Service Learning Network

Incorporating Risk Managment into the Course

Be sure to follow established department procedures.  In addition, service-learning courses should adhere to the following requirements.  

These items are required of everyone who incorporates a service-learning component in the classroom.

  1. State in the syllabus that there is a service-learning component.  If there is off-campus travel involved state that also.  (In some circumstances it may be appropriate to provide an alternative to the service-learning component.)
  1. Identify any special requirements for participation in the activity - special skills, fitness certification, as well as any hazards or dangers that might affect the health and safety of the participants.  If requirements to engage in the service-learning are not in addition to normal class requirements (e.g. the service-learning in an art class may involve work hazards that would normally be present in the class even if there were no service-learning component), then no additional precautions need be delineated in the syllabus or student contract of participation.
  1. Have each student complete an informational contract (note - not a waiver of legal liability).
  1. Ask students to advise you of any special disabilities, problems or needs that may need to be accommodated.
  1. Define the scope of the project and the level of student involvement in the project.  Make certain students know contact persons if they have questions or concerns.
  1. Use checklists and release forms to ensure that information is properly communicated.

These items are required of service-learning projects that pose a physical, emotional, or intellectual risk to the student or university beyond what is typical of the classroom setting. 


  1. The assumption for risk and release for off campus activities form must be completed by every participant prior to the activity, and deposited with the department. This form is to be maintained by the department of the faculty/staff employee consistent with University record retention guidelines (typically 4 years).
  1. Develop a plan for emergencies such as theft, illness, vehicle emergency, weather safety/delays, student misconduct or threats to the safety of the student or others, should be completed.  This plan should include telephone numbers of supervisors and other appropriate contact personnel (such as police, fire, etc.).
  1. Obtain signed parental permission forms for any minor students (under 18 years of age) participating.
  1. Bring along a first aid kit if available. It's a good idea to have someone in the group familiar with first aid and/or CPR.  In some cases is may be mandatory to have students and staff trained in First Aid and CPR/AED.
  1. Consider any special clothing or equipment that may be needed because of weather or other conditions.


Reference: Risk Reduction Task Force, Grand Valley State University College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. (2011). Identifying and managing risk associated with experiential learning.  Unpublished manuscript, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Grand Valley State University, Allendale, Michigan.

Page last modified September 11, 2011