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Sustaining community engagement through service learning in a unique public sector-university-community partnership program
conference contributionposted on 06.12.2017, 00:00 by Denise WoodDenise Wood, A Dodd
This paper explores the benefits of service learning as well as the challenges in sustaining a service learning program involving a complex cross-sector partnership between the public sector, university and community organisations. There has been growing interest in recent years in service learning as an approach that can strengthen the integration of teaching, research, knowledge transfer and community. Such programs are not without their challenges given the complex interaction of students, intended learning outcomes and the nature of differing service activities involved in such programs. This paper explores these challenges through a case study of a cross-sector service learning program, the Sustainable Online Community Engagement (SOCE) program, which is a joint initiative of the State Government of South Australia, Office for Volunteers, and the School of Communication, International Studies and Languages at the University of South Australia. The program was established in 2001 and since that time more than 300 South Australian community groups and 400 students have participated in the program. The case study describes key issues associated with developing and delivering a service learning model in partnership with government and in collaboration with volunteer community organisations that harnesses the power of innovative technologies to both engage learners and provide a more sustainable community engagement framework. The findings from evaluations of student and community stakeholder satisfaction are reported and several areas for improvement identified.