advocate for students during the contract stage and stay connected through status updates throughout the semester.
This is meant to be an overview for faculty considering the integration of eService Learning. If you have any questions or want to share your experience, please feel free to reach out.
Michelle E. Bartlett is a teaching assistant professor and coordinator of the master’s in training and development and adult, workforce and continuing professional education graduate certificates in the Department of Educational Leadership, Policy, and Human Development in the College of Education. Follow her on Twitter at @DrMBartlett or send an email to Michelle_Bartlett@ncsu.edu.