What are the differences between community engagement, service learning, internships, fieldwork, and field trips?

Rather than relying upon specific labels like ‘service learning’ versus ‘internship’ or ‘fieldwork’ it’s important to consider the function of the student’s experience, and the partnership or role within the community. This can refer to a variety of off campus learning experiences and activities that students engage in that contribute to the public good.’ 

Community Engagement is an umbrella term that encompasses the variety of ways the campus collaborates with the community to strengthen and improve the quality of life in communities, that is, contribute to the public good

Service Learning is a teaching method that promotes student learning through active participation in meaningful and planned experiences in the community that contribute to the public good and are directly related to course content. Through reflective activities, students enhance their understanding of course content and sense of social responsibility. 

Internships: From Executive Order 1064, “It is an off-campus activity designed to serve educational purposes by offering experience in a service learning, business, non-profit, or government setting. For the purpose of this executive order ‘internship’ does not include teacher preparation placements or clinical placements such as for nursing, counseling, physical therapy or occupational therapy.” 

Even though there is some overlap between ‘service learning courses’ and ‘internships,’ the essential differences between an internship and service learning are as follows: internships generally require more hours and/or expertise; students may seek out internships independent of courses for pre-professional experience or pay; students may or may not be asked in any formal way to connect experience with discipline learning or social responsibility; an internship placement may be in the for-profit arena, as opposed to a service learning placement which is traditionally with non-profits, social service agencies, schools, and some government agencies. 

Fieldwork courses (also called Field Instruction or Field Practicum) place students in supervised community-based learning experiences. Fieldwork courses are traditionally strongly connected to discipline learning, required in sequential courses for a major, require discipline-specific expertise and a large number of hours. 

Field Trips are off campus activities for students, who may or may not include some type of service component. One time service event activities are frequently considered ‘field trips.’ 

Community Partners are schools, school site support agencies, non-profit organizations and associations, and social service and government agencies.

What does the Center for Community Engagement do?  

  • document, gather, and disseminate data on community engagement activities and events for the campus and community
  • advise and consult on best practices; develop and share resources
  • help direct interested campus and community members seeking out opportunities
  • administer service learning courses
  • support scholarship, research, and grants related to community engagement
  • develop and maintain community partnerships
  • coordinate and promote student leadership for community engagement
  • coordinate the Freshmen Day of Service.


What is Student Leadership for Community Engagement?

Student Leadership for Community Engagement (SLCE) is an initiative within the Center for Community Engagement that provides students with opportunities for growth and development as leaders through paid training, focused experiences, and community service, enabling them to be leaders on and off campus and catalysts for positive change within the community. Through our program, we hope to help students understand leadership skills and utilize them effectively for accomplishing goals; encourage them to exercise personal, professional, and social responsibilities in lives, careers, and communities; teach them to communicate, collaborate & work effectively in a diverse society; and help them to assess, motivate, and hold accountable themselves and others. 

Who are Pioneers for Change

Pioneers for Change (PfC) is made up of a select team of student interns who serve as leaders within the Center for Community Engagement on and off campus. PfCs work in two capacities— in support of the Freshmen Day of Service and as Community Engagement Interns. They participate in paid leadership training and experiences.

What is the Freshmen Day of Service?

In partnership with the General Education Program, the Center for Community Engagement works each year to coordinate multiple one-day service projects for freshmen as part of their Freshmen Year Experience General Studies Course. The projects run during the first 7-8 weekends in the spring quarter.

Find more information on service learning and community engagement 

Why are service learning and community engagement important to the CSU?

According to CSU Chancellor Timothy White, “…partnerships with more than 3,000 community organizations throughout the Golden State and 32 million hours of service annually resulting in an economic impact of $708 million. While these numbers are impressive, they do not capture how the CSU is preparing active, engaged and informed civic leaders for the 21st century, nor do they capture the personal stories of lives being transformed. 

Service learning and community engagement programs are hallmarks of the California State University and an integral component of our mission to provide the public services that enrich our 23 universities and our local communities. CSU students, faculty, staff and more than 2.8 million alumni are contributing to the social, health, cultural and economic well-being of our local and global communities.”  

More information on community engagement throughout the CSU 


Why use service learning?

To enhance student learning through connections between academic course work and real world applications--preparing students to succeed in diverse local and global economies, and enriching personal, professional, and social responsibilities.

What are the learning objectives? 

  • To enhance academic learning by allowing students to apply their classroom learning and to appreciate the connections between their academic coursework and the community.
  • To contribute to civic and moral learning by increasing students’ understanding of both the richness and the problems of our community.
  • To contribute to professional learning by introducing students to potential careers while helping them to develop the social awareness and understanding necessary for effective professional development. 

Are there guidelines for service learning courses?

Guidelines are as follows: 

  • Service projects or activities must meet community-identified needs.
  • Service projects must require interaction between students and community and/or partners.
  • Service projects or activities must link to course content and/or learning outcomes.
  • The course must have a formal reflection component (paper or presentation) that relates the service to course content and/or learning outcomes.
  • Student placements and community partnerships must follow campus guidelines available at the Center for Community Engagement.  

How do I put Service Learning in my course? 

Service Projects may include:

  • direct aid to individuals/groups in need,
  • education, recreation, or outreach activities,
  • policy analysis and research at the request of the community with specific opportunities for dissemination or presentation,
  • event implementation

Curricular Options: 

1.       Service Learning courses: These are courses in which a portion of the student’s work happens off campus in a community setting.

2.       Service Learning project options: These are service projects which are offered as one option for a project requirement in a course 

3.       Service Learning labs: Additional course units can be added to an existing course, or to sections of an existing course to ‘house’ the service learning component. 

4.       Other community service learning experience: A wide variety of additional curricular arrangements may be developed as long as they include the essential three components: academic study, service, and structured reflection linking the study and the service.

(for additional ideas please contact the Center for Community Engagement)

Tips for Integrating Service into the Curriculum:

  • Talk about the service on the first day of class, perhaps even inviting a representative from a community agency to visit. Address student fears, concerns, and expectations.
  • Encourage your students (perhaps even as an in-class activity) to use a planning guide to find the best time and place for their service. If possible, you may want to have prepared ahead of time the various time slots the agencies on your list have available. Many of our students work and will automatically respond that they don't have any extra time. If the service assignment is an option, then this isn't a problem. However, depending on the nature of your assignment, there are many flex-time opportunities for students in evenings and on the weekends.
  • Just in case, have a back up plan for students with special needs.
  • Prepare students with the appropriate skills and brief them on their responsibilities regarding professionalism, commitment, and follow-through. Students will also need a specific timeline for contacting agencies, signing up for a placement, and starting and finishing their service.
  • Make sure to contact the community partner(s) at least once during the term to seek feedback. 


Placements & Preparation 

How do I find community partners and manage student placements?

Students can self-select from our database or if the faculty member is establishing a new partnership or allowing students to choose their own sites, the faculty member is then responsible for contacting agencies to complete the online Partnership Request before students can be placed. Based on this form a contract between the university and the agency will be established. Please ask community partners to complete the online Partnership Request at the above link. Students must also complete a waiver. 

More information on this process go to http://www.csueastbay.edu/faculty/ofd/communityengagement/faculty/faculty-guide.html 

How do I prepare my students for Service Learning?

It is recommended that two orientations occur:

The First Orientation, prior to the first day of service, gives students information about the community-based organization and the nature of their service placements. This should take place on campus, either in class or in a required outside-of-class meeting.

The Second Orientation, presented by the community-based organization, should take place at the site where students will be working. This is the simplest, most effective way for students to become aware of emergency policies, accident procedures, and the rules and regulations of the site.

Since orientation addresses all the factors students should be made aware of before accepting the service-learning placements, all students should attend both orientations in order to be permitted to serve. While we don't want to 'scare' students out of participating, all parties are best protected if placement details are presented, any questions asked, and students sign an informed consent that ensures they are aware of the nature of their placement and agree to the terms. 

Orientation Provided Before First Day of Service

Details related to serving at the site:

  • Mission of the Community-Based Organization (CBO)
  • Who does the Community-Based Organization serve?
  • What programs / service does the CBO offer?
  • Specific policies and procedures related to the service placement.
  • Review any proof of eligibilities that is needed (fingerprinting, background check). Who will cover the cost of this? Where should students do to have fingerprinting done?
  • Discuss CBO volunteer expectations.
  • Provide students with a job description detailing the work they will do (outline the scope of work). Explain the types of activities that are "outside" the scope of work.
  • Give the students their site supervisor's contact information.
  • Will the students need to meet with the site supervisor prior to beginning their services?
  • How closely will the students be supervised?
  • Who do the students call if they cannot make their schedule service or will be late?
  • Discuss appropriate attire when providing service (based on CBO standards).
  • Provide specific training for the position.
  • What will the students learn? What qualities or skills will the students develop?
  • Review confidentially rules for the site. Are pictures or video allowed?
  • Review the risks associated with this placement. (Risks should directly reflect those listed in the Learning Plan.)
  • Explain what students should do it harassment occurs. Whom do they contact?
  • Talk about service schedule (total number of hours, days and times of the week, etc.). Also discuss beginning and end of service. Students should not volunteer outside of schedule hours until requirement is complete.
  • Who can the students contact with questions or concerns about their placement (CBO contact and campus contact)?
  • Is there a CBO training or orientation to attend? Where? When? How long?
  • Where do students check in at the site on their first day?
  • How are students' service hours recorded? (For their course and the CBO)
  • Give location of site and directions via personal car or public transportation. Where will students park if they drive? What is the cost associated with parking or taking public transportation? Emphasize that each student is responsible for getting to and from the site.
  • Who will be evaluating the students' service? Is there a formal evaluation the CBO will fill out? 

On site Orientation - Must Occur On or Before First Day of Service 

Site Specific Information:

  • Tour of site - location of restroom and break room.
  • Where, and with whom, do students check in each time they arrive at the site?
  • Where is the logbook kept (to record service hours)?
  • Review safety rules of the site, location of emergency exits, and emergency procedures.
  • Introduce students to other staff at the agency.
  • Emergency Contact Information: ask students' permission to share with university.
  • Review accident procedures at the site and what to do if a student it client is hurt.   

How do I help my students make connections between community-based and course learning? 

Academic Reflection 

How do I know if I’m ready to manage a service learning project with my students? 

Community-Based and Community-Focused Learning 

Community Partners 

How do I know if I am ready to work with service learning students? Ask: 

  • Do I have a specific project or need with a projected timeline or schedule?
  • Can I supervise students?
  • Is there a safe work area for students?
  • Can I be flexible to consider student schedules and academic calendars?
  • Am I comfortable speaking with faculty members and university staff?
  • Can I describe what students will learn through their service? 

What are the ways I can collaborate with the CCE?

The Center for Community Engagement can assist you in connecting with various programs and departments in the university. We have two specific initiatives—our Freshmen Day of Service and Pioneers for Change. 

How do I become a community partner?

Complete Partnership Request 

How do I find students or faculty to work with?

Academic service learning, internships, and community service are generally coordinated through three different areas in the university.  There is no 'cookie cutter' model for developing partnerships. Mostly it takes good old fashioned leg-work. Generally, faculty and program coordinators are approachable -- however, because of the nature of 'academia' some folks here need a credential or degree to spark their interest. Therefore, learning the culture of the university: the lingo, academic calendar, and procedures will help you to be successful in the matchmaking process.

Academic Service Learning activities (service learning courses, internships, fieldwork) at CSUEB are facilitated through and connected to specific courses based on a faculty member's interest in sponsoring a service learning activity in his/her class. Some faculty actively seek out these types of projects  by contacting the Center for Community Engagement. On the whole, we must reach out to faculty to let them know of the community-based learning opportunities for their students.  The community partner can assist the CCE by informing our office of activities well in advance of the calendar date. Keep in mind that faculty must plan out courses the quarter before they teach them. For example, a faculty member teaching a course in the spring (end of March to beginning of June) will be planning a syllabus and calendar in the winter! Because we run on a ten week quarter system, there is not much room for last minute schedule changes. Understanding Service Learning Placements[1] 

Internships are coordinated through two offices: the Career Development Center and the department office. The Career Development Center has a great online submission form for internships. See the Career Development Center's form [2] Many department offices keep binders of internships or have faculty coordinators. You can contact the departments through the campus directory (Campus Directory [3]).  The essential differences between an internship and academic service learning are as follows: internships generally require more hours and/or expertise; students seek out internships independent of courses for additional academic credit or pre-professional experience. 

The third mode, community service, follows a more traditional model of volunteerism. Many student clubs and organizations engage in community service. The Center for Community Engagement's Pioneers for Change[4] student leadership program may also be able to assist with events and activities. Our campus boasts a variety of clubs and organizations—social, cultural, academic—that may connect with the population or mission of your organization. Our Student Life and Leadership Program frequently coordinates community outreach projects. You can contact clubs and organizations through Student Life and Leadership, studentlife@csueastbay.edu 

What kinds of information should be included in a student orientation? 

See faculty info above


Student Handbook for Service Learning & Community Engagement  

Why seek out a service learning experience?

The Benefits of Service Learning Experiences for College Students: personal, professional, and social responsibility 

I’m taking a service learning course, how do I find a Service Learning placement? 

Placements are made through the S4 database. Request a Service Learning placement

How do community engagement and service learning help prepare students for the job market?

How can students use service learning and community engagement in resumes and employment applications?  

As an incoming freshman, what does service learning have to do with me?

All incoming freshmen have the opportunity to participate in the Freshmen Day of Service when they enroll for their General Studies course. The Freshmen Day of Service is a new tradition here at CSUEB. Since 2012 the CCE has send hundreds of students out into the community to serve.

How it works: the CCE coordinates various community service projects (with participating community partners) in the bay area for each weekend in the first half of the spring quarter. Freshmen will register for ONE project that suits their schedule and interests in the winter quarter. 

  • Print This Page
  • Bookmark and Share