Published on April 15, 2019
Connecting students with the communities that surround them is the fundamental mission of the MU Office of Service-Learning. With the help from Mizzou Online, the MU Office of Service-Learning will expand their mission to online students during the 2019 Summer Semester. The office will be the first department at MU to offer experiential education to online students.
The MU Office of Service-Learning’s roots date back to 1994 and have grown to provide resources to traditional MU students to reach several populations around the world. In the past, the office provided online courses to traditional MU students through smaller programs. However, the MU Office of Service-Learning Director Dr. Anne-Marie Foley says this time is different by reaching out to students that are not in Columbia, Missouri, to be involved in service in their own communities.
“We are working on an online curriculum that students can participate in internships and service-learning projects wherever they might be,” Foley says. “They can engage in a process of thinking about the complexities and the cultures where they live because that’s our job.”
The goal for the summer is for 60 students across the country to enroll in the new course offering and grow to nearly 150 students in the next three to four years. Ideally, service-learning courses will also be cross-listed with more departments at MU to expand the office’s reach.
“I think service-learning is a wonderful thing for students to be involved in,” Foley says. “A big move on our campus right now is experiential education as being part of every MU undergraduate’s experience, and I feel we need to bring that to our online students as well.”
With Mizzou Online as the facilitator for the course offerings, the department believes that the service-learning course will soon take off and differentiate MU from other online programs.
“The online learning space has become a very competitive space over the past 10 years,” says Director of Mizzou Online Kim Siegenthaler. “I think it (service-learning courses) has the potential to really appeal to a lot of students, particularly as the university adds several undergraduate online programs.”
Foley hopes to engage enrolled students with nearly the same curriculum as on-campus service-learning courses. To do so, she plans to foster critical thinking through short-writing pieces that will foster a sense of community – a goal that both departments strive for.
“Sometimes distance students feel that their only point of contact is within their course site,” Siegenthaler says. “We want to create the kinds of experiences that help connect distance students begin to say, ‘Hey I am a Tiger.’ We believe the MU Office of Service-Learning is a leader in creating experiences that truly engage students.”