Applying accredited community-based learning and research into your curriculum: A step by step guide

Dr Jamie Goggins CEng., BA., BAI., PhD, Kate Morris, Siobhan Long

NUI Galway,Campus Engage IAU,Enable Ireland


As the world economy no longer pays for what graduates know, but for what they can do with what they know, access to community-based learning and research is now a vital component of the student educational experience. Higher education staff are increasingly seeking ways to engage their students with Civil Society Organisations (CSO), and public service and product users. Student are seeking out courses that offer them accredited, experiential learning experiences, to build their transferable ‘work ready skills’, to explore their future role as a professional, and understand how they can contribute to addressing Irish, EU and international grand social challenges.

During this workshop attendees are offered a take away toolkit containing implementation plans, learning outcome assessment technique resources, learning agreement samples, evaluation plans and case studies of successful community-based learning projects, to support their endeavours and realise potential impact.

In 2013-2015 a group of 13 experts in community-based learning and research process and methods came together to produce and pilot an Irish capacity building programme, the Campus Engage Participate Programme. The aim of the Programme and this workshop is to build the skills of higher education staff, students, and civil society organisations to incorporate processes and methods of community-based learning and research into their curriculum, and work plans. A formative evaluation of this workshop was carried out during 5 workshop delivered to 250 staff during the 2014-2015 discovery phase. Feedback has been now been applied to improve the experience for attendees.

Community-based learning and research are forms of experiential education with a public engagement underpinning. In practice, what this means is that students gain academic credit for the learning they derive from engaging in and reflecting on a learning and/or research experience with community stakeholders.

When students and staff work with CSOs and public service or product users they are given a unique chance and scope for ‘real life’ problem solving, and solution focused thinking. It also increases the general public’s engagement with higher education, and their role in tackling social challenges that affect us all, including ageing demographics, food security, clean energy etc