Resources for Community Engaged Teaching & Learning during COVID-19: Social Distancing, Isolation and Quarantine

Resources for Community Engaged Teaching & Learning during COVID-19 Social Distancing, Isolation and Quarantine

Updated November 16th, 2020

As the COVID pandemic persists community-engaged learning classes continue to explore the possibilities of civic and community engagement in virtual spaces.

The CITL Service-Learning Program created and collected these resources to help you continue teaching through the disruptions in the relationships between you, your community partner, and your students. These resources are general guidelines and questions to ask about revising your course and ideas for continuing the community partnerships that hopefully benefit your partner and help meet your course and civic learning outcomes.

We will update this page with additional ideas and resources as we learn of them. 

The Service-Learning Program is available for virtual consultations should you want to talk through any of these ideas for pivoting your community-based class online. Please reach out to Michael Valliant ( set up a phone call or Zoom meeting to best assist you.

The new baseline:Waive in-person service for the semester

Set as a goal for yourself figuring out how to teach your students and continue addressing/learning from community issues without in-person, face-to-face contact. This could take the form of virtual, project-based service, with the agreement of your partner, or pivoting to other means for community and social issues to provide student learning missing without service. We don’t want to require anything of students that risks their safety or the safety of partners or the broader community. While we cannot control individual actions, we want to reiterate the university position that students return home and maintain social distancing.

First: Communicate with community partners and students

Discuss with your community partners how to move forward

  • Reach out to your partner contact (if you haven’t already). E-mail is likely best at this time. Anticipate delayed responses as community agencies and programs establish their own new protocols and levels of operation. Reiterate that IU has moved all classes online through the end of the semester and that in-person service is no longer an option for your students. Ask if your partner has any urgent needs you can plug into. Consult the for ideas for continued remote collaboration if your partner is capable of continued engagement.   
    • Is continued engagement reasonable for them, you, and your students? Respect their limits in working with your students at this time.
    • How can you pivot your class to address more urgent needs partners currently have that can be met remotely? Can you use any of these ideas and activities for teaching and learning when in-person community engagement is suspended?
  • Make a plan: 
    • If your partner agrees that some kind of virtual service is possible, develop a plan with the community partner, factoring in the new realities for your students. What is the project? What can you accomplish in 5-7 weeks? How will you share the final product? What is the timeline?
    • If your partner declines continued engagement, offer to stay in touch for future collaborations when they have capacity and you teach the class again.
      • Now think about pivoting your class to include activities that help students consider community and social issues without service.

Talk to your students

  • Involve your students in a discussion about restructuring the class. Ask them for their ideas about how to continue service or conduct community supportive activities that also support their learning.
  • Be transparent with your students regarding new expectations around the course’s service requirement.
  • Let students know they will not be expected to complete service hours or requirements per the original course plan if those requirements can no longer be completed in light of current IU policy.
  • Share as much as you can when you can regarding how requirements will change for the course in light of the virtual teaching environment, including how these changes can shift quickly given the uncertainty and fluidity of what’s happening.
  • Ask them about their access to technology so you can plan your teaching accordingly. This blog post, Ensuring Equitable Access to your Classes, can help. Manage your own expectations about what your students are experiencing and what "teaching remotely” might mean.

Second: Plan to pivot and be flexible

Pivoting your class online requires an overall examination of the structure of your class. The Keep Teaching Website and CITL blog have many detailed resources. Pivot Your Course: Adaptations for Temporary Online Teaching has helpful considerations for the course structure.

Whether continuing to work with your partner is possible or not you can incorporate activities into your class to address community issues. Here are some ideas and links to resources for teaching and learning activities that can be completed when in-person community engagement is suspended.

  • Take this time to focus on integrating critical reflection to generate discussion and learning. (Utilize Canvas as a space for online discussion or responding to one another’s reflective responses.) This packet was created for IUPUI’s recent workshop on strengthening the quality of critical reflection across HIPs and has some good tools and prompts for you to consider.
  • Use or revise these questions, Leveraging the Learning Opportunity of a Global Health Situation, created by Susan Haarman in the Loyola University Chicago’s Center for Experiential Learning, to help your students reflect on the impacts of the pandemic on community organizations, themselves, and on the intersection of their learning and the COVID-19 outbreak.

The Center for Civic Reflection fosters the practice of reflective discussion through the use of readings, images, and videos to “help people consider the values and beliefs that underlie their commitment leading to . . . more committed, effective action.” You can use one of their already developed discussion plans, facilitator summaries, and additional resources to engage students in reflective dialogue on a range of topics with the current crisis as the source of experience. Here are some examples: 

  1. Fear and leadership
  2. Is crisis a destructive force or an opportunity for renewal?
  3. What are our responsibilities as citizens? Who or what are we responsible for?
  4. How should we respond in a crisis?

    • Research social issues and examine impact of COVID-19 from a public health lens. Think about the particular social issues that your community-engaged learning projects are addressing and have your students complete online research on those social issues; in particular, have them look at how those particular issues or populations are affected by a crisis such as coronavirus. Have students examine what is currently happening in response to the pandemic in regards to underlying structures of power, inequity, bias, and discrimination.
    • Have students examine the communities where they are staying using the lens of your community partner’s issue focus (food insecurity, poverty, health & wellbeing, aging, social determinants of health).
    • Research the needs and responses happening on local, regional, and national scales, analyzing why those needs exist and how and why different communities respond the way they do
    • Gather and analyze crisis communications from local, state, regional, or national governments. Write letters based on findings with recommendations to elected officials (mayors, county and city councils, state representatives, congressional senators and representatives).
    • Conduct online research on best practices or develop tools for program assessment.
    • Project how organizations or small businesses will be impacted by the crisis. Create a listing of grant opportunities that may be applicable for their organization.
    • With permission and support of your partner, conduct remote interviews with current/past clients about their experiences, impact of the organization on where they are today.

    • Create a public service announcement for your local community about Covid-19. Research the facts, know your community audience, site your sources. Advocate for hand washing, sanitize, social distancing. Choose your language and platform to bring about awareness.
    • Create marketing or social media content for future use by the partner.
    • Create brochures or other materials for information-sharing.
    • Create birthday cards to give to a local housing shelter or senior center.
    • Taping, recording, or streaming performances or workshops to benefit community partner(s).
    • Create a resource (build a website?) of activities for after-school programming.

    • Provide support via phone or web-based meetings, with agency team member support, to those being served by the organization or others in the community.
    • Work with staff to share videos or use technology to continue visits with residents or patients of retirement home facilities.
    • Conduct virtual or phone-based educational supports for youth and adults.

    • Offering (or compiling, researching, or brainstorming) strategies that provide indirect support from volunteers as a result of coronavirus​.
    • Write a positive review for the organization to help with their marketing efforts.
    • Discuss and reflect on the notion of community and the various forms it takes (recognized 501C3 Organizations, grassroots organizations, neighbor to neighbor connections, family and friends). ​Write a letter to the editor of your local and national papers about the value or role of community in times of crisis and your personal role and responsibilities.

Discuss advocacy as a social impact tool, research current policies or bills being presented that affect the social issues you are discussing, consult the United Way’s Public Policy agenda for ideas (or have your students research other organizations’ public policy agendas), and create a plan of action.

Review your learning outcomes for the community engaged learning project part of your course. Try to translate what students are doing in/with community partners into course goal-oriented statements (e.g., skill development, checking for understanding, collaborative project work, problem solving, relationship development, fact finding). Determine how you can still help your students meet those learning outcomes even if the community project/service they were supposed to do is suspended or altered.

Try online games as a means to teach disciplinary and civic skills, deepen civic knowledge, and simulate real life encounters. Gamification has been a growing dimension of civic learning and social innovation for the last decade. Games span informal apps as well as formal online games and are complete with discussion guides that can be linked to Canvas. Here are a few to get you started:

Adapt classroom social justice focused simulations for online environments. Here is an example:

Have students read through this community organizing toolkit and write up a plan of action.

Find a couple of TED Talks(or podcast episodes) for students to watch and then respond to via guided reflection prompts. Some suggested talks are linked below:

    1. Science in service to the public good
    2. Activism needs introverts
    3. The economic injustice of plastic
    4. How urban spaces can preserve history and build community

Advocates for Community Engagement (ACEs)

If you work with an agency where service-learning is coordinated by an ACE, you know how integral they are to community-based teaching. As Cox Scholars, ACEs are supported by and follow the guidelines of the Cox Scholars Program. Responding to developments at IU and the larger public health issue of COVID-19, the Cox Scholars Program suspended all work for all Cox Scholars through the rest of the 2019-2020 academic year. 

We support  this decision, especially because the ACEs will continue receiving their scholarships while being able to act in ways that are safe for themselves and others. We encourage you to contact the ACEs you worked with to express your appreciation. And we are excited to welcome a new cohort of first-year ACEs in the fall.

The Service-Learning Program is developing plans to take up the work of ACEs, especially partnership creation for fall 2020. Please contact us if you have questions about the ACE program or our plans going forward.

What we know about community partners in Bloomington and Monroe County

The Service-Learning Program is gathering information from community partners in Bloomington and Monroe County to understand how agencies are responding to COVID-19 and their plans to engage with students and service. We strongly encourage you, as noted above, to contact your partners directly to plan next steps together. We may be able to provide some context, though. Please reach out to Jess Tang, SLP Community Engagement Coordinator, for more information.

This is some basic information we now about some agencies:

  • Banneker at the 'View' - Suspended until May
  • Boys and Girls Clubs - CLOSED until further notice
  • City of Bloomington Parks & Recreation - No events at this time
  • Girls, Inc. - CLOSED until further notice
  • Harmony School - CLOSED until May
  • Hilltop Garden & Nature Center - On-site programming paused until 4/6
  • Hoosier Hills Food Bank - accepting a very minimal flow of volunteers to ensure social distancing and minimal contact points
  • LIFEDesigns - Employees working remotely; accepting very limited volunteers to protect vulnerable population
  • MCCSC English Language Learning - CLOSED until May
  • Monroe County Public Library (MCPL) - CLOSED UNTIL 4/6
  • Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard - Not opening pantry; doing delivery boxes with limited volunteer support to support safety protocols
  • SCCAP Thriving Connections - CLOSED with no stated time for reconsidering
  • Templeton Elementary School - CLOSED until
  • The Project School - CLOSED until May
  • WonderLab - CLOSED until 4/5

Teaching Resource Links

Resources and responses from other engaged campuses and in:


I collected ideas and resources from a variety of sources. I believe I’ve acknowledged and linked directly to everyone. These are the sources I relied on the most: The Service-Learning Higher Education List Serve; Portland State University Iowa Campus Compact; Indiana Campus Compact; IUPUI; Loyola; Community Service and Service Learning Professionals Facebook Group; and more!