Carlson Leadership & Public Service Center

Service Learning: Frequently Asked Questions

 Students & Service-Learning



What is Service-Learning?
Service-learning is a learning experience that combines service with the community with structured preparation and reflection opportunities. Service opportunities are tied to academic coursework and address concerns that are identified and articulated by the community. As students engage in service-learning, they learn about the context in which service is provided, the connection between their service and their academic coursework, and their roles as community members.



What are the benefits of service-learning?

  • First-hand experience with economic, social, cultural, and political contexts and factors that shape concepts addressed in course work.
  • Greater depth of understanding by connecting course work to the issues and concerns in the community.
  • Opportunities to learn from community leaders and practitioners.
  • Opportunities to contribute to the mission and/or purpose of an organization through service.
  • Understanding how the non-profit, government or educational sector functions.



How does service-learning work at the UW?
Each quarter, faculty and instructors from numerous disciplines across campus elect to integrate service-learning into their courses. Carlson Center staff work closely with course instructors to identify learning objectives for students while simultaneously working with community-based organizations to identify their volunteer and community needs and the educational opportunities they would like to offer for students. Courses and organizations are subsequently matched to meet both the learning objectives of the instructor and the community-identified needs and learning opportunities of the organization.

Service-learning has the following components:

  • three to five (or more) hours of volunteering each week, from the second week of the quarter through the last week of classes, depending on the organization’s needs.
  • meeting the commitment students are making to the organization, and to thoughtfully integrating their experiences in the community with classroom work.
  • the community-based organization provides a structured learning experience for the student.
  • the faculty member or instructor assists the students in thoughtfully integrating their community experiences into course assignments and discussions.
  • the quarter-long opportunity usually culminates in a reflective paper or related project, demonstrating the student’s understanding of classroom theories applied to community involvement.



How do I view my Service-Learning position details after registering?

  • You can login to EXPO anytime to view the details of your service-learning position.



I have contacted my organization but have yet to hear back from them. What should I do?

  • Your service-learning site supervisor may be balancing multiple projects and responsibilities.  Allow 24-36 hours before reaching out to them for a second time.  Keep in mind most organizations work regular business hours so you will need to allow extra time for a response if you contact your organization over the weekend.  The Carlson Center recommends utilizing both phone and e-mail to get in touch with your organization.  If you have tried the above-listed solutions and are still having trouble, please come to Mary Gates Hall 171 to speak to a member of the Carlson Center staff.



Can I switch my service-learning position?

  • Service-learning registration occurs online and generally takes place during the first week of classes.  At any time during the service-learning registration period you can login to our online system to switch to a different position/organization.  After registration has closed, you will need to come to Mary Gates Hall 171 to work directly with a member of the Carlson Center staff to change your service-learning site.  Except in the case of significant difficulties, the Carlson Center discourages students from changing their service-learning site after registration has closed.



I want to drop service-learning completely. How do I do this?

  • Check your course syllabus to determine whether service-learning is an optional or required component of your course.  If you are in a course with optional service-learning and you choose to drop your service-learning commitment, be in contact with your service-learning site supervisor, your course instructor, and the Carlson Center about your decision.  If you are considering dropping service-learning but are unsure, feel free to talk with your course instructor or a member of the Carlson Center staff – we might be able to help address your concerns.



When should my service-learning orientation take place?

  • Your orientation to your organization should take place during the second week of the academic quarter.  A date and time for a service-learning orientation should be listed in your position description.  Immediately upon completion of your online service-learning registration, you should contact your organization to confirm your attendance at the orientation.  If no orientation date is listed, be in touch with your site supervisor immediately to work out a mutually agreeable time during the second week of the quarter.



How many hours are needed to successfully complete my service-learning commitment?

  • Most service-learning commitments are three to five (or more) hours each week, and require that students commit from the second week of the quarter through the last week of classes, depending on the organization’s needs. Carefully review the organization’s expectations in your position description and have a conversation with your organization at the beginning of the quarter to determine the exact number of hours you will need to meet your commitment to the organization. Your commitment should last for the duration of the academic quarter.



Can I earn extra credit for completing service-learning?

  • Service-learning is integrated into your coursework. Students do not earn additional credit for completing service-learning but demonstrate their learning through various course assignments. In some classes, service-learning is offered as an alternative to other assignments.



Can I use one service-learning site to complete a service-learning requirement for two courses?

  • Yes. With the approval from both of your instructors, students can complete one service-learning commitment and have it count toward two service-learning classes. This arrangement will require you to reflect upon your service-learning experience through multiple lenses similar to having one text assigned to two courses. If you plan to use one service-learning commitment for two courses, register for one service-learning position. Then e-mail the Carlson Center at letting us know your intentions and that you have your instructors’ approval. We will connect your service-learning site to both courses.



How will my course instructor know I have successfully completed my service-learning?

  • At the end of the quarter, the Carlson Center will ask your site supervisor to complete an online evaluation of your service-learning commitment. This evaluation will be shared with both your course instructor and the Carlson Center.



If I am having problems or concerns regarding my service-learning, whom should I contact?

  • Be in touch with your site supervisor with questions or concerns about your service-learning experience. If you need additional assistance, members of the Carlson Center staff are available to assist you. The Carlson Center is part of the Center for Experiential Learning and is located in Mary Gates Hall 171. We can also be reached at or 206-543-4282.



I want to keep working with my organization beyond this quarter. Is this okay? What resources to do this are available through the Carlson Center?

  • If you are interested in continuing to work with your service-learning organization after the quarter’s end, be in touch with your site supervisor to discuss the details of continued volunteering. The Carlson Center offers a number of resources for students involved in volunteer work in the community. General Studies 350 allows students to earn academic credit for community-based internships. Throughout the year, the Mary Gates Endowment has scholarships available for students engaged in community-based leadership. Finally, visit the Carlson Center website to view courses that will offer a service-learning component in the upcoming quarter.