Office of Community Engagement

371 Varner Dr.
221A Varner Hall
Rochester, MI 48309
(location map)

Office of the Provost

Wilson Hall, Room 205
371 Wilson Boulevard
Rochester, MI 48309-4486
(location map)
(248) 370-2190

faculty members seated at a round table, with papers in front of them


Connect to a community partner: Looking for that ideal community partner for a service-learning project or partnership? Interested in learning more about local needs, current partnerships and opportunities for research and scholarship?  Contact us and let us know - we’ll put you in touch with a community partner.

Create an academic service learning course: Resources and help are available for confidential consultations, faculty support and designing your course for optimal student learning and community impact. Service-learning can become your preferred pedagogy or scaled into your course as you learn more about using this powerful teaching method. Contact for more information.

Connect with community-engaged OU faculty:   Want to learn how other OU faculty are engaging the community? Participate in the OU service-learning faculty learning community, the OU Facing Project or a multidisciplinary service-learning or research project. Contact for more information.

Volunteer: Find ways for you and your students to contribute to the greater good in our surrounding communities, make new connections and learn about genuine community needs in the process. Contact us and we’ll help connect you.

Share your work in the community: The dissemination of your work to the communities we serve is important, let us help you get the word out or connect with the populations that stand to benefit the most.

Experiential Learning: The purpose of Experiential Learning is to enrich educational experiences by providing  faculty and students with meaningful and innovative academic opportunities that foster collaboration with the campus and surrounding communities. Contact us!

Course Design
Teaching through experiences to promote learning from doing:
  • Applying course/program concepts in new settings
  • Assessing student learning and growth through guided reflections
  • Connecting with resources, literature and other faculty on campus
  • Adding an Academic Service-Learning component to courses
Community Partnerships
Experiential Learning identifies and fosters relationships with community organizations. The office can assist faculty in identifying and developing partnerships within the community.
Faculty have the ability to meet one on one with other faculty to discuss decisions about their courses, share insights, and keep up to date about experiential learning opportunities.
About Experiential Learning

Your journey to teaching through experience at Oakland University starts here. The resources found on this site are designed to aid you in the development of high quality learning experiences for your students. Whether you are a seasoned service-learning user, someone looking to make a positive impact in the community, an internship coordinator looking for additional resources to strengthen the student experience or someone still exploring the idea of teaching through experiences, this site is for you!

If you have specific questions about the resources on this site or would like to schedule an individual consultation feel free to email

Why Experiential Learning?

Why not?! Teaching and learning through experience or simply learning by doing is often considered the natural and in some cases the only way that we can begin to fully understand anything new and previously unfamiliar.

  • Add value to your student’s education by providing them with opportunities to directly apply the concepts that you are teaching them in new contexts and settings,
  • Prepare your students for a career of collaboration in both the professional world and as engaged citizens in an increasingly global society,
  • Give your students the opportunity to seek the type of wisdom and understanding that can only be gained through the academically connected experiences that only you as faculty can provide and guide,

Start your students down the path to a career now. Providing your students with the type of experiences that will help them decide what career path is best or not best for them is extremely valuable, especially before it is time to find that internship, practicum, field experience, or capstone project.


What are the modalities of Experiential Learning?

Experiential learning can occur in any place and at any time but there are some very intentional practices and formats that can be utilized to provide your students with the contextual immersion that is needed to inspire the transformational learning outcomes you seek for them to have.  

Critical Reflection

Reflection strategies. This is a guide to reflection and contains different ideas to lead reflection and ways to encourage students to think beyond the daily activities they complete during the course of the service learning project. These are not the only methods that exist to lead reflection but are some ideas that can be used.

Reflection is key to guiding students through service learning and connecting the service projects to the course. Reflection does not have to be “touchy feeling” or focus solely on how students “feel” about their service work. It can include these topics but it should also focus on learning outcomes and the work students are doing.  It is also an opportunity for students to discuss the service work they are doing and the impacts it has.

It may take a couple weeks for students to make connections between the service work and the course but some students may notice connections right away.  Reflection allows students to think beyond the daily activities they complete at their service site. If students are completing an offsite project for an organization reflection can help them understand why the organization needs the project completed or why this project is a service to the organization.

Items to include in reflection:

  • What are students doing? Can include accomplishments, tangible or intangible outcomes, activities, events, etc
  • What are students learning?
  • Are students able to make connections between the course and the service project


  • Guided Journal entries: provide students with questions to think about their service work; such as: what populations are you serving? Why is there a need to service this population?  What are you learning from those you serve? How is this experience different than what you expected to encounter?
  • Guided in class discussions: can offer an opportunity for students to answer the same questions a journal entry would ask. It can also offer students the outlet to express accomplishments, frustrations and excitement or nerves.
  • Presentations: allows students to promote what they did to other classmates as well as take pride in the project.
  • Small group discussion: depending on your students this could produce a deeper reflection. Students may open up more in a smaller group than they would with the whole class. This may also allow for more students to share with each other producing some meaningful discussions
  • Journal writing: allows students to write about their experiences in a free writing setting. Some students may naturally focus on daily activities but encourage students to move beyond that. Can allow students to use their creative writing to express what they are learning through service work and how it’s impacting him/her.

Key elements of Reflection:

  • Students need to think beyond daily activities and events that occur during service
  • Students need to have safe space to express themselves 
Academic Service-Learning

Why do it?

  • To understand community needs and issues
  • To enhance learning experiences for students
  • To promote community engagement

About Service-Learning

Service-Learning can be a messy and ambiguous learning process as every service experience is unique and every student will walk away with something different.

As an instructor it is important to provide structure, purpose and make a strong connection with what the students are experiencing to the learning objectives for the course.

It is also important to orient the students to the service-learning experience where the focus should shift from what is needed to earn an A to what is needed to meet the needs of the community partner.