At the core of Aurora Alliance is its cardinal goal to equip students with the right knowledge, skills, mindset, and experience to address societal challenges as agents of change. The Service-Learning Programme (SLP) work package (WP 3.1.3) supports bringing this core mission of the Aurora Alliance to fruition. Service-learning (SL) is an academic teaching/learning method that connects meaningful community service with University learning, personal growth, and civic responsibility. It provides an opportunity for both teachers and students to engage with society in a meaningful way that entails knowledge sharing, experiential learning, and problem-solving. The SLP is working to support academics and support staff in the use of SL and fostering its value and application in Aurora universities. It is also involved in linking students with SL courses and equipping them with relevant competences to tackle societal challenges as social entrepreneurs and innovators.

As the first part of our effort to foster SL in Aurora universities, we identify SL courses across different faculties/departments and pilot domains in universities. While most universities already have existing SL or SL-like courses, they are either obscure or not identified as such. We seek to bring visibility to these courses. We are also identifying SL champions – teachers and students who have found value in SL and effective social engagement strategies that have enriched their teaching/learning experience. We aim to amplify their voices and lessons learnt to provide both inspiration and motivation for others.

The SLP is also working towards a Service Learning Toolbox that will provide relevant tools/resources to interested teachers and students to learn about SL. These tools could further strengthen existing SL courses and provide teachers with inspiration on how to transform an existing course into an SL one. It will also have resources for both teachers and students to learn about the essential concepts of SL, participation, reflexivity, and community engagement.

Another important initiative of SLP is the International Learning Lab on the 17th June 2021 [15:30 to 18:00 CEST]. The event is open for students, teachers and experts from the Aurora universities and other national/international guest Universities for a wider discourse on SL and the official launch of the SL toolbox. The event will include talks from international SL experts: Prof. Robert Bringle (Professor Emeritus, Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis, USA), Prof. Wolfgang Stark (Professor Emeritus, Universität Duisburg Essen, Germany), and Prof. Marjolein Zweekhorst (Professor, Athena Institute, VU Amsterdam). The event will also include presentations of students from Interdisciplinary Service Learning (iCSL2) – an “Aurorised” course open to Master students from any discipline/program across Aurora universities. You are invited to participate in this event (more information here).

The opportunities provided by SL in universities is undeniable. However, there is still not enough recognition of the importance and benefits of SL in universities, which is the main challenge we are currently facing. It is imperative to promote service-learning as a tool for societal engagement to change the mindset of both teachers and students and an essential paradigm of teaching/learning in universities. Let’s join hands in promoting and fostering SL in our universities.

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