Service FAQ

Here we address some frequently asked questions. Where relevant, hyperlinked citations are provided. In many cases, these links will operate seamlessly on campus but may be directly accessible off-campus only after one has logged into the University Library database system. 

Why should I consider a Service component for my course(s)?


Promotion & Tenure

  • Service Engagement/Learning is NOT required, but is recognized
  • Service Engagement/Learning can contribute to:
    • Scholarship (publish about your Service experience) 
    • Teaching (participate in high-impact practice)
    • Service (be recognized for what you do beyond teaching & scholarship)
What are the differences among Service Learning, Service Engagement, & Volunteering?

For an in-depth exploration of multiple levels involvement, please visit our Community Engagement Overview.

  • Service Learning: 
    Course offerings that focus on synergies between academic content and service experience through both instruction and deep reflection connecting content and service (generally 15+ hours)
    "Service Learning" appears in both the Schedule as students register and on their transcripts after they graduate! 
  • Service Engagement:
    Course offerings that involve active service to the community where that Service is expected to supplement and reinforce learning (generally 4-14 hours)
    "Service Engagement" is tracked in the system as an 'attribute'  for administrative and celebratory purposes, but is not visible to students.
  • Volunteering:
    Service to the community that is not associated with course credit
Are internships Service Learning?

While all internships share some features with Service-Learning, not every internship is also a Service-Learning experience.  At USC Upstate, Service-Learning internships meet four criteria: 

  1. Students doing internships have no expectation of financial compensation for the service (organizations may provide to compensation at their own discretion)
  2. Internships involve reflection connecting the service to disciplinary themes throughout the semester; not just in a final report
  3. Internships include recurring reflective discussions between students and an internship instructor
  4. Internships overtly address four Service Learning SLOs  

While Service Learning generally includes attention to issues involving Social Justice and/or service to underserved populations, instructors who find Service SLOs appropriate for their internships are welcome to submit their courses for Service Learning designation

What truly classifies as a solid "service learning" experience?
  • Short Answer: 
    A meaning-filled blended course content with real-life experience, where the expected learning quotient from the service experience equals or even exceeds what we can expect in the classroom.
  • Corollary Comment: 
    Also, the "Service Engagement" designation we expect this Fall will recognize that experience in the community that connects to course content is also super-valuable - even if it doesn't meet or exceed classroom learning. 
  • Offer: 
    Because there are so many different ways to approach excellent Service experiences, we strongly encourage you to email to discuss this in detail. 
What is an appropriate Service experience for my course?

Honestly, only you can answer this question, but as Toole & Toole (1995) observe, the lens that students and instructors place over the experience can make nearly any Service apply to any course content. They say “If students are volunteering at a hospital, for example, the same experience might be used to support outcomes in youth development, citizenship, vocational education, or any academic subject” (102).

Why all the hype about reflection?

Service (even volunteering) without reflection may produce negative effects like narrow understanding and even reinforcement of negative stereotypes (Ash & Clayton, 2009). Critical Reflection should happen iteratively, with clear directions and prompt feedback (and significantly weighted grades) from instructors who students trust (Dyment & O’Connell, 2011).  

When should I have students do reflection?

Reflection is best when it happens before, during, and after Service (Toole & Toole, 1995).

OK, I’m convinced, how do I do it?
Should I have students sign something?

There are many different ways in which students can serve. If students' Service will be under your constant supervision, you probably don't need or want them to sign anything. 

If you will send students out into the community without you, we highly recommend that you have them sign a Service Contract. Click the button below to access a Service Learning Contract template in MS Word Format.

This is a teaching tool and not a legal document, so you are free to modify this document in any way that suits your needs!  

Service Learning Contract 

What do I need to know about liability issues?

The Office of Service Learning procures Workers' Compensation Insurance for all officially designated Service courses through USC Columbia. This policy provides benefits for students involved in required, unpaid Service Learning experiences for officially designated Service courses.  

If you are considering an OPTIONAL Field Trip involving Service, please use the Service Trip Waiver - Template. We also recommend that you use University transportation (often available at low cost) for such activities. 

Where can I publish my work on Service Learning?

Here are some suggestions compiled by others: