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Experiential Community Service Learning Projects

Please cite as follows: Chan, CKY (2015). "Experiential Community Service Learning Projects", Engineering Education Enhancement and Research Asia (E3R Asia).


Experiential learning particularly community service learning projects in engineering education promote both intellectual and civic engagement by relating academic learning to real-world problems and needs, engaging students in improving and solving social problems. Some of the experiential community service learning projects in engineering are initiated by external organizations, such as Engineers Without Borders (EWB), while some are initiated by universities, such as the Engineering Projects in Community Service (EPICS) founded by Purdue University. At the University of Hong Kong (HKU), engineering students and faculty members formed the Sichuan Reconstruction Team in 2009 to contribute to post-quake reconstruction (http://www.eee.hku.hk/~sichuan/), similarly, the MingDe project at HKU was led by faculty members and alumni (http://www.civil.hku.hk/mingde/index.html). Experiential community service learning projects in engineering can also be self-initiated by students. For example, Engineers for Community Services (ECOS) is a student organization at the Ohio State University which promotes social responsibility through local and international service learning projects. Depending on the institution/organization, the experiential community service learning projects can vary in terms of destination (i.e. oversea/local), nature of work and credit allocation (i.e. credit bearing/non-credit bearing).

Some people may argue that the assessment of students' participation in service learning may diminish the meaning of participation, however, assessing students is important in order for them to practically realize and reflect their learning experience. Assessment also provides 'evidence for faculties to support their belief that service-learning has a rightful place in the programme' (Strouse, 2003). This is important particularly there have been many well-cited research literature (Astin & Sax, 1998; Kuh, 1995) indicating that experiential community service learning projects allow many transferable skills to be developed, thus, fulfilling many accreditation criteria. Most experiential community service learning projects requires students to work in an external organization, where work needs to be monitored and assessed by the supervisor in place; and yet, there may not be any measures in place to ensure that work is assessed in the same standard as required by the university. Examples of assessment methods and framework for assessing service learning are presented below.