Community-based learning (CBL) is an opportunity for students to apply their knowledge and skills to real-world experiences while serving their communities. Professors and community partners work together to develop projects that allow students to enhance their classroom knowledge, develop leadership skills, network with community leaders, and meet identified community needs.

Each year, about 50 courses are matched to community organizations and about 1,000 students across majors participate. 

Projects cover many professional areas, such as research, marketing plans, strategic plans, graphic design, web design, database design, security audits, GIS mapping, communication plans, personnel training, conflict resolution, and more.

Community-Based Learning is for everyone.

What is Community-Based Learning (CBL)?

How many times have you spent hours on a paper or project, only for it to be seen and graded by the instructor, and then filed away or thrown out?

With community-based learning, you do real projects that make a difference in the community. For example: instead of creating a brochure for an invented company, you produce a brochure for a local nonprofit organization that is used long after your grade is recorded. During this process, you:

  • Learn how to work with a client
  • Learn more about the community in which you live
  • Contribute a valuable service to the community
  • Add to your resume or portfolio
  • Make contacts that will be valuable to your career
List of CBL Courses


Benefits of CBL

  • Provides an opportunity to apply classroom learning to real life settings
    • Enhances your understanding of subject matter
    • Reinforces lectures and readings
    • Connects students to each other
    • Helps with problem solving
  • Promotes personal growth
    • Enhances your self esteem
    • Breaks down ethnocentrism
    • Develops leadership skills
    • Broadens your world view
    • Promotes further community involvement
  • Enhances career development
    • Helps solidify ideas of future career plans
    • Builds resumes
    • Develops networks
    • Connects students with future job opportunities

Opportunities to be involved with Civic Engagement

Community-Based Learning Courses
Take a course that is designated as providing CBL credit

Community Engagement Certificate
Take multiple courses designated as providing CBL credit that can count towards a Certificate in Community Engagement

Certificate Information

Community-Based Learning, or academic service-learning, is a teaching and learning strategy that integrates meaningful community service with instruction and reflection to enrich the learning experience, teach civic responsibility, and strengthen communities.

The Alan E. Guskin Center for Community and Business Engagement can help you:

  • Find a community partner whose needs match the learning objectives of your course
  • Arrange for a community partner to come to class or meet with faculty and/or students
  • Conduct training/orientation for students
  • Provide templates of contracts, time sheets, etc.
  • Identify resources on best practices of of CBL
  • Connect you with other faculty on campus who are experienced in CBL

If you are interested in learning more about community-based learning or integrating it into your courses, contact the Community Engagement office at

CBL Course Designation

Ongoing Course Designation

A permanent CBL course designation has many benefits for both faculty and students. The permanent designation demonstrates a commitment from the academic department to include CBL as a high-impact practice in a particular course regardless of who teaches the course or the format. A permanent designation allows faculty, advisors and students to see the designation in the course catalog and plan accordingly. This is especially helpful for students if they need to take a CBL course for the Community Engagement Certificate, or if students want to avoid taking multiple CBL courses at once because of workload concerns. A permanent CBL designation also reduces the administrative burden of needing to complete one-time course designation requests every time a course is offered.

The CIM Course form is used to add a new CBL course or to add the CBL designation to an existing course. Visit the Academic Planning Resources webpage for more information on how to add new courses or change existing courses in CIM. Requests for permanent course designation are reviewed by the CBL Steering Committee and then sent to the CCC for final approval.

Note: If you are adding, changing or removing a CBL designation, you will use the same CIM Course form

One-time Course Designation

The Miscellaneous CIM form is used to request approval for a one-time CBL designation. The one-time designation form requires the same information as the permanent course designation and will be reviewed by the CBL Steering Committee. It does not require approval by CCC and the course will not be designated as CBL in the course catalog.

  • Select the Propose New Miscellaneous button.
  • After the form opens, select from the request type drop down – One-time CBL designation
  • Once the form is completed, select the START WORKFLOW button at the bottom of the page.

If you have questions about required information, please contact Amy Garrigan at

Faculty Resources

Local community information


Guidelines for Student Reflection

Reflection is a key component of community-based learning that guides students to examine critical issues related to their civic engagement. Reflection asks the following questions:

  • What?
    • What did I do and observe?
    • What issue am I addressing?
  • So what?
    • What impact is my experience having on me?
    • What did I do that was effective and why?
    • What was not effective and how might I improve on this?
    • What have I learned about myself?
  • Now what?
    • What commitment am I making to my community as a result of this project?
    • What other projects might I seek out that offer civic engagement?

Additional reflection prompts can be found in the Guskin Center Reflection Guide.

Community-based learning projects match faculty and students to the needs of the nonprofit, government, and business community.


  • Fill a need in your organization
  • Connect with experts at the university
  • Expose students to your mission
  • Recruit future long-term volunteers

Sample projects include research, marketing plans, strategic plans, graphic design, web page design, database design, security audits, GIS mapping, communication plans, personnel training, conflict resolution, applied health sciences, and more.

Organizations interested in working with a Community-Based Learning project should contact. Amy Garrigan or (262) 595-2312 at the Alan E. Guskin Center for Community and Business Engagement.

Community Engagement Certificate

Designated CBL courses can be applied toward the Community Engagement Certificate. The CE certificate is a 13-credit/five-course certificate that promotes student understanding of community needs, facilitates networking opportunities, and looks great on a resume whether applying for future employment or graduate school. You'll start with an intro course, select CBL elective courses, then top it off with a capstone.

LEARN MORE:  Community Engagement Certificate  CBL Courses   CBL Projects and News


Thousands of Parkside students put their learning in action every year, and we want to hear your stories! Fill out the survey to share a testimonial about your internship, campus job, community-based learning, study abroad, or undergraduate research experience, and we may feature you in upcoming Learning in Action promotion.


Amy Garrigan  |  262-595-2312  |

Carnegie Foundation Elective Community Engagement Classification
Campus Compact - Campus in Action - Civic Action Planning Initiative
The Presidents Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll
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