COVID and Community Engagement for Faculty

As we adjust to our new temporary reality in the face of COVID-19, there are many factors to consider when thinking about service-learning, transitioning your internships ,engaging remotely with community partner sites, exploring community in the classroom, and integrating remote opportunities into student learning. While there are many examples of service-learning in online courses, those were often constructed over a longer period of time and have students active face-to-face in their community.

Remember this quick switch in teaching and learning is likely uncharted territory for us all, including your students and community partners. High quality community engaged learning isn't about logging a certain number of hours, it is about learning and being responsive to community partner needs.

Note, the information here does not supplant directives from the institution, the system, or the government regarding social distancing, isolation, and quarantine. This is simply a collection of ideas that might help keep your course community-connected learning goals moving during this disruption. Use your best judgement for how to proceed. Please don't hesitate to share your ideas with us.

Intentional Remote Opportunities that Address COVID

Community Diary Project

The Center for Community Engagement (CCE) is partnering with the Sonoma County Library to collect primary sources related to life during COVID-19. We invite you to consider taking advantage of this opportunity with your classes. One approach could be working with an elementary school by sharing experiences either through writing, artwork, or other forms of expression or collecting the stories of populations that are often not included. Alternatively, your class can work independently to make materials. Get more information about participating in the Diary here.

Reflection on COVID-19

You might also consider some reflection related to the virus. Please check out this list of ideas generated by Loyola University Chicago’s Center for Experiential Learning

  • Analyze the COVID-19 outbreak and public responses to it (including changes in university policy) through a lens that is attentive to underlying structures of power and inequality.

  • Offer students a conceptual framework (and a corresponding digital platform) that presents 'consciousness-raising' as a radical and transformational mode of social change (rather than 'helping' or 'serving' per se).

  • Discuss the xenophobia that is emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Connect With Your Community Partner(s) and Internship Sites  

Our community partners and internship sites are also facing a disruption in their day-to-day operations. Here are some things to keep in mind when reaching out to them: 

  • Read their website and social media posts to see what they have already shared about impacts. They may be closed entirely, operating with limited services, limiting outside contacts, etc. Be mindful of the additional burden planning for students might cause as well as the additional support that might be beneficial. 

  • Reach out to your partner/site contact (email is likely best at this time, plan for delayed responses). Let them know the current status of classes at SSU. Come with an idea in mind of what may be reasonable for your students to still do. During this time, it may be appropriate for some activities to carry on somewhat normally.

  • Have an open conversation and respect their limits in supporting your students at this time. What is reasonable on their end? On yours? On the students? Are there other needs they have that are different than your usual involvement that might work for all involved? 

  • If you need help with this, please connect with your faculty fellow.

Review the Remote Internship Guidelines

Going Remote With Your Partner/Site

If it is possible to transition to remote or virtual engagement with your community partner or a new partner, here are some ideas that might work with your course and partner needs: 

  • Conducting background research or gathering best practices or other information requested by the partner(s)/site

  • Conduct online research on best practices or develop tools for program assessment 

  • Create a listing of grant opportunities that may be applicable for their organization

  • Remote interviewing current/past clients about their experiences or the impact of the organization on where they are today

Content/Product Creation: 
  • Create marketing or social media content for future use by the partner/site

  • Create brochures or other materials for information-sharing

  • Create birthday cards to give to a local housing shelter or senior center (be sure they want this before you make anything)

  • Tape, record, or stream performances or workshops to benefit community partner(s)/sites

  • Create a resource (build a website?) of activities for after-school programming 

  • Translate materials

  • Make videos

Virtual Connecting: 
  • Provide support via phone or web based meetings with organization team member support to those being served by the organization or others in the community

  • Work with staff to share videos or use technology to continue visits with residents or patients of retirement home facilities

  • conducting virtual or phone-based educational supports for youth and adults

  • Offer (or compile, research, or brainstorm) strategies that provide indirect support from volunteers as a result of coronavirus

  • Write a positive review for the organization to help with their marketing efforts

Non-Community-Engaged Ways to Connect Your Course to the Community

It's possible that the best option for now is to not have students directly connected to the community. If that is the case, there are many resources for exploring the concepts of community with your students. Here are just a few: 

  • Discuss and reflect on the notion of community and the various forms it takes (recognized 501C3 Organizations, grassroots organizations, neighbor to neighbor connections, family and friends).

  • Check with the Library to see what streaming videos they might have available to enhance the course. 

  • National Issues Forums has a great collection of resources that explore a variety of issues. You could have students read the materials and engage in an online discussion. The website has resources for how to structure the experience. 

  • Teach students how laws are created, help them discover who their elected officials are, have a discussion about the importance of advocating for what you believe in.  

  • Think about what organizations and businesses are impacted by COVID-19. Perhaps some of them would benefit from positive Google or Yelp reviews if the students have interacted with them? 

Integrating Remote Opportunities into the Classroom

Arts and Culture

Public Art Online Galleries

Road Trip from Home: Virtual Field Trips

Submit Art For Hospital Cards

Sonoma County Library From Home

Virtual Book Club

Become a Penpal Today

Learn Another Language

Free Photography Classes Online

Free print-and-play board games

Free movies with MUBI

Chat With Others Who Are In Quarantine

Mask Making

History Documentaries You Can Watch Right Now

Virtual Museum Tours

Turn Yourself Into a Renaissance painting

Get 3 Months of Free Virtual Guitar Lessons

Enjoy A Night At The Opera From Home

A Night At The Green: From Home


Politics and Civic Engagement

Register to Vote

Sustainability and Environment

Bioneers : Beyond the Great Unraveling - Weaving the World Anew

Sonoma County Wildlife Livestream

Visit the Zoo/Aquarium

Virtual Parks Tour

Watch The Northern Lights From Home

NASA at Home