Academic Service Learning vs. Community Service

While academic service learning shares some qualities with community service and experiential learning, it is important to realize that it is not the same thing. Community service focuses on the community. It does not have a focus on the learning of the student completing the project; the recipients of the service are the beneficiaries. Experiential learning, on the other hand, focuses solely on the learning and academic goals of the student (Giddings, 2003). Academic service learning links community service with specific academic goals and course objectives. Four parties benefit from participation in ASL: students, faculty, the community and the institution. The figure obtained from R.G. Bringle (Personal Communication, February 9, 2006) shows the difference visually.

 Chart showing ASL vs. Community Service
For an activity to be an academic service learning project it must:

  • meet a real community need
  • enhance the learning of course content
  • have elements of structured reflection (Stacey, Rice, Langer 2001)

The following are examples of what would be considered community service and examples of activities that would be considered academic service learning to help clarify the difference.

Examples of community service:

  • helping at the Upper Peninsula Children’s Museum
  • donating blood
  • developing a Web page for the United Way of Marquette County

Examples of academic service learning:

  • developing a marketing plan for the Upper Peninsula Children’s Museum as a part of a marketing class
  • collecting vitals and stats at a blood drive in conjunction with a nursing class
  • develop a Web page for the United Way of Marquette County, utilizing principles taught in a computer information science class as part of a course requirement