Service learning, or community based learning, is an experiential way of learning, not to be confused with either volunteering or or a work placement, as there are key differences.

But what are the benefits?‌‌

Benefits for the Community

  • Next generation of advocates
  • Positive and meaningful partnerships
  • Access to knowledge and resources
  • Marketing in a competitive environment
  • Commitment to education

Benefits for Higher Education

  • Social Capital
  • Resourceful to Community and Society
  • Fulfill Public Good or Mission
  • Marketing in a competitive environment
  • Awards and league tables
  • Commitment to global citizenship
  • Higher Education Policy Mandate (Irish and European)

Benefits for Students

  • Altruism
  • Past experiences
  • Distinctive attribute for employment and further education opportunities
  • Making valuable contacts
  • Integrating knowledge in a real world context

Benefits for Academics

  • Maturing opportunity for students
  • Making the curriculum useful and real
  • Making valuable contacts
  • Career  advancement
  • Resonates politically, personally, culturally, personal, education experiences, and so forth.

Student and Graduate Perspectives on Service Learning

Eamonn Fitzgerald, B. Civil Engineering, on the Service Learning Project with Alan Kerins Projects.

"Not only has our research into low-cost sustainable housing benefited the people of Zambia, but it has enabled us to use our skills in a practical manner. It also encouraged us to adapt our knowledge of civil engineering in Ireland to meet the many challenges presented to us by the African continent. I can't wait to see how our research will impact the lives of the people of Western Zambia."

"The project was wonderful. I'm all too aware of the great divides that exist in our modern world such as rich versus poor, the connected versus the disconnected. Engaging in this and other such projects provides us with a way to put something back. I hope we can collectively continue along this altruistic path as part of our working lives."

Susan Doherty, M.IT, on the Ballinfoyle Area Youth Project

"I chose to teach basic computer skills to some of the youths in the Ballinfoyle area. I can sum it up as being enjoyable, fulfilling and educational. I've definitely learned a lot, including patience, respect and never to judge a book by its cover. The students even showed me a few computer tricks along the way!"

Debbie McDonagh, Leaving Certificate student and participant on Galway Traveller Movement Pavee Study with Postgraduate Diploma in Education (PGDE)

"I now feel happier going to school because I'm able to keep up with the rest of the class and my homework is always done. I would like to act as a role model for other young Travellers to finish school."

Olga Walsh, BA Italian on teaching introductory Italian to local national schools as a service learning project

"Some of them didn't even know where Italy was, but there was a zest for learning there and for learning involving games and fun. I just felt it was confidence-boosting for them. Please God they can become students of the future; it has made them realise their potential."

Kien McCool, B. Mechanical Engineering, The Egg Topper Off'r Project for Ability West

"Although it's very simple, it might actually help someone. There wasn't a lot of engineering in it because it was a fairly simple concept. It would just give more people independence so that can actually go about doing it for themselves."

Gillian Collins and Orla Lyons, 3rd Year Occupational Therapy students, reflect on their Community Service Learning project

"Service learning is an integral part of the 3rd year undergraduate occupational therapy programme. Students collaborate with community organisations and community groups who do not have access to occupational therapy services to develop occupational therapy programmes which support participation and promote health and well -being. This year there are over 12 community-university partnerships ranging from occupational therapy with family support services to occupational therapy with local active retirement groups."

Sandra Nestor, B. Comm

"I participated in Service Learning as part of my Social Marketing class. It gave me a sense of empowerment and importance, something I can't say I've felt from any other type of learning experience. I can't emphasise enough how much I'd encourage anyone who has the opportunity to engage in Service Learning to do it!"

Sam Donegan, MA Philosophy

"I investigated the issues surrounding access to third level education for asylum seekers in Ireland. We were inspired by the issue after meeting Lorraine McIlrath in CKI. She was very helpful, and the project itself was a compelling experience. The group benefited enormously from working together in the community."

Alan Divilly, 3rd Year Engineering Student

"This project brought a different element and a different aspect to looking at engineering......Because we have to go out and contact people and find out what they need, we got the more practical aspect of it."

Italian Service Learning Student

"Being a student of foreign languages myself, and having spent some time as a teacher of English as a foreign language, I would be very interested to experience another side of the language acquisition process. I think this would be a very unique and rewarding way of contributing to the community here in Galway."

Hannah Costelloe, Post-graduate Diploma in Education 2010

"It was part of our course, but it's something we really enjoyed; it completely changed my outlook towards education and as part of the overall course, it balanced out all the other more academic elements.

John McInnes, MA Philosophy Graduate

"Service learning was the only reason I went on to do a masters. As a philosophy graduate, it was one of few ways to practically apply knowledge and to forge links with businesses and NGOs. I would never have had the confidence to go down that road without service learning. I dreamed of having a job involving human rights and all of a sudden, I was advocating on people's behalf in these clinics. I had other jobs before and nothing I have done has been as rewarding as the clinics. I've helped people reunite their families and get certificates of naturalisation; these things change lives. It's the best thing I've done in mine."

Occupational Therapy Graduate, Anne-Marie Morrissey

"I was giving something back for a change, not stuck behind the walls of the campus. It also allowed the service users to come into our world where the sessions were held in Áras Moyola while we gained practical experience in theirs."

"Service learning changes people's attitudes. People forget that we're students and we're treated like professionals. It's a fantastic way of sparking enthusiasm and gaining respect."

Biomedical Engineering Graduate, Andrew English

"In a lecture hall, you can often be in a world of your own. In the outside world, everything is more hands-on and you have to apply that knowledge," ... "In my experience, it was a great teaching tool. It made me more aware of the ways in which I can use my skills as an engineer for the benefit of the wider community.

It should be mandatory in all disciplines. It can have a different spin depending on the skill-sets. Students have a lot to offer to their communities and a lot to gain from it.

I gained so many soft skills. I had a new sense of responsibility; I had a job to do and I had to communicate and develop my overall interpersonal skills. It's a foundation for my CV. I can show I have real hands-on experience and I can deliver."

Staff Perspectives on Service Learning

Dr. James J. Browne, Former President of University of Galway

"Galway is a leader in service learning and I think all the other universities will and should follow. . . It's a two way street, the students give back to community but they get back much, much more in terms of learning from the experience and in terms of their own personal development."

Pat Byrnes, Course Director MIT

"I think that the university should have a contribution to make to the community and we should be building on the relationship between Galway, in particular Galway City, and the University.....And we have things here that we can offer the community and if we can do it as a kind of side effect of the students' learning, that's a very positive thing."

Lorraine McIlrath, Former CKI Coordinator

"Students learn from engaging with communities by active participation and academic credit is awarded based on the learnings.....The academic staff member guides students through this process through structured reflection and the integration of theory and practice."

Professor Abhay Pandit, Founder of the CAIRDE Module

"As a university we have a duty to engage students with the community and to create students that give to the community....We need to teach them so that we can distinguish them so that when they go into jobs, their CV will show that something extra." "I feel that these service learning modules are so critical .....Students by default live in a cocoon of privilege and if we don't challenge that privilege we are not doing what we should.....Service should be a part of what the students do ....Both students and the community benefit from the experience."

Professor James J. Browne, as Registrar of University of Galway

"If young people get engaged in this type of activity, they're likely to continue into their life outside and past university, so this is an important training ground to create good citizens who see this as part of their role in society to engage, It's a good approach for all universities. Galway is a leader in Service Learning and I think all the others will follow and should follow."

"The Service Learning modules taps into a wider constituency of students in Arts who want to give something back to the community."

Andrew Furco, Associate Vice President for Public Engagement

"This isn't about projects or short term issues, it's about building a broader agenda around institutional issues and its commitment to society and instilling responsibility in young people," ... "We underestimate what young people can do. All they need is opportunity, guidance and tools and if we provide that through Service Learning, it benefits the community and society."

Heike Felzmann, Course Director, MA in Philosopy Module - Ethics Culture and Global Change

"We were not satisfied with the one year theoretical course and the issue was the content," ... "When you're talking about ethics, you're talking about culture. We have to think about how this actually relates to practical issues. I've always thought ethics is about the practical. It just makes a lot of sense." "I think Service Learning is very valuable because learning isn't just a cognitive thing, it's a personal experience," Heike said. "There is an emotional component and an action component and thinking about things in a different way, linking practical with theoretical. It adds relevance."

Larry Donnelly, Director of Clinical Legal Education

"The students largely learn theory in the classroom. On the placements, they learn that theres ia a lot more to law than whet they studied and heard about in the stature books, case reports and law reviews. A university graduate with a solely theoretical understanding of law or any other similarly vocational academic discipline is ill equipped to enter into that profession..."

Dr James J. Browne, Former President of University of Galway - on CAIRDE winning the MacJannet Prize for Global Citizenship

"Service learning has become a hallmark of the student experience at University of Galway and offers real learning in a community context. It brings theory to life, while improving the lives of those living in often challenging situations. This international recognition for such commitment to civic engagement and service learning is a tribute to those involved."

Padraig O'Céidigh - Adjunct Professor, Cairnes Business School, University of Galway

"What you're meant to do is teach people how to learn, rather than teaching what to learn. Teaching what to learn is the mind, teaching how to learn is the intellect. And the combination and balance between the two are critically important."

Richard Manton, Civil Engineering

"I feel that service learning is certainly a factor that increases students' interest in their studies and thereby improves academic performance by highlighting the relevance of the studies through applications in the community."

"The community partners receive a clear and incredible benefit. This can take the form of voluntary teaching, free legal advice or engineering consultancy."

"The assistance that community partners receive is an excellent advertisement for universities. The quality of lecturers, university atmosphere and the work of departments like the CKI is seen through the community engagement, the aid given and the results achieved."

Professor Jim Ward, on Civic Engagement at University of Galway

"Students were very engaged in these type of projects; it gave them the experience of doing something practical and got them involved in the real world. It demonstrated how to apply what they learned in their course work and got them involved in team work and making presentations. For me, such project work did everything I thought a student should be doing; it trained them in a whole range of skills that are probably not part of the core curriculum. By that I mean communication skills, team working, problem solving and providing collaborative solutions."

Liz Hollander, Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service at Tufts University

"We need to educate the next generation to take a longer view and to know the joys and satisfactions of applying their knowledge, skills and passions in improving their society. Service learning is one proven method to help our students get smart and act smart."

Dr Gerard Flaherty, Special Study Modules Coordinator, School of Medicine

Andrew Carroll was one of approximately ten medical students in first and second year at University of Galway to participate on the Special Study Module. As part of the module, Andrew and his fellow medical students taught CPR to schoolchildren in the Galway region. The coordinator of the Special Study Modules, Dr Gerald Flaherty maintains the Special Study Module brings medical students and children together in a highly beneficial capacity for all concerned. "We train our students how to teach CPR, then they pass on this skill to the students attending these schools. The hope is that some day these students could either practice the skills themselves in a cardiac arrest scenario, or they could teach other people how to perform the skill, so this is a very worthwhile initiative."