Keep on Partnering

In these uncertain and ever-evolving times, we are grateful to VCU Health and our entire Ram family for all that you do as we come together to respond to the COVID-19 (coronavirus) crisis impacting our communities. 

Together, we are #OneVCU. Together, we are one community.  

Today, our communities need your support to serve the populations impacted by the spread of the coronavirus. Below are resources and tools you can use to support our VCU Health and community partners to connect, innovate and keep on partnering.

Virtual Volunteering: Supporting Communities and Partners

Staying safe in off-campus experiences

Principles of Community-Engaged Work

Remote partnership Development

Remote Experiential Learning

Stay up to date. Stay informed.

The following VCU sites are available to support partners, faculty, staff and students by providing updated information on the university's response to COVID-19 and provide online resources to maintain academic and experiential learning continuity. 

We are One VCU. Please consider sending messages of hope and encouragement to each other on social media using #OneVCU.

For questions about VCU community engagement, email

Staying Safe in off-campus experiences

Guidelines for staying safe in off-campus experiences, as well as how student responsibilities in keeping VCU and Richmond communities healthy are available online. 

Key takeaways for students

  • Risk acknowledgment form: All students participating in an off-campus activity in fall 2020 will be asked to sign this acknowledgment of risk form. This agreement lets you know what you can expect at a learning site, and what to do if you feel precautions aren't being followed so that VCU can help.
  • Safety first: No student will be forced to complete a required academic activity with an outside partner if the partner does not follow the requirements outlined in the collaboration agreement.
  • Return to Campus training: Don't forget the protocols outlined in your Return to Campus training! You'll be expected to abide by those while in your off-campus experience as well.

Key takeaways for partners

  • Health and safety notice: VCU's Health and Safety Notice lets you know the steps VCU is taking to mitigate risks to members of your organization, as well as the university's expectations from your end. Please read this notice throughly.
  • Safety training: Partner organizations are responsible for providing VCU students, faculty and staff with any additional health and safety training required for participation at your site.

Learn more online.

Virtual Volunteering: Supporting Communities and Partners

While many of our community partner organizations have suspended face-to-face operations (and many more forced to suspend operations all together for the safety and well-being of those they serve), identified community needs have not disappeared and our partners and our communities may need support now more than ever. In practice with social distancing measures advised by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the Commonwealth of Virginia and Virginia Commonwealth University, we are encouraging those seeking to support to participate in virtual volunteer, do-it-yourself (DIY), or philanthropic opportunities. Social distancing is our civic responsibility, yet it is still possible to make a difference when in-person interaction is not an option. 

Virtual and DIY volunteering is the act of supporting our partners and communities by addressing partner-identified needs online using an internet-connected device or from your place of quarantine. As we adapt to the ever-changing landscape of COVID-19 and the many changes this may bring to our communities and our own lives, incorporating virtual volunteering and DIY projects can be a great way to contribute while also providing balance in uncertain times. Philanthropy means providing monetary support for an organization, group, or cause to help them continue their efforts to serve despite the current circumstances. Please see the links below for local and national/global virtual volunteering opportunities and organizations seeking donations in order to continue providing essential services.

Get involved locally  


The communities where we live and serve have been deeply impacted by the rapid spread of COVID-19. Now, perhaps more than ever, VCU community partners and Richmond region nonprofits, community-based organizations and faith-based organizations need help to serve those most affected by the present crisis. 

Support Richmond communities by serving a local organization remotely. 

















Get involved nationally and globally  


Organizations across the world are changing their approach to volunteering to meet the needs of their communities while ensuring the safety of their volunteers. Connect with a national or global nonprofit, community-based organization or faith-based organization and support communities across the nation and across the ocean. 

Support communities around the world by serving a national or global organization remotely. 


  • Follow the connect links to access national and global virtual volunteer opportunities.
  • Search "remote," "virtual" or "DIY" to find remote opportunities. 







VCU does not encourage anyone to engage in face-to-face or other non-remote volunteer opportunities at this time, consistent with health and safety directives from federal, state and local authorities.

VCU Faculty and Staff: Use your service leave 
VCU employees are allowed to use their 16 hours of community service leave (all 12-month state employees) and/or 16 hours of enhanced community service leave (University & Academic Professionals only) to volunteer from home. Upon receiving verbal approval from your supervisor, request the hours in RealTime. If using enhanced community service leave, please note the name of the community organization in the description.

Principles of community-engaged work 

High-quality academic-community partnerships are built using values and principles that hold true in both face-to-face and virtual settings. As we sustain our partnerships over the coming months, it is important to remember these core values and principles* that guide us in our work. 

Impact – Academic-community partnerships strive to promote positive results by aligning their efforts to meet community-identified needs. In times of crisis, community-identified needs can shift dramatically; and partnerships will need to remain nimble so they can successfully pivot towards these shifts.

Connections – Academic-community partnerships connect people to each other through relationships that foster new understandings. During challenging times, these trusting relationships provide the foundation from which new and creative collaborations can evolve.

Mutual Benefit – Academic-community partnerships strive for reciprocity and mutual benefit in all they do. During crises, all partners are impacted and will need to reevaluate their own changing needs so that ongoing mutual benefit can be sustained.

Communication – Academic-community partnerships commit to ongoing, open and authentic communications that honor shared goals and support continuous improvement. When crises occur, communications may need to shift dramatically; and all partners will need to remain flexible and patient as new communications processes emerge.

Contributions – Academic-community partnerships recognize that each individual and institution has knowledge, skills, and experiences to contribute to the pursuit of common goals. Crises may uncover previously unknown knowledge and skills within the partnership. An ongoing commitment within the partnership to an assets-based collaboration framework will increase the likelihood that these assets are recognized and utilized.

Additional information can be found on the Portland State University's CBL & COVID-19 page.

*The principles listed above have been adapted from the important recent work of RVA Engage.

Remote Partnership development

As we continue to navigate the online environment and adapt to the many changes brought forth by the COVID-19 pandemic, we know many of you are looking for ways to maintain partnerships for the good of our communities and our students.  For those of you wanting to virtually redevelop the strong relationships with your current partners, and those of you looking to develop new online partnerships, we have compiled a list of ‘best practices’ and resources for developing and maintaining remote partnerships. 

Remote Partnership Development Best Practices

The three main categories below identify ‘best practices’ and should be addressed during the partnership development phase:

Adapted from:
Waldner, L., McGorry, S., and Widener, M. (2012). E-service-learning: The evolution of service-learning to engage a growing online student population. Journal of Higher Education, Outreach, and Engagement, 16(2), 123.



  • Training for students, community partner, instructor
  • Bridge synchronous and asynchronous methods
  • Trial runs prior to live sessions
  • Assess community partner and student technical capacity


  • Clear expectations in memorandums of understanding
  • Community partner access to course shell
  • Use of groups; group space on course management system
  • Community partner "reveal"

Course design

  • Service related to learning objectives
  • Appropriate typology
  • Reflection
  • Community partner and student feedback

The following table, shows common limitations and best practice tips for addressing those limitations:

IssueDescriptionBest Practice
"Lurking"Students log into the session but fail to participate
  • "No Lurking Zone" policy in syllabus.
  • Actively direct questions towards lurkers 
Lopsided ParticipationStudents type text in live sessions as opposed to visual or verbal participation
  • Award extra credit "hat points" to those using webcams
TechnologySoftware and hardware limitations, firewalls, individual skill levels, other unforeseen problems.
  • Provide training for instructor, students, client
  • Evaluate software need prior to course
  • Have back up plan in case of technological failure (e.g. phone in to session)
  • Avoid XE-SL courses when major software changes have just been implemented.
  • Include instructional design or IT as a fundamental fourth partner; library services as a fifth
  • Conduct trial run of the initial client session
Timeframe of CoursesCompressed time (e.g. 9 or 12 week) online course may hinder full product development
  • Set realistic goals for student products.
  • Break project up over two or more terms. 
Student DisconnectLack of student interaction among student, client and/or instructor
  • Require teamwork; live client sessions; break-out discussions
  • Choose client willing to work with technology
  • Allow opportunities for reflection
  • Archive synchronous events for later student viewing.
Adapted from: 
Waldner, L., McGorry, S., and Widener, M. (2010). Extreme e-service learning (XE-SL): E-service learning in the 100% online course. MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 6, 839.


To assist you in addressing these main areas of development, we have created the following templates to be used during an initial collaborative meeting between partners: 

Step 1. Each partner should complete a brief self-assessment to assess technology limitations, identified needs, etc. A logistical self-assessment is available online.

Step 2. Schedule a virtual meeting with your partner to discuss survey results and formalize a plan (using a technology and communication format that meets the needs of both partners). 

Step 3: To help you identify priorities, collaboratively complete the Virtual Partnership Goal Ranking Sheet during this initial meeting.

Step 4. Next, complete the Virtual Partnership Action Plan to help you develop a sustainable plan moving forward.

NOTE: These templates can be used in subsequent meetings to identify new priorities and create new action plans as needs change or develop.

Remote Partnership Development Tips for Success

Remote partnership development is a process between academic entities and community organizations which ensures that collaborations between universities and the communities are mutually-beneficial relationships based upon shared goals. Strong partnerships use principles of community-engaged work as a framework. Like traditional partnership development, remote partnership development takes time and is action-oriented. While traditional partnerships may rely heavily on site visits and in-person meetings, remote partnering requires engaging using a variety of virtual methods. Below are several key steps in remote partnership development.

Self-Preparation - It is essential that faculty intending to partner with community organizations determine their own capacity and readiness for collaboration. Questions highlighting community engagement principles of mutual benefit and impact are helpful to discern whether an idea is research or project designed for short-term academic purposes or a long-term collaboration where both parties will benefit. A self-prep checklist is available online.

Researching and Identifying Potential Partnerships - Finding organizations to partner with is no easy task. It involves networking and connecting with organizations through other faculty and community members, online research, and events. The primary goal of this process involves aligning research and teaching goals with the mission and activities of the organization. From this starting point, narrow down the search to a handful of potential partners. Reach out to these partners to schedule a virtual meeting to determine whether a partnership could be successful. A remote partnership development meeting form is available online and is helpful for planning and implementing the first partner meeting.

Deepening the Relationship - Once an academic-community partnership is agreed upon, the work is just beginning. Communication between parties should be consistent and occur at regular intervals. It is important during this phase that the shared goals and objectives remain at the center of the relationship. Equally important is an agreed-upon method of communication that is accessible and feasible for all stakeholders. Remote partnership development will involve figuring out the best way to communicate from a variety of low and hi-tech sources. Academic partners should not assume the technological capability of community partners to partner virtually and should provide options for communicating that may include telephone/conference calls and or virtual opportunities such as Zoom, Google Hangout, Skype, FaceTime, or Webinars. 

Sustaining the Relationship - This stage of partnership development involves recognizing and highlighting the contributions of partnership stakeholders, evaluating goals, and assessing impact. Often academic-community partnerships result in academic research that is shared throughout academia. Partnerships that are equitable also find methods to simultaneously share results with the community as well through agreed-upon means. While traditional partnerships may rely on events to discuss and share the work, remote partnerships can utilize open-source online formats to highlight research to various populations.

Remote Workflow Management Tips

Another challenge of working remotely is making sure everyone stays on the same page. While check-ins via Zoom and Google Hangouts (see above) are vital, project management tools and group discussion boards can help ensure everyone is going in the same direction once the meeting adjourns. 

  • Trello: Project management software that quickly and cleanly facilitates collaboration; think of it as a shared to-do list
  • Slack: Customizable message board system to keep the conversation going even when everyone can’t be online at the same time
  • Google Docs: A lo-fi version of both of the above, Google Docs allows a place to collect ideas, conversations and content. Team members can also be assigned tasks to help keep track of who is doing what.

Additional Resources for Virtual, Community-engaged Partnerships: 

Remote experiential learning

For resources about academic continuity and remote experiential learning alternatives, visit:

For questions about changes in scheduled internships, capstone courses, field placements and other student experiential learning activities and how they impact community partners, faculty and students, please contact your school, program or department for specific details.

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