Community Based Learning Courses

Step 1

Faculty member creates a sample CBL course section syllabus that meets the four CBL criteria

Step 2

Submit documents to Unit Head or College Dean for approval of course

Step 3

Approved CBL courses will be sent to the Undergraduate Curriculum Council 

Step 4

CBL courses will be listed on department course offerings through the Registrar's office

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.

Questions regarding CBL designation may be directed to the Director of Civic Learning and Community Engagement Travus Burton or the Pew FTLC Faculty Fellow Patty Stow Bolea. 

What are CBL courses?

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

CBL Designation Criteria and Process

In order to be considered for the CBL designation, a sample course syllabus (not Syllabus of Record) must be created that addresses the following four criteria, which represent best practices regarding CBL pedagogical requirements:

1. Community engagement: The types of community interaction must be articulated, as well as listing potential partners.

2. Application and integration: Guided by their instructor and working with a community partner, students engage with a community issue, integrating theory and practice.

3. Reciprocity: The community experience seeks to offer value to the community partner as well as to the students.

4. Reflection: Students participate in an articulated reflection process around the community experience. For example, the professional, ethical, and civic dimensions of the experience.

For the purposes of this designation we define community as any organization or group that is separate from GVSU. This could include a non-profit organization, a business, or an informally organized group of people interested in a particular issue. Faculty have the opportunity to engage outside the academy with entities that may have a shared interest and/or expertise in the focus of the course. It is incumbent for faculty to examine student learning needs and course learning objectives in balance with the community interests and needs during the partnership and project development phase. 

Courses that meet the criteria should be submitted by faculty for review to UCC.

1. Faculty member creates a sample course syllabus (based on course Syllabus of Record) that clearly indicates how the course meets the four criteria.

2. Upon Unit Head and College Dean approval, forward the sample syllabus to the UCC chair for final UCC approval.

3. If approved by UCC, 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.)

Current Course Offerings

LIB 322 Wicked Problems in Sustainability 

LIB 380 Jewish Histories 

HTM 413 Advanced Food and Beverage 

In the event that students will be required to participate in CBL course activities at an off-campus location please consider using this Community-Based Learning Agreement form. This form is appropriate if your department does not have a formal agreement in place with the specified community partner for the location where the students will be required to go. This form is intended to mitigate liability from unforeseeable accidents for GVSU students, faculty and the University while ensuring that community partners maintain Comprehensive General Liability Insurance for the host site.  

Please visit the Pew Faculty Teaching and Learning Center for additional tools and resources. 



Page last modified June 26, 2018