No, academic service-learning (ASL) is not the same thing as community service or co-curricular service- learning. While sharing the word "service" these three models of student involvement in the community are distinguished by their learning agenda. Community service, such as cleaning up a park, rarely involves an intentional learning focus. In contrast, ASL and co-curricular service-learning both involve intentional efforts to engage students in planned and purposeful learning related to the service. ASL uses the service experience as a “course text" to enhance both traditional academic learning and civic/social justice learning, while co-curricular service-learning is not credit-bearing and generally focuses on raising students' consciousness regarding a social issue.
Experience and learning are not the same thing. While experience is a necessary condition for learning, it is not sufficient. Learning requires more than experience so one cannot assume that student involvement in the community automatically results in learning. Actualizing the learning from a community service experience requires purposeful and intentional efforts on the part of the instructor, the students, and often the community partner. These efforts are referred to as "reflection" and are supported by research as crucial to the success of ASL.
No, ASL involves more than simply adding a service experience to a course that is otherwise unchanged. If this is all that is done, the learning outcomes and positive impacts for the community are usually marginalized. To maximize the learning in ,from, and with the community it is necessary to integrate community-based experiences with other planned learning strategies, course content, assignments, and activities, and resources.
The number of applicants varies from year to year as does the amount of funds available to support their participation. In most years there are only a few more applicants than there are fellowships awarded, so qualified applicants have a good chance of receiving a fellowship.
Past Fellows report that the collegiality and support of the group of faculty, all of whom have a similar interest in community engaged work is extremely valuable. This community of learners assists faculty to openly discuss their teaching and research goals, challenges, and success. Faculty have also noted that the support and advice from the program director and the Center for Service and Community Engagement are very helpful.