Community Based Learning (CBL) Courses

Community Based Learning (CBL)  is a pedagogical tool used in coursework that requires students to engage with community partners as part of their required academic work in a specific course section. CBL can be adopted as a designation on the Banner system (similar to SWS), allowing course sections to be identified both during registration and on student transcripts. 

In Community Based Learning (CBL) approved courses, faculty with a wide range of interests, expertise and relationships have developed opportunities for students to partner with community members, organizations and professionals in the communities they serve. 

At GVSU, we define a "community partner" broadly, and may include a nonprofit organization, business, campus partner, or an organized group of people interested in and working on a particular issue. It is incumbent for faculty to examine student learning needs and course learning objectives in balance with the community interests and needs during the project development phase and throughout the partnership. 

Designing a CBL course can open the door for a variety of additional student learning outcomes and community connections. Community Based Learning may ensue for an entire semester or be relegated to a specific unit or learning outcome within the course. When designing a CBL course it is imperative for faculty to plan ahead with their community partner, while working backwards from both the desired learning outcomes for students and desired impact in the community. 

For assistance or questions regarding CBL proposal development, course design and/or implementation, please contact Director for Civic Learning and Community Engagement, Travus Burton ([email protected]).


 By working with members of the community, students are better prepared for careers and active citizenship.

1. Community-based learning or volunteer experience. 

  • Applied learning
  • First opportunity
  • First impression

2. Internship, field experience, practicum

Opportunity to showcase skill and value

  • Employer- "Do we like this student?"
  • Student- "Do  I like this profession?"

3. Professional references, graduation

"Yes, I would recommend or hire this new graduate because I know them and their work."

4. Job offer, new career

"I got the job because of the connection I made and what I can do."

Page last modified March 10, 2023