Course & Syllabus Design

Whether this is your first time teaching a service-learning course or you have been doing it for years,  designing or updating your course can feel both exciting and overwhelming. However, to make it a little bit easier our program has created a number of resources to support you.  

We have developed a series of guides for S-L faculty of all levels of experience. Drawing upon nationally recognized theory and research, as well as the accumulated wisdom of our Northeastern S-L faculty and program staff, these documents address the use of S-L in your courses at NU from a practical, application-based perspective.

Creating a Syllabus

As faculty and students use the syllabus as a roadmap for what the semester will entail, it is important to include information about how S-L is integrated into the course. Our program has created this resource to support you. We also highly recommend utilizing Campus Compact’s Syllabus Archive or Boston Civic Media for examples. Here is the resource guide created by our S-L team. 

Including Critical Reflection into your Course

One of the core elements of service-learning and key attributes in the IUPUI taxonomy is reflection. While a Service-Learning Teaching Assistant can assist faculty with creating and facilitating reflection in the classroom, it must be an integral part of the course from the beginning. This resource from CATLR provides brief prompts 

Did you know there can actually be negative consequences to student learning if you do not intentionally create opportunities for reflection?

This resource guide defines and provides examples of utilizing reflection in the classroom.

Student Learning Objectives
As you think about designing your course and writing your syllabus, consider using these learning objectives in your materials as you see fit. 

  • Identify one or more skills that they can use to contribute to or engage in their community
  • Analyze one or more social issues through the lens of the course’s discipline and/or topic
  • Identify the community need(s) being addressed by the organization with which they are serving
  • Synthesize the integrated relationship between course concepts and the students’ service experiences
  • Demonstrate critical reflection of service through guided activities

These were designed so that they could be applicable to any S-L course and so faculty can pick and choose which are most relevant to their course. Our Program Evaluations also map to these learning outcomes.



To see the practical side of how service-learning can impact students, watch this student testimonial. 



Student Assessed Integrated Learning

Additionally, as some of you may know, Northeastern is gearing up to roll out a campus-wide initiative called SAIL (Student Assessed Integrated Learning). SAIL is meant to leverage the value of learning both in and outside of the classroom to create a personalized learning journey. In the coming months we’ll be engaging with S-L faculty members to get a better sense of how you see SAIL aligning with your S-L course(s), and ultimately plan to put together resources that will assist you in ‘SAIL-ifying’ your S-L courses.

Are you ready to SAILify your course? Visit the educator portal!

Virtual EXPO

Integrating the Virtual EXPO into your course is a great way to encourage students to reflect on their service-learning experiences and provides an opportunity for them to create a digital artifact that showcases their learning and community partnership. Click here to see more about what the Virtual EXPO is and how to utilize it in your course.

Course criteria

Service-Learning courses can be structured many different ways. However, all Northeastern service-learning courses include core elements: integrated learning, collaboration, quality service, reflection, assessment and evaluation, and civic engagement and responsibility. The self-guided onboarding module discusses this in more depth, but each of these elements should be present in your course design.

Adding a service-learning component to your course may make it eligible to be designated with various attributes in Banner:

  • ‘NUpath Integrating Knowledge and Skills through Experiences’ Attribute: Four-credit undergraduate courses where S-L is a requirement and a substantial part of the course may be eligible to receive this attribute. CCE will send a list of approved courses to the Office of the Provost and Office of the Registrar to be appropriately marked in Banner for student records. Faculty do not need to apply to the University Undergraduate Curriculum Committee separately.
  • ‘With Service-Learning’ Attribute: All courses that require an S-L component will automatically be tagged with this attribute in Banner after the semester has started. This allows our program to partner with Institutional Research and Decision Support to explore patterns and trends of student data and experiences.