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Community-Based and Community-Engaged Learning

The Lindy Center for Civic Engagement supports faculty in creating and advocating for Community-Based and Community-Engaged learning pedagogy. This pedagogy unites classroom learning, engagement opportunities, group dialogue, and guided introspection to make students more informed, more proximate, and more reflective about pressing issues that shape society. Community-engaged learning facilitates opportunities to further relationships between students, faculty and local/global community partners to pursue a public good and to—whether onsite or online—strengthen their collective capacity to address real problems that will generate a more just world in their careers and lives.

Community-engaged courses and initiatives are those where:

  • Student learning takes place in some form beyond the traditional classroom, whether it be through dialogue with guest participants, case studies relevant to community issues, or other forms of experiential or applied learning
  • Students critically reflect on their individual and shared experiences to engage with course topics
  • Students create a learning community within and beyond the classroom based on mutual trust, co-creation of knowledge, and a sense of collective ownership
  • Students analyze issues of justice and conditions of critical concern to local and global communities 

Community-engaged learning creates spaces where students can experience needed connection to one another and to their communities as they participate in meaningful civic activity regardless of their social or physical location. 

Learn more about current and past course offerings.

Watch a recording of our virtual Community-Engaged Learning Open House from July 2020, where we describe the fundamentals of the pedagogy and some methods that instructors have been using in remote classrooms. 

Types of CBL/CEL Courses and Experiences 

At Drexel, most courses fall into one or more of the following categories:


These courses are core components of the Certificate in Civic Engagement and are administered by the Lindy Center for Civic Engagement. This group includes CIVC 101, "Introduction to Civic Engagement", an introductory course required for undergraduate students. In this course, students explore what civic engagement is, how their identities shape their experiences and participation in the world, what social issues and systemic inequalities exist and what it means to make social change, and how they can reflect on and think critically about themselves and society. This course creates a foundation for students, upon which we hope they will build identities as engaged citizens and continue learning and acting. Learn more about CIVC 101, Introduction to Civic Engagement.

Service Learning:

These courses have a service or community component outside of the in-classroom credit hours that is connected to the topic or theme of the course. Most service-learning courses require students to have a low level of previous skill or knowledge in the topic area. However, these courses may also be skill-based and require students to problem-solve, for example, engineering students developing a water system for a community garden.  

Service Immersion:

All service immersion courses culminate in some type of travel service trip. Offered for 1 or 3 credits, courses meet either in the tradition classroom or online leading up to the immersion, and require completion of a final project.

Side by Side:

Side by Side courses ideally consist of half Drexel students and half community members. This model of shared learning in the community is unique to Drexel as it equalizes traditional Drexel students with students who are often marginalized. Issues of access to education, equality, and diversity are often an undercurrent or secondary theme. Example:

  • COMM 380: Talk’n the Walk: Public Speaking: Drexel students and LIFT clients meet each week at LIFT as colleagues to participate in a three credit course.

Community Hybrid:

Courses achieve 3 credit-hours divided between the traditional on-campus classroom and in the community. Modeled after the online hybrid, these courses require structured time outside of classroom. Example:

  • WRIT 304: It’s a Beautiful Life: Students meet in class on campus for 1.5 hours and in the community with their hospice partners for 1.5 hours each week.

Community-Based Research:

Courses begin with a research topic co-identified with the community that is carried out either during one term or over the course of several terms. Community members and student and/or faculty researchers work together to develop research questions and equitably share the research agenda through their partnership. The course and research are action-oriented and aim to produce positive change.