Labeling Civic Engagement/Service Learning Courses

                                                                                      July 2012                                                                 


CU Boulder places high value on academic-based civic engagement and service learning as a significant element and style of pedagogy among its undergraduate education options. The number of such courses is expanding, partly in response to the 2030 “experiential education” strategic goals. The campus needs to identify such courses in the catalog and in student course search mechanisms to enable faculty to identify these courses and for students to be able to find them. With the approval of the BFA and Registrar’s office, we propose also to note the designation “CE/SL”(civic engagement/service learning) on their transcripts for those particular courses. A summary to assist faculty and departments to determine whether or not to decide to attach this notation to their courses is provided here.

  1.  The label: CE/SL  (Civic Engagement/Service Learning)
  2. The definition: A credit bearing educational experience that connects meaningful community engagement, course content and civic responsibility via classroom and out of classroom pedagogical strategies.
  3. Recommended criteria for a course to be labeled CE/SL.

The best service learning/civic engagement courses are those that simultaneously emphasize both student learning and community needs: “a partnership of mutual benefit.” Service learning/civic engagement should not be an episodic volunteer program nor an add-on to an existing course or merely logging a set number of community service hours to meet a college requirement (National Commission on Service Learning). Rather, it should strive to meet as many of these criteria and goals as practical for each course:


  • Service experience should be clearly and explicitly integrated into the academic course including readings and class presentations as one method of achieving the teaching and learning goals of that course.
  • Students should participate in structured reflection, analysis or synthesis of their CE/SL experience in light of the specific learning objectives for each course.
  • Service learning/civic engagement activities should be designed in collaboration with community representatives and serve genuine community needs.
  • These pedagogical strategies should enhance student learning of existing course competencies.
  • Foster civic responsibility
  • Employ relevant meaningful service

 (see, for example, Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning, Summer, 2002)

  1. Approval process: Courses nominated for this designation by faculty or departments should submit a 1 page description of each CE/SL course plus their syllabus to the Institute for Ethical and Civic Engagement (part of the Office of Undergraduate Education) which will present to a campus-wide oversight committee of faculty for approval to be added to the academic transcript and registration materials.
  2. The Undergraduate Education office will work with the Registrar’s Office to create the protocol required to enter into our ISIS and catalog systems which will maintain a permanent record of all such course designations.