Teaching Service-Learning Online or in Hybrid/Flex Models

written by admin on July 1, 2020 in COVID-19 and Doing EL and Online education and Resources and Service-Learning with no comments

In response to shifts to online learning due to COVID-19 in spring 2020 and in anticipation of alternate models for higher education in fall 2020 and beyond, we have curated publications and online resources that can help inform programmatic and faculty/staff decisions about facilitating service-learning during a pandemic.

Regardless of the medium for teaching and for engaging students in service-learning, existing scholarship offers good practices in high-impact service-learning. These concrete strategies offer a stable foundation as students, their community partners, and their faculty adapt to online or hybrid/flex models. We also encourage you to check out the virtual resource bank developed by our colleagues at the Kernodle Center for Service-Learning and Community Engagement.

The bibliography shared below will be updated as we identify additional resources. Please suggest additions in the comments or by emailing the Center’s staff at CenterForEngagedLearning@elon.edu. Special thanks to Torii Masinsin, a graduate student in Elon’s M.A. in Higher Education program, for contributing the initial content.


Bharath, D. (2020). Using eService-learning to practice technical writing skills for emerging nonprofit professionals. Journal of Nonprofit Education and Leadership 10(1): 62-81. doi: 10.18666/JNEL-2020-V10-I1-9420

Bharath uses an e-service learning project as an educational tool that helps students develop technical writing skills and meet their partner organization’s needs in an online nonprofit course. Furthermore, this paper provides a discussion on the benefits and challenges facing e-service learning projects.


Bourelle, T. (2014). Adapting service-learning into the online technical communication classroom: A framework and model. Technical Communication Quarterly 23(4): 247-264. doi: 10.1080/10572252.2014.941782

Bourelle implements an e-service learning project in a distance communication course. The researcher specifically examined students’ sense of civic responsibility, application of skills, peer learning, and their use of technology.


Branker, K., Corbett, J., Webster, J., & Pearce, J.M. (2010). Hybrid virtual- and field work-based service learning with green information technology and systems projects. Informational Journal for Service Learning in Engineering 5(2): 44-59.

In this study, the authors take a hybrid-approach to create a service-learning project with Engineering students. Using a two-prong approach, the authors had students completed the first half of the project virtually and second half in the field. Additionally, the authors reflected on the use of virtual versus traditional methods of service-learning.


Dailey-Hebert, A. & Donnelli, E. (2010). Service-eLearning: educating today’s learners for an unscripted future. International Journal of Organizational Analysis 18(2): 216-227. doi: 10.1108/19348831011046272

This paper examines how educators can use eLearning pedagogies in service-learning courses through theoretical frameworks and practical considerations. Though authors intended to use their findings to help create innovative pedagogical approaches to respond to emerging technology and educational preferences of Millennials, the results can be adapted to fit Gen-Z students as well.


Dailey-Hebert, A., Donnelli-Sallee, E., & DiPadova-Stocks, L. N. (Ed.) (2008). Service-eLearning: Educating for citizenship. Information Age Publishing, Inc.

Grounded in the theory-to-practice of service-learning, this edited book proposes a new model that blends existing service-learning methods with eLearning pedagogy. The book also recognizes how emerging technology can shape how students participate in eService-learning projects.


García-Gutierrex, J., Ruiz-Corbella, M. & del Pozo Armentia, A. (2017). Developing civic engagement in distance higher education: A case study of virtual service-learning (vSL) programme in Spain. Open Praxis 9 (2): 235-244. doi: 10.5944/openpraxis.9.2.578

Using the university’s competence framework and the service-learning methodology, the authors propose a virtual service-learning project between students from the Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia (Spain) and the University of Porto-Novo (Benin).


Guthrie, K. L., & McCracken, H. (2010). Making a difference online: Facilitating service-learning through distance education. Internet and Higher Education 13: 153-157. doi: 10.1016/j.iheduc.2010.02.006

Through this case study, Guthrie and McCraken examine how service-learning pedagogies can be used in an online format. The authors explore how to create a virtual learning environment as well as the associated benefits and challenges.


Harris, U. S. (2017). Virtual partnerships: Engaging students in e-service learning using computer mediated communication. Asia Pacific Media Educator 27(1): doi: 10.1177/1326365X17701792

The author examined how Australian students engaged in mediated intercultural dialogue through an e-service learning project with a non-government organization in India. Additionally, the author analyzed the online tools students utilize and their online communication processes and habits during this project.


McWhorter, R. R., Delello, J. A., & Roberts, P. B. (2016). Giving back: Exploring service-learning in an online learning environment. Journal of Interactive Online Learning 14(2): 80-99

McWhorter, Delello, and Roberts examined how service-learning opportunities could be embedded in an online graduate business course. The study sought to understand the academics benefits of having a service-learning an online course and how did students apply their coursework to their service-learning experience.


Purcell, J. W. (2017). Community-engaged pedagogy in the virtual classroom: Integrating eService-learning into online leadership education. Journal of Leadership Studies 11(1): 65-70. doi: 10.1002/jls.21515

Using theoretical and practical consideration, Purcell examines how community-engaged pedagogies, such as service-learning, can be used by leadership educators in creating an online community-engaged course.


Sandy, M. G. & Franco, Z. E. (2014). Grounding service learning in the digital age: Exploring a virtual sense of geographic place through online collaborative mapping and mixed media. Journal of Higher Education Outreach and Engagement 18(4): 201-227.

In this case study, the authors explore using collaborative mapping to help students create a virtual sense of place in their service e-learning experience.


Soria, K. M. & Weiner, B. (2013). A “virtual fieldtrip”: Service learning in distance education technical writing courses. J. Technical Writing and Communication 43(2): 181-200. doi: 10.2190/TW.43.2.e

The authors performed a mixed-methods experimental study to see how incorporating a virtual service-learning experience can affect student learning outcomes in a distance technical writing course. The purpose of the study was to determine how service-learning could enhance student learning outcomes in a distance course and to understand how virtual learning can be deepened through community engagement.


Waldner, L. S., McGorry, S. Y, & Wiedener, M. C. (2010). Extreme e-service learning (XE-SL): E-service learning in the 100% online course. MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching 6(4): 839-851.

In this study, the authors explore the concept of extreme e-service learning, where instruction and service projects are entirely online. Additionally, the authors examine the benefits, challenges, and best practices of implementing an extreme e-service learning experience.


Waldner, L. S., Widener, M. C., & McGorry, S. Y. (2012). E-service-learning: The evolution of service-learning to engage a growing online student population. Journal of Higher Education Outreach and Engagement 16(2): 123-150.

In this literature review, the authors examined the evolution and expansion of e-service learning. From this review, they have identified four types of e-service learning—Hybrid: Instruction Online with Service on Site, Hybrid: Instruction on Site with Service Online, Hybrid: Instruction and/or Service Partially on Site and Partially Online, and Extreme: Instruction and Service 100% Online—and best practices in conducting these endeavors.


Yusof, A., Atan, N. A., Harun, J., & Doulatabadi, M. (2019). Developing students graduate attributes in service learning project through online platform. Proceedings of the International Conference on Industrial Engineering and Operations Management. 3524-3537.

Though this study provides a mixture of face-to-face and online instruction to create a hybrid service-learning experience for Engineering undergraduate students in Malaysia, the authors explore how virtual tools such as online discussions and online meetings can have a positive impact on the student’s learning and engagement.