Community-Based Learning

Part of the Experience 2025 Strategic Plan is to “infuse work-based learning and community-based learning in 100% of associate and technical diploma programs by 2025.” With a student-centered focus, we aim to connect the college with the community for the purpose of fulfilling community needs while giving students a deeper academic experience.

What is Community-Based Learning?

Community-Based Learning (CBL) is a fluid and purposeful approach to engagement designed to immerse students and faculty in an experience that will develop skills, enhance learning, and strengthens the communities they serve.

More specifically, a high-quality CBL experience:

  1. Includes critical reflection before, during, and after the experience, and incorporates civic and social responsibility connections throughout.
  2. Considers the social impacts of the experience.
  3. Focuses on true, identified community needs and is co-created with a community partner.
  4. Meets the program or course competencies and/or SuccessAbilities, making it fully embedded in the course.

Examples of a CBL Experience include:

  • Project-based; solve a problem, create a product, plan an event for a community partner that addresses a social issue
  • Placement (Service Hours); work in tandem with a community partner to address a social issue.

For specific examples of ways Western faculty have incorporated CBL in their curriculum, check out the Western Engaged Annual Reports.

Why should I use CBL to teach course content?


  • Helps students better understand and retain knowledge.
  • Allows students to apply what they are learning with future employers, customers, and/or clients.
  • Increases course completion, retention, and engagement.
  • Empowers students to become active in their communities which will lead to a deeper sense of social responsibility and civic engagement.
  • Allows opportunities for students to expand their network, helping them with their future job search.
  • Provides services and solutions to needs in our communities.


UGetconnected is a local platform funded by Western Technical College, Great Rivers United Way, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, and Viterbo University. Using your Western login credentials, you can use the online platform to do a number of things:

  • Connect (yourselves and your students) to community needs and service opportunities.
  • Learn more about the 160+ agencies in our community.
  • Track community service hours, community-based learning hours, VLTO hours and other community engagement activity.
  • Export a service resume that captures all community-based activity hours.

UGetConnected is also home to Western’s Service Learning Module (SLM). The SLM is a platform feature that synthesizes community needs, student activity, and student reflection. If you’re interested in learning more about using the SLM in a course you teach or would like your students to learn more about Western’s UGetConnected platform, please reach out to the Department of Equity, Inclusion, and Community Engagement by emailing or calling 608-789-6191. We are happy to present in classes or provide resources and guides for students.

Required Activity Documents


Required for all community engagement and community-based learning activities. Students’ service hours must be tracked by one of two methods:


The College requires travel forms to be completed for all (classroom or club) student travel off-campus. The forms can be found on the Western Student website.


Complete this form for any project involving children, fundraising, controversial topics, or food that hasn’t already been pre-approved by the Department of Equity, Inclusion, & Community Engagement.


For every club, student organization, student or class project that involves fundraising or working with or for the community, specific guidelines need to be followed. These guidelines keep the College and students away from risky activities. Guidelines can be viewed on the Fundraising/Community-Based Learning Activity Proposal webpage.

Resources for Students


Students often don’t think about listing course-based experiences on their resume. Encourage them to write about their CBL experiences similar to how they’d list other involvement and work experience.

Resources for Faculty


Need some ideas for how to integrate reflection into your classroom? Check out Deepening the Learning in Service-Learning: Reflection Resources and Activities (PDF) for ideas on the types of activities or questions you can ask students to think about. Additionally, feel free to reach out to Equity, Inclusion, & Community Engagement to lead an activity or discussion in one of the following reflection activities:

  • Pre- and post-service reflection
  • Professionalism
  • Active Listening
  • Sharing Power
  • Team Building
  • Strengths Finder Assessment & Reflection


Western Engaged 2019: Need an idea for a project or activity your students can get involved in? Check out the 2019 Western Engaged Annual Report to learn how your colleagues have integrated community-based learning throughout their courses. The Equity, Inclusion, & Community Engagement Department is happy to discuss your specific class, course outcomes, and what type of project would be mutually beneficial for your students and the community.

Need Assistance?

We want to help you integrate community-based learning into your course/program, so don’t hesitate to reach out to us for help and support. Feel free to contact us via phone, email, or by simply dropping into Student Success Center Room 222 to chat.

Kari Reyburn Director of Equity, Inclusion, & Community Engagement (608)789-4798 Julie Christensen Community-Based Learning Specialist (608)789-6191


NOTE: Work-based learning differs from community-based learning. However, sometimes these experiences are similar. Work-based learning is a structured learning experience which takes place in a workplace setting. This is a categorical word for field experience, clinical, practicum, internship, job shadow, etc.