“Service-learning is a form of experiential education in which students engage in activities that address human and community needs together with structured opportunities intentionally designed to promote student learning and development. Reflection and reciprocity are key concepts of service-learning.”

Jacoby & Associates, 1996

About Service-Learning

Service-learning is not simply another active learning strategy, it fundamentally enhances the experience of teaching and learning for both students and faculty. We’ll help you find the best blend of learning, experience, and engagement.

Academic Service-Learning

Community service and engagement manifest in many forms and all are important parts of our campus experience and commitment. Amongst these many ways to engage effectively with the community, the Office of Service Learning and Leadership is here to support the high-impact practice of academic service-learning. The diagram illustrates the distinction between service-learning and some of its related peer strategies.

The diagram illustrates the distinction between service-learning and some of its related peer strategies (academic study, practical experience, civic engagement, internships/fieldwork, student volunteerism/community service, and civic engagement, awareness & understanding). Service Learning is at the core of these strategies.

Adapted from: Heffernan (2001)

UNLV Service-Learning Criteria

Service-learning pedagogy is not appropriate for every course. However, it can be effective in any discipline.

The following set of six criteria were established in the fall of 2017 and should be thought of as the starting place for implementing service-learning at UNLV. It is anticipated that through experience, feedback, and a growing culture of service-learning practice on campus, these criteria may evolve in time. All six criteria must be fulfilled before a course may be formally recognized as a service-learning course at UNLV.

Course Design

  1. The relationship with the community partner is clearly articulated and mutually agreed upon. It may be a one-time collaboration, but longer-term collaborations often yield more significant community impact and deeper student learning. Best practice is to involve the community partner as a close educational partner in the course design process from the beginning.
  2. The community need being addressed is clearly defined, preferably by the community (or community partner) itself.
  3. The associated assignments stemming from the service-learning experience(s) must directly contribute to the student's course grade.
  4. At least one course learning outcome is achieved through the service-learning experience.

Service-Learning Implementation

  1. The service that students engage in must demonstrably benefit a public good. Some internships, externships, placements, and other academic credit-bearing experiences that are primarily designed for workforce preparation or student professional development, while valuable, are not service-learning unless they expressly meet this criteria.
  2. Students must be guided through a meaningful opportunity to reflect on, make meaning of, and translate their experience to broader personal, course, or disciplinary contexts. This may be done in any number of ways including but not limited to: direct facilitation, guiding reflective prompts, papers, journals, etc.

Benefits of Service-Learning


Students in service-learning classes can benefit academically, professionally, and personally. These are just a few of the ways:

  • Increase understanding of the class topic
  • Gain hands-on experience (possibly leading to an internship or job later)
  • Opportunities to contribute to the Las Vegas community while building resumes and work experiences
  • Explore or cement values and beliefs
  • Develop critical-thinking and problem-solving skills
  • Grow understanding of diverse cultures and communities
  • Learn more about social issues and their root causes
  • Improve ability to handle ambiguity and be open to change; become more flexible
  • Develop or enhance skills, especially in the areas of communication, collaboration, and leadership
  • Test out skills, interests, and values in a potential career path, or learn more about a field that interests a student
  • Grow a professional network of people to possibly connect with later for jobs or internships
  • Satisfy the student’s urge toward public service or civic participation


Faculty can benefit personally and professionally from integrating service-learning into courses. Teaching with service-learning can:

  • Align with UNLV tenure and promotion guidelines
  • Encourage interactive teaching methods and reciprocal learning between students and faculty
  • Add new insights and dimensions to class discussions
  • Lead to new avenues for research and publication
  • Promote students' active learning; engage students with different learning styles
  • Help students achieve the UNLV undergraduate learning outcomes (UULO’s)
  • Develop students' civic and leadership skills
  • Boost course enrollment by attracting highly motivated and engaged students
  • Provide networking opportunities with engaged faculty in other disciplines
  • Foster relationships between faculty and Las Vegas community organizations, which can open other opportunities for collaborative work
  • Provide firsthand knowledge of community issues; provide opportunities to be more involved in community issues
  • Increase student retention (Astin & Sax, 1998)

Community Partners

Community partners participating in service-learning can benefit in these ways:

  • Gain additional human resources needed to achieve organizational goals
  • Inject new energy, enthusiasm, and perspectives into an organization's work
  • Grow an organization's volunteer pool; service-learning students will share their experiences with friends and classmates
  • Increase public awareness of key issues
  • Reach out to youth — an important part of any organization's future support
  • Educate students/youth about community issues; correct any misperceptions
  • Help prepare today's students to be tomorrow's civic leaders
  • Network with colleagues in other organizations and agencies
  • Identify and access other university resources; build relationships with UNLV faculty, students, and staff

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