Information For

For Students

Beginning Spring 2014, finding a service learning site is done through the Civic Engagement Database.  The Office of Civic Engagement (Service Learning) no longer uses paper forms.

Frequently Asked Questions about Service Learning

If you have problems with any of these steps, contact the Office of Civic Engagement at 760-750-4055 or

Frequently Asked Questions for Students

What is service learning?
Service learning brings to life the subject matter of a course by involving students in some "real world" activity directly related to what is being learned. Several courses at CSUSM include service learning as part of the learning process; in fact, this is becoming a popular way to learn at many colleges and universities.

How is service learning different from volunteerism? Or Internships and Field Education?
While volunteerism is geared toward the advantage of the community, community service learning also requires that the student reflect on and learn from the service being performed. Thus, the student as well as the community receives the "benefits" of the activity. While internships or field placements tend to focus solely on student learning, community service learning emphasizes the advantages to both the student and the recipient of the service activity (Furco 1996). Service learning focuses on both the service the community needs and the instructor's learning objectives: both the community needs and the student's learning needs are met.

What are service learning's benefits?
Service learning benefits include:
* Applying course material to real life--"learning by doing"
* Making a difference in the world around you
* Exploring possible careers
* Networking within a field you may want to enter
* Gaining experience for your resume
* Practicing communication and people skills
* Learning about diverse populations
* Increasing a sense of social and civic responsibilities

How do I find a site?
Log in to the Civic Engagement Database and follow Civic Engagement Student Tutorial.

How much time do students spend in the community?
It varies, but it will be sufficient time for your professor to consider the service project to account for anywhere between 10-30% of the grade.

What if my organization is not on the community agency database?
Organizations must be under contract with the University. Sometimes new agencies are added, but only if the agency offers a unique learning opportunity that does not already exist on the database and your professor approves the site to be permanently added to the database.  Work with your professor to begin this process.

Can I perform service hours at my place of employment?
Service learning needs to address an important community need and contribute to your achieving your course objectives. Job assignments may not be compatible with course learning needs. Performing service at another agency offers the opportunity to expose you to new situations and experiences. Overall, we strongly encourage you to serve at another agency.

Can I begin my service project before the course begins?
Service learning is a tool to help you learn course material; therefore, it is typically required that the service occurs during the duration of the course while you are studying the course content.

Is the agency I interview with obligated to accept me?
No. Your interview is like a job interview! Several factors play a role in a good match: course goals and objectives, schedules, position availability, the agency's needs, the skills and learning interests you bring, etc.

What if things don't work out at the organization after I begin my service?
Speak with your site supervisor immediately. Discuss the matter with the organization's volunteer coordinator, if there is one, and explore other available opportunities at the organization. If nothing is possible, talk with your instructor and then with the Office of Civic Engagement for help with a change of settings. Time is of the essence; do not let things drag on, because not getting the experience you need will impact your performance in the course.

Do I need to keep a timesheet?
Your instructor may require that you log your hours on a timesheet. This timesheet is for your instructor and is not collected by the Office of Civic Engagement.