Service Learning

The Service Learning Program at Dutchess Community College facilitates student academic learning through meaningful service experiences, which encourage and enable DCC's faculty and students to positively impact the community. The Service Learning Program seeks to bring campus and community together in partnership to share resources, meet real community needs, and help to educate women and men to become the change agents of tomorrow.

What is Service Learning?

Service learning is an educational experience integrating community service with an academic class to enhance learning and address critical community needs. Service learning emphasizes hands-on experiences that address real-world concerns. The service experience provides a context for testing, observing, or trying out discipline-based theories, concepts, or skills. Students gain knowledge that’s directly connected to the student learning outcomes of the service learning course being taken. Likewise, the academic context enriches the service experience by raising questions about real-world concerns and providing a forum for probing these concerns in-depth. Most service learning work is done with non-profit organizations, community groups, and governmental agencies whose goal is to serve the public good.

How Is Service Learning Different From Volunteerism and Internships?

Service learners have different skills and expectations than volunteers or interns. While volunteers may perform any task asked of them, service-learners should only be expected to perform tasks that connect directly to the student learning outcomes of their course.

Service learning is distinct from other forms of outreach and experiential education because it attributes equal weight to both service and learning outcomes. It is curriculum based, meaning that the service work is connected to and enhanced by a proposed course of study. Therefore, service learning is different from:

  • Volunteerism and community service, where the primary emphasis is on the service being provided and the primary intended beneficiary is clearly the service recipient; activities are not directly tied to a course or program of study.
  • Internships, where students are given the opportunity to engage in practice-based learning that complements classroom instruction, to gain firsthand experience in their field of study.

Adapted from Furco, A. (1996). Service-Learning: A Balanced Approach to Experiential Education. Expanding Boundaries: Service and Learning. Corporation for National Service