Community-Based Learning

The Department of Equity, Inclusion & Community Engagement works with students, instructors, and community organizations to identify opportunities for partnerships. 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.

The phrase “community engagement” is used as an umbrella term at Western that consists of volunteering, community-based learning and service-learning. Community Engagement is used in the classroom to teach students course outcomes and competencies but also used in extra-curricular aspects of student life.

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 their skills, enhance their learning, and strengthen 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.

Why should I use CBL to teach course content?

  • Learning is at its best when students are required to apply what they’ve learned through community problem-solving, teaching the community, or providing direct service.
  • Course completion, retention, and GPA are generally higher. (We completed an analysis of the IT-CSS program and found this to be TRUE!)
  • Provides students with opportunities to become active in their communities which will lead to a deeper sense of social responsibility and civic engagement. We are changing the workforce one student at a time.
  • An opportunity to expand a students’ 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, please reach out to the Department of Equity, Inclusion, and Community Engagement by emailing or calling 608-789-6191.

Required Activity Documents



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

  • Tracking hours on Ugetconnected via users’ “Hour Tracking” function. Learn more about Ugetconnected hour tracking by reviewing the Ugetconnected tutorial on
  • Completing Western’s Community Engagement Data Collection Form. Students can fill out this form themselves or instructors may do so on their behalf.


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.


Follow these guidelines for any community engagement activity. These guidelines keep the College and students away from risky activities. Guidelines for Fundraising & Community-Based Learning Activities

Resources for Students



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

  • How to Present Service Experiences and Community-Based Learning Activities on Resumes


Let students know that they can be recognized for their time spent in service. Details of this recognition can be found at


This is an opportunity for next-level community service for students who want to not only serve their community, but who want to also learn about and address equity barriers in their communities. Details of this program can be found at

Resources for Faculty



Need funding for supplies, travel, and/or professional time spent coordinating community-based learning details? Work with Community Engagement to apply for a mini-grant through the Wisconsin Campus Compact.


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


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.

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
Julie Christensen
Experiential Learning Coach


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.