Two women holding up gift bagsAcademic service learning is an exciting teaching methodology that incorporates community service as a means of helping students gain a deeper understanding of course objectives, acquire new knowledge, develop professional expertise and engage in civic activity.

At Northern Michigan University, academic service learning has experienced rapid growth in recent years.  A recent survey revealed that 85 courses in 35 majors employed some aspects of academic service learning methodology.  Through the Superior Edge initiative and with strong commitment from faculty in a number of academic disciplines and added incentive for students, Northern Michigan University is well on its way to reaching the goal of providing at least one academic service learning opportunity for every student.

Academic Service Learning: The NMU Definition

Northern's ASL Advisory Board  has adopted the following as its definition of academic service learning:

"Academic service learning is a course-based, credit-bearing educational experience in which students:

  • participate in an organized service activity that meets identified community needs; and
  • reflect on the service activity in such a way as to gain further understanding of course content, a broader appreciation of the discipline and an enhanced sense of both personal values and civic responsibility." (Developed by NMU ASL Board, based on Bringle and Hatcher, 1995).