AOI | Learning Innovations

Faculty Insider

Weekly Tip: Learning through Community Engagement

Community engagement is a subset of experiential learning that asks students to work with an organization and apply concepts learned in class to a real problem or issue within a community.  Indeed, a learning goal of Washington State University is for students to “[apply] the concepts of the general and specialized studies to personal, academic, service learning, professional, and/or community activities.” By working with organizations within their community students are provided an authentic environment to demonstrate mastery of skills. In addition, students gain a deeper understanding of the course content and an enhanced sense of civic responsibility.

Learn more about WSU’s Learning Goals.

Community Engagement At-a-Glance

  • Curriculum based
  • Community focused problem serving
  • Concept application
    • Moves students from theory and hypothesis to action and implementation
  • Organizational and/or stakeholder involvement and input
  • Reciprocity—students and the community benefit
  • Reflection

Tips for Implementation

  • Identify the course goals that will be achieved through community engagement.
  • Coordinate and work with organizations.
    • Many groups appreciate the assistance and insights students can offer.
    • Instructors can do outreach to identify entities willing to work with your class.
  • Expand your options by considering remote organizations. Personnel can communicate virtually!
  • Determine the scale of the community engagement component and the form it will take. The two most common forms are:
    • Project-based engagement—in which students work with an organization representative to identify solutions to a problem the organization is trying to address within the community.
    • Service hours—often requires students to fulfill a set number of volunteer hours over the course of a semester.
  • Invite an organization representative to meet with your class throughout the semester.
    • Organization reps. can provide guidance and feedback, and assessment perspective.
  • Have students learn from each other’s experiences by having them work in small groups.
  • Incorporate reflection frequently.
    • Students can use reflection to make connections between what they are learning and what they are experiencing. Reflections also provide a space for students to discuss their process, challenges encountered, assumptions made, and mindset shifts they experienced.
  • Implement the five stages of Design Thinking: research, identifying user needs, challenging assumptions, creating solutions, and testing solutions.

Examples of community engagement across the disciplines.

We understand that incorporating a community engagement component may be daunting. Work with an AOI team member to learn how to create the most meaningful experience for students in your course.

Additional Resources

This series of videos and teaching tips is presented by Academic Outreach and Innovation (AOI). We invite you to join the conversation. Share your tips and ask questions through this blog. If you would like these posts to be sent directly to your email each week, subscribe to the listserv by emailing

For more information or to schedule time with an instructional designer or emerging technologist, contact or request training on demand. You can also visit the Spark Faculty Innovation Studio in room 102 any time from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Thursday, during the academic year.