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Service-learning FAQs

COVID-19 and Service-Learning: Frequently asked questions

My students haven’t completed their 20 hours of required service. What should I do now that classes have moved online and my students are no longer all in Richmond?

Students should not be held responsible for completing additional service hours after classes resumed on March 23 unless remote/virtual or indirect service options are readily available to all students. Remember that grades are for learning, not for service. Therefore, if remote/virtual or indirect service options are not readily available to all students, we recommend that instructors create one or more relevant reflection assignments for their students to complete in place of the incomplete service hours. Be patient and flexible. 

Need reflection ideas? Check out these community-engaged teaching and reflection in times of crisis tools.

I’d like to help my students understand the importance of physical distancing during the COVID-19 crisis. Do you have any suggestions?

Instructors can play a vital role in helping students to understand both the immediate importance of physical distancing and sheltering in place and the ways that these are civic responsibilities and forms of civic engagement. Take time to communicate and discuss these messages with your students. An sample message that you can adapt and share with your students is available online. You might also have them reflect on social distancing as civic action; check out this document for some ideas for how to do that.

Are there options for virtual service that my students and I can access this semester?

There definitely are! While many of our community partner organizations have suspended face-to-face operations (and still more have been forced to suspend operations altogether for the safety and well-being of those they serve), the community needs have not disappeared; indeed, our partners and our communities may need support now more than ever. 

In keeping with social distancing measures advised by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the Commonwealth of Virginia, and Virginia Commonwealth University, we encourage you to participate in virtual volunteer, do-it-yourself (DIY), or philanthropic opportunities. Social distancing is our civic responsibility and it is still possible to make a difference when in-person interaction is not an option. 

Learn more about supporting our communities and partners at Keep on Partnering

I’d like my students to reflect on the current pandemic crisis. How can I adapt my students’ reflection activities to focus on this?

Many ready-to-use reflection and research activities centered around the COVID-19 experience are available in the community-engaged teaching and reflection in times of crisis tools.

What can I do to help my students (and myself) deal with the added stress and uncertainty of this crisis in order to stay mentally well?

Such a good question, and one that many of us are thinking about right now. Let’s start with general wellness. There are a number of helpful resources out there, pulling together great lists of ideas. Check out the VCU’s Keep on Being Well site and this list of mental and physical health activities that our office is curating.

There are also a number of resources to help you support students in managing stress: 

  • The staff at University Counseling Services (UCS) continue to be available by phone to consult with students about mental and emotional health issues. Students can speak to a counselor by calling (804) 828-6200 between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. For after-hours emergency assistance, students can call VCU Police at (804) 828-1234 to be connected directly with a counselor.

I’m worried that some of my students may not have the resources to stay housed, fed, clothed, and engaged in their coursework. Are there resources I can connect them to? 

VCU is working to offer resources to students in need. Here are two ways to get them connected:

I’m still struggling with aspects of online teaching. Who can I contact for assistance?

You are not alone! Many folks are struggling to adapt quickly to teaching online, but luckily there are a number of valuable resources and experts who can help. Visit the VCU Keep on Teaching site, contact the ALT Lab during their online extended office hours or visit the CTLE’s Peer Support Facebook Group page.

How can I consult with the service-learning office staff if I have a question?

Please reach out any time to schedule a one-on-one consult with the Office of Service-Learning staff. We will gladly set up a time to talk that fits your schedule. You can email our office at servelearn@vcu.edu or reach out to any of us directly: Lynn Pelco at lepelco@vcu.edu, Katie Elliott at elliottkl@vcu.edu and Amanda Hall at hallaf2@vcu.edu.

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