The Office of Service-Learning is primarily focused on course-based, academic service-learning, not volunteer work. However, if you are interested in volunteering, that's great! Please check out resources that include the Center for Leadership and Service and the GivePulse database, where you can find lots of local agencies and opportunities to get involved.
Sometimes students wonder what the difference is between providing volunteer community service, and taking part in service-learning. At UGA, we characterize service-learning as a method of teaching and learning which integrates relevant community service with academic coursework and structured reflection to enhance student learning, develop civic responsibility, and address community needs. Service-learning is primarily supported through the Office of Service-Learning, while volunteer service often is through UGA’s Center for Leadership and Service.
In academic service-learning, credit is not given simply for completing service hours, but for the learning that takes place. Service-learning differs from community service because the service activity is connected to the course learning goals through reflection and critical analysis, and seeks to balance the benefits to the student with benefits to the community partners. Service-learning activities engage and partner with the community, whether local, state-wide or international; thus, the service activities should respond to community-identified needs, and the community should have a voice in the design and implementation of the service activity. In many cases, the community partner becomes a co-educator, and valuing this community knowledge and expertise is helpful in sustaining collaborative partnerships.
Here are some additional considerations (based on Ash, S.L. & Clayton, P.H. (2009). Learning through critical reflection: A tutorial for service-learning students (Instructor version). Raleigh, NC.):
• Service-learning is more likely to entail an effort for implementing lasting change, while volunteering often entails simply meeting an immediate service need.
• Service-learning requires individual or group reflection, while volunteering is often simply performing the required activity.
• Volunteering does not necessarily require any particular academic expertise, whereas service-learning is usually linked to academic content.
• In service-learning, students help the community and the community helps them learn; volunteering is less likely to involve exchange of ideas between the student and the community.