COVID-19 Faculty Resources

During the University of Georgia (UGA)'s response to COVID-19, the Office of Service-Learning is available to help consult on impacts on service-learning and community engagement activities. For current information on UGA's Pandemic Response Plan, monitor your UGA email and view content at

Instructors may benefit from thinking intentionally about designing service-learning activities for Fall 2020 and Spring 2021 that are robust in case some or all instruction is done online. The OSL may be able to assist in finding an appropriate service partner; continue to check out opportunities posted by the local community on the Engage Georgia platform as well. See also our page with information for Community Partners!

Please check with OSL associate director Paul Matthews (pmatthews [at] if you would like a consultation or support in thinking through your upcoming service-learning course design.


While some instructors might choose not to include a community-engaged aspect to their course this year, we think there are still many compelling pedagogical and service-related reasons to encourage academic service-learning/community-engaged (SLCE) courses for Fall or Spring courses.

Option 1: Build in a community-engaged activity that is “robust” and can be carried out equally readily in case of pivoting to online instruction at some point during the semester. In many cases, that involves prioritizing “indirect” activities for service-learning, or remote/virtual direct service. For instance, many faculty have reported that students who carried out remote activities or deliverables such as developing a nonprofit marketing plan, mentoring youth online, designing a butterfly garden implementation plan, creating virtual campus tours, doing phone check-ins with older adults, creating “translational” educational materials, etc. had minimal or no disruptions during Spring 2020 campus transitions to online-only instruction. Because many non-profits and community partner agencies have also experienced major changes to their operations, it is worth inquiring specifically whether they have newly identified needs that could best be approached remotely (for instance, surveying clients on their food security status; helping promote new program options to agency clients, etc.)

For programs considering remote/virtual direct service activities, such as tutoring kids online, Virginia Commonwealth University has a useful set of guidelines to think through, and UGA's guidelines for programs serving minors also still apply!

Option 2: Include an initial direct-service SL activity, while building in flexibility for potentially “pivoting” to online instruction during the semester. For example, for a course with service-learning tutoring of English learners as the intended activity, the instructor might plan for the following possible modifications: changing over to online or phone-based tutoring upon suspending in-person instructional activities; a potential reduction in the number of hours of tutoring required; or switching mid-stream to a different but still relevant service activity such as developing educational content for the tutoring program’s future use. Similarly, for a course with a food insecurity focus, if a direct-service activity such as food delivery is suspended mid-semester, the course could pivot to having students do regular client wellness checks by phone, could develop video content on home gardening or food preparation, or could develop public relations campaigns about where and how emergency food is available in the community or fundraising initiatives to support these.

Option 3: If in-person direct service activities are still the best choice, consult with your department and our office, and the community partner on health and safety guidelines, particularly including the following topics:

  • Partner Needs. Are the needs of the community partner still the same, or have their operations shifted in ways that require re-thinking the SL activities?
  • Social Distancing. Will the activity and site allow appropriate social distancing? Is there a need to organize students into smaller shifts at different times, for instance?
  • Transportation. Will car-pooling be allowed? Will use of public transportation or university vehicles be appropriate or possible?
  • Memoranda of Understanding. Is there sufficient time and community-partner “bandwidth” to set up required MOUs?
  • Community Partner Requirement. Beyond the “normal” considerations, will community partners have additional requirements, such as COVID testing, wearing masks or other personal protective equipment, temperature checks, etc.? Are there enhanced protocols for working with partner sites that serve vulnerable populations?
  • Adverse Events. If the facility has to cease operations temporarily due to a disease outbreak, what impact will that have on your students’ ability to successfully complete their required SL work? If a student is under quarantine, what options will they have to successfully complete their required SLCE work?

Remember: Critical Reflection is still a vital aspect of SLCE courses and student learning. Regardless of the specifics of how and what community-based activities are actually undertaken, robust reflective activities will help students process, connect, and learn more deeply from these experiences.

See also the informational resources from the GivePulse task forces.

Watch the archived webinar from GivePulse (featuring two UGA faculty!) on e-service-learning: Meeting Recording:

Access Password: *FQcn8$j



SERVICE-LEARNING (Spring 2020, or for mid-semester disruptions of face-to-face classes):

Some of the issues for spring semester’s service-learning courses included: 

  • Students may not have (or may believe they don’t have) sufficient time left in the semester to adequately complete planned or required service activities and deliverables.

  • Sites where students were serving may be closed to outside volunteers, impacting student ability to complete planned or required service hours or projects.

  • Students may no longer be in Athens, or may be under quarantine.

  • Courses that are changing to an online format may not lend themselves to the original plans for service.

  • Community partner staff may have disruptions in their ability to respond to, manage, or engage students effectively for planned or required service-learning related activities.

  • Community partner needs, priorities, resources, and staffing may have shifted to respond to the outbreak and/or the social distancing measures, which may make previously-agreed-upon service activities less needed or relevant. 

  • Conversely, these organizations may have new needs that have emerged that might offer valuable service opportunities once classes resume, or they may have need of “virtual” service that students could engage in at a distance (e.g, calling clients, creating educational resources).


Recognizing the situation may change day-to-day, the Office of Service-Learning encouraged the following actions for Spring 2020:

  • Contact your community partner directly to determine how this situation is affecting them and to discuss possible contingency plans and communication plans for the rest of the semester. 

  • Discuss and consider whether in-process community projects or service activities could be completed as planned, or remotely. Some project-based or indirect service activities may not be affected, for instance, beyond the shorter number of weeks remaining to complete them. Others could potentially be done as technology-mediated rather than in-person activities.

  • If the planned service activities are not feasible for students to continue/complete, discuss and consider whether there are alternative activities (particularly project-based or indirect service) or accommodations that would meet course requirements and community priorities—including newly emergent priorities. These might include the following sorts of activities (Source: Coronavirus and the Engaged Campus, Campus Compact )

    • conducting background research or gathering best practices or other information requested the partner(s);

    • recording or streaming performances or workshops to benefit community partner(s);

    • creating digital and other social media content, print program materials, or other methods for information-sharing;

    • undertaking assessment, evaluation, or feedback via phone or web-based services;

    • offering (or compiling, researching, or brainstorming) strategies that provide indirect support from volunteers as a result of coronavirus; 

    • conducting virtual or phone-based educational supports for youth and adults;

    • investigating grant or funding opportunities for the organization;

    • developing plans or tools for future program assessment.

  • If there are not any feasible options for your course to continue to work with the intended community partner, please reach out to us at the Office of Service-Learning. We may be able to help connect you with alternative service activities or partners. For more information, contact Josh Podvin - 

  • If there are no feasible alternatives, we recommend revising your syllabus and grading so as not to penalize students for not completing originally planned requirements which are now not possible.

  • Because UGA does not have a minimum required number of hours of service to consider a course "service-learning," it is OK to make modifications to the service activities required (including reducing the time spent or replacing community activities with academic ones) in response to this unusual situation.

  • We DO NOT recommend that you encourage students to look for alternative face-to-face service activities in their home communities, as this is contradictory to CDC guidelines promoting social distancing.


Click here to view the recorded Zoom presentation (3.25.20) by Paul Matthews, Melissa Landers-Potts, Kathy Thompson, and Josh Podvin on transitioning to online service-learning, including online reflection resources and more! (The Chat text from the session is saved and available below in the downloadable resources section, FYI.)

Below are some UGA and outside resources:

  • HandsOn Atlanta has a page with Digital Partners for service activites: See their ideas and partners at
  • Virginia Communwealth University's "keep on partnering" resource page has several useful sections, including a linked list of digital volunteering options; guidelines on best practices for online service-learning design; and checklists for communicating and developing remote partnerships for service. VCU also has a useful set of guidelines for remote engagement/service.
  • Remember that, even when the original service activity or plan is not workable, students are still able to gain insight and develop key academic, personal, and social learning outcomes, in particular through guided reflection activities that encourage deep thinking about the issues, processes, and implications. (In fact, Loyola University-Chicago’s Office of Experiential Learning developed some sample reflection questions for their instructors in helping students in a range of courses to specifically think about the impacts of COVID-19 on their course and community. These reflection questions are attached at the bottom of the page as a resource.)

  • Iowa Campus Compact has a collection of collated resources and considerations for responses to COVID-19. Many of these are collected from ongoing posts in the Higher Education Service-Learning listserv and Community Service & Service-Learning Professionals in Higher Education Facebook group. A similar resource document from GivePulse, "Getting Creative with Community Based Learning during a Public Health Crisis," is below (PDF).

  • IUPUI's Center for Service and Learning has a page with Resources for Supporting Community Engaged Teaching and Learning during COVID-19; Portland State has a useful listing here.

  • Our office may be able to help connect you with alternative service activities or partners. For more information, contact Josh Podvin, 

  • Additionally, the UGA Office of Instruction has developed resources on Technology for Teaching and Learning Continuity and a PDF resource guide. These are helpful in thinking about other aspects of how your courses and teaching may be adjusted going forward. The Division of Academic Enhancement also has resources.

  • Our office has service-learning support grants which could help cover unexpected expenses related to your service-learning activities.

Please let us know how things are going, and keep us updated on any modifications you may be making, so that we are also in the loop on these issues. We hope you will share the creative ways you address these issues with us so that we might help other faculty as they think through challenges. 

Please feel free to reach out to any of us at the Office of Service-Learning if you have questions or would like individual consultation.