CBL Designation

In the spirit of partnership and reciprocity, faculty members from diverse disciplines have engaged their students in community projects and initiatives throughout West Michigan and beyond. By working with members of the community, students are better prepared for both careers and civic participation in a democratic society. Courses that incorporate community engagement into their work may be formally designated as Community-Based Learning (CBL) courses through the University Curriculum Committee (UCC). Community partners may include nonprofit organizations, schools, faith-based organizations, businesses, and industry.

Faculty who are teaching or planning to teach a course that includes community-based learning are encouraged to submit a sample syllabus to UCC, following the process outlined below and on UCC's website.

Questions regarding CBL designation may be directed to the chair of UCC, Robert Adams, at adamsr@gvsu.edu

About CBL

Offering official recognition for CBL courses, UCC has approved a course designation process for community-based learning (CBL). Like SWS courses, the CBL attribute will be searchable in the online schedule. In general, CBL courses should demonstrate engagement with community through the following criteria:

  • Learning objectives: The learning objectives in the syllabus articulate the specific interaction with the community partner.
  • Application and integration: Guided by their instructor and working with a community partner, students engage with a community issue, integrating theory and practice.
  • Reciprocity: The community experience seeks to offer value to the community partner as well as to the students.
  • Reflection: Students participate in an articulated reflection process around the ethical and civic dimensions of the community experience, the discipline, and themselves.

There are several benefits of CBL Designation:

  • The designation gives students advance notice that the class will include community experiences.
  • Official transcripts will document the credit.
  • It appeals to students are seeking opportunities to apply their knowledge and skills in real-world settings and make a difference in their communities.
  • CBL designation recognizes the additional time and effort faculty commit to offer this high-impact learning experience.

Apply for CBL Designation

Step 1: Create a sample syllabus that clearly indicates how the course meets the four criteria above.

Step 2: Have the unit head send the sample syllabus to the UCC chair. Having the unit head send the syllabus indicates that the unit supports adding the designation to the course.

Step 3: If approved, the Records office will be notified, allowing the unit to add the CBL designation on sections of the course during schedule­ building. The CBL designation works like the SWS designation: once a course is approved to use the designation, units can add the CBL designation to any section of the course that meets the criteria. Some sections may have the designation, while others don’t. 


How will the designation appear in the catalog? "CBL" will appear next to the sections of a course that employ community-based learning pedagogy.

Once designated, is the CBL designation good for all sections of future courses of a particular number? Yes, UCC trusts that once CBL has been approved for a course, any future sections of the course could be developed to meet the requirements, much like SWS or hybrid online courses. Thus, either individual sections or multiple sections can be designated as CBL.

How long will it take UCC to approve a submission? Depending on number of submissions received, UCC will act on them within a month. Once approved by UCC and communicated to the Registrar's Office, the designation will be added to the online schedule. Faculty are encouraged to submit proposals to UCC by January 2017 for student course registration in March. For winter 2017 courses, proposers may wish to consider how to inform students who have already registered for CBL courses about what to expect.

Page last modified July 20, 2017