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Formats to implement CSL in your education

Last updated on 23 August 2023
Community Service Learning (CSL) can be tailored to most VU education programmes with a practice-related component. Depending on your course's learning objectives and students' level of experience with societal engagement, you can choose between different formats.

There are various ways to integrate Community Service Learning in your education programme. First of all, you will need to consider to what extent you want to engage societal actors in your course. This could range from a minimal level, by informing or consulting a societal actor, to active participatory engagement in the form of co-creation. Find our formats and modules below, in order of increasing societal engagement.

Formats for course design

  • Low-key CSL

    This format aims to get students how are new to CSL acquainted with real-world interactions. This can be done via the following approaches:

    • Bring the real world into the classroom | Students identify a real-world problem and formulate a problem-solving approach. For example by combining academic theories with project materials, such as proposals or policy briefs.
    • Visit the real world | Organise field trips. Take your students, for example, to a deprived neighborhood and let a community representative show them around.
    • Simulate the real world | Facilitate a role play to train students in CSL competencies. For instance in communication, evaluation and conflict-resolution skills, by using problem analysis and stakeholder-network identification.

    Example: The course ‘Mental Healthcare’ organises guest lectures by both patients and professionals in the field. In addition, students visit a closed psychiatric institution and study the various actor perspectives on a specific psychiatric disorder and related current societal challenges, such as deinstitutionalisation of care, e-health developments, changes in health legislation.

  • Project-based CSL

    In this format, students actively contribute to a community initiative or problem. The societal need is at centre stage and students work as consultants for a societal actor. In that role, they gain knowledge and experience by using the course content to address the societal need. 

    Example: In the course ‘Geriatrics and Aging’ students interview elderly and provide an advisory report to the community partners, to identify elderly’s needs for health and residential support. Through this process, students gain insight into the process of aging and associated diseases and (health) issues, as well as their complex interplay.

  • CSL theses and internships

    If societal issues require a fully dedicated, in-depth research approach, students who already have some experience with collaborating with societal actors, can do an internship or write their theses on that case, following a Community Service Learning approach.

    By collaborating for a prolonged term with a societal partner, students will reflect on the connections between academic content, their own experiences, and the cultural contexts.

Plug & play CSL modules

  • Minor for Bachelor's programmes

    All VU Bachelor programmes can integrate the minor Global Health, which is open to all Bachelor students. 

    In this minor, students from different academic disciplines will collaborate with various local and global societal actors on a real-life complex health problem. Students will address issues related to migration, food security or mental health care. The minor has a duration of five months (30 ECTS), which enables students to make lasting impact.

    Interested? Contact the CSL team

  • Elective for Master's programmes

    Every VU Master programme can readily implement our interdisciplinary community service learning (iCSL) courses as electives. These are designed to facilitate interdisciplinary teamwork between students from diverse academic backgrounds, and to facilitate transdisciplinary collaborations with societal actors. 

    We offer two courses: iCSL 1 and iCSL 2. The courses are open to all Master students. You can integrate both courses as a module in your Master's programme, but they can also be offered separately.

    iCSL 1: defining a complex societal challenge
    3 ECTS | period 2: September-October
    This course focusses on defining a complex societal problem. Students will develop a research plan that proposes how different academic disciplines and societal stakeholders can contribute to a real-world challenge. In order to do this, an interdisciplinary team of students will facilitate a dialogue session with societal actors.

    iCSL 2: investigating how to address the challenge
    6 ECTS | period 4-6: February-June
    An interdisciplinary team of students will examine how to address a specific complex societal challenge. Each team member devotes their own thesis, research project or internship to a sub-question of this challenge.

    Students follow the iCSL 2 course in parallel to writing your thesis. This allows them to integrate the broader insights from the individual projects related to the societal issue. The course ends with a conference, in which students present your findings to a scientific as well as societal audience.

    Interested? Contact the CSL team.

Join a knowledge alliance

As a lecturer, you can take part in one of the CSL knowledge alliances: networks of academic and societal actors who collaborate long-term on one of these broad societal themes: 

  • Sustainability | e.g. circularity, food security, energy transition
  • Mental health | e.g. spaces for mental strength, loneliness (see video)
  • Inclusive public spaces | e.g. green living spaces, shared mobility

Interested in joining one of these alliances? Contact the CSL team.