Developing a Service Course

This page is designed to help you think through and plan out converting a course or creating a new course with a Service focus. This information is designed to be applicable to both Service Learning and Service Engagement and may help you decide which designation you should pursue.

The materials here may be used before, during, and/or after consultation with the Service Learning team. To make an appointment to discuss course planning, please email

Community Need

How will you determine the community organization(s) that will be Served? 

  • Organizationally Originated: A community partner has reached out to you, asking for something.
  • Organically Originated: You live and work in the community, have discovered a need, and have established a connection with a community partner who wants the service your class can provide.
  • Optimistically Originated: You believe/know there is a need in the community and you’d like help in finding a community partner who wants the service your class can provide.
    •  YES, this is an acceptable approach and YES, we can help you with this!
Community Partners

A core value in SL/CE is respect for, and reciprocity with, our community partners. As the University Senate approved definition of Service Learning stipulates, we must all "collaboratively address identified community needs with a community partner." 

Community Partners

Curricular Need

What content areas or course themes might be enhanced through a service experience?

  • Convert an existing course to include service to enhance students’ experience
    NOTE: It is possible to have BOTH Service and non-Service sections of a single course (link to Instructional Mode) – cross-listed concurrently or offered in different semesters
  • Create a new course that includes service to supplement the current course offerings
    NOTE: The Office of Service-Learning and Community Engagement does not approve new courses. All new course proposals must be submitted and approved through Faculty Governance.
  • When your course is conceptually complete, please click here to fill out the Service Course Designation Application.  
Instructional Mode

How will you offer your Service course?

  • Sectional Division
    • Uniform (single section – all students do Service)
    • Bi-Modal (2 sections/1 course – Students choose Service or Traditional)
    • Delivery Style
      • Traditional F2F
      • Hybrid: F2F + Online (input from the Office of Distance Education is encouraged)
      • Fully Online (approval from the Office of Distance Education is required)
Service Models

There are five primary models on which service courses are typically constructed. 

Service Models


e-Service Learning adds another level of complexity to the decision process. If you are considering including service in a class with a virtual component - with electronically delivered service &/or course content, we invite you to review our e-SL/CE page


Reflection Models

Reflection, a unique and critical component of high-quality programming, is described by Learn and Service America as an opportunity to provide "students and faculty with a way to look back on their experiences, evaluate them and apply what is learned to future experiences with new experiences to develop critical thinking and problem solving skills."

How will you encourage your students to reflect on their Service? 

While free reflection has certain advantages, Sturgil & Motley (2014) suggest that guided, dialogic, private reflections may be most effective.  

There are many models for guided reflection; two of the most influential are described in detail here: "What, So What, Now What? (Toole & Toole, 1994; Rolfe et al 2001), and the DEAL Model (Ash & Clayton, 2009). 

Review Reflection Models

Reflection Techniques

Reflection brings service together with course concepts, and therefore warrants particular attention in service course development.

Maximum effect derives from using multiple reflection techniques. We offer several suggestions for reflection based on the Service-Learning Faculty Handbook from Virginia Tech. 

Reflection Techniques

Remember your chosen service SLOs as your plan your reflection. 

Value? Integration? Evaluation?

This section contains a series of questions to help you flesh out practical issues in your Service course.

  • Academic Value:
    What discipline-specific content will students consider before, during, and after their service?
  • Integration: 
    How will you integrate service-learning into the classroom (discussions, work into lecture material, ask SL students to illustrate points being made, etc.)?
  • Evaluation:
    What demonstrations of learning will you have service learners produce? (journals, paper, oral reports, etc.)?
    What percentage of total grade will be based on Service?
Service Learning vs. Service Engagement

To recruit, track, and celebrate students who accept the challenges involved in Service oriented courses, and the instructors who make such courses possible, the designations Service Engagement and Service Learninghave been created. For approved course offerings, these designations are included in the course title in the Schedule and on student transcripts.

Service Learning 

The original designation – based on our peers and aspirants in the university-based Service domain. Courses with this designation will be marked "Service Learning" in the Course Schedule and on students' transcripts

  • ≥15 hours of service/student with an identified community partner (preparation + contact time + follow-up)
  • ≤ 7% of the service (1 of 15 hours) = administrative (filing, mailing, etc.)
  • ≥ 30% of course grade based on service (performance, reflection, etc.)
  • Identified need evolved with community partner
  • Guided reflection connecting service experience and course content
  • Survey-based program assessment (Do it yourself and encourage students and community partners to participate)
  • Adhere to 4 of the 8 Service Learning SLOs
  • Complete Hours Served report
Service Engagement

Added to recognize and celebrate the broad spectrum of Service opportunities at Upstate. Courses with this designation will be tracked via attributes in the system for awards and other recogntion, but will be unmarked in the Course Schedule and on students' transcripts

  • At least 4 hours for each student per semester of active service to the community
  • Adherence to the community collaboration element of the Faculty Senate's Definition of Service Learning
  • Adhere to 2 of the 8 Service Learning SLOs
  • Basic reflection tying service to course concepts
  • Survey-based program assessment (Do it yourself and encourage students and community partners to participate)
  • Complete Hours Served report
Students' Work Load

Upstate policy defines expectations of “one hour of classroom or direct faculty instruction and a minimum of two hours of out-of-class student work each week for approximately 15 weeks for one semester hour of credit… or the equivalent amount of work over a different amount of time.”

  • Service = Instructional time (generally associated with “Service Learning”)
    • Students are expected to be deeply involved in Service, deriving equal (or greater) benefit from their Serves as they would from classroom instruction and their involvement and learning is evidenced in deep response to and reflection about their service.
    • Classroom time may be exchanged for Service time (up to a 1 for 1 exchange)
      • Example: A class schedule for MWF may meet only on MW with F time dedicated to Service
  • Course projects may be adjusted to compensate for Service time  
    • Example: In a bi-modal design, students in the Service section may be expected to attend all class meetings, but produce an alternate final project with more reflection, fewer words, and less rigorous research requirements
    • Service = Out-of-Class Work (generally associated with “Service Engagement”)
      • Service is expected to supplement and reinforce learning on a level roughly equivalent to homework.
      • Examples Instructional vs. Out-of-Class Service:
        • Out of Class Time:
          Students in a Global Studies course volunteer to assist with the Spartanburg International Festival through 
        • Instructional Time: 
          Following in-class preparation, students in a Global Studies Course work with internationally focused organizers of the Spartanburg International Festival, including outreach to stakeholders representing at least one international country and working with these stakeholders to maximize the impact of their booth through materials provided, activities offered, and booth design. 
Sample Service Contract

While not required, you may find this Service Learning Contract Template helpful in terms of accountability. 

Feel free to modify this template to fit your course needs!  

Service SLOs

In order to promote best high-impact practices and create rigorous, career-relevant, accessible, and transformative service opportunities, USC Upstate has adopted the eight requisite career competencies identified by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) and, for each, has extrapolated two key Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs) that reflect skills and insights USC Upstate students should hone through courses designated "Service." 

Quick Links: Other SLO Resources:

  1. SLO Overview
  2. SLO Assessment Options
  3. SLO Common Assessment Rubric 
I still have questions!

We have provided a FAQ page where many answers can be found, but we are always happy to address your questions indivicdually. Please email to ask a question or set up an appointment to talk face to face.