Community Engaged Learning (CEL) Courses

Why Community Engaged Learning Courses?

What to Expect in a Community Engaged Learning (CEL) Course

CEL courses help students to:

  1. Apply what they’re learning in the classroom while serving real needs in the community.
  2. Engage with the community in ways that allow them to build relationships and apply their classroom learning.
  3. Collaborate with peers, the course instructor and community partners.
  4. Critically reflect on their experiences in ways that deepen learning about course topics, themselves, and society.
  5. Contribute to the learning of classmates.
  6. Deepen their understanding and appreciation of different cultures, realities, joys, and challenges as found in the community where they partner.
  7. Develop leadership skills and grow in confidence as potential agents of change.

Types of CEL Courses

Community engaged learning (CEL) courses tend to involve students in the community through in two primary ways:

  1. Direct engagement
  2. Project-based engagement

Direct engagement CEL invites students to build relationships at an organization by consistently being present, on-site or virtually, with the same group of community members working with an organization.

Example: Students in Dr. Emily Shayman’s Introduction to Social Work course support programs at Community Lifeline Ministries in Joliet. Some Lewis students assist with GEMS, an after-school program, which allows them to get to know elementary and middle school youth, helping them with homework and participating in fun activities after school. Other Lewis students work with the Blessing Table, a hot meal site and food pantry where people can come to access food for free.

Project-based CEL engages students with community partners around particular tasks. Students studying a specific topic will work on a project related to that topic on behalf of a partner organization, often in a small group of students.

Example: Students in Dr. Mike Lewis’ Software Systems Capstone course work each semester with a different set of community partners. During the Fall 2022 semester, students partnered with the Fairmont Community Partnership Group, Inc. (FCPGI) to develop a website for the organization. Students worked independently to craft the website based on conversations and electronic communication with FCPGI leadership about the content, layout, and functionality of the site. At the conclusion of the semester, students presented their work to FCPGI for feedback and their use as a live website.

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