COVID-19: Faculty/Staff

Community Engaged Learning in Times of Social Distancing, Isolation, and Quarantine

As we adjust to our new temporary reality in the face of COVID-19, there are many factors to consider when thinking about transitioning your internships, service-learning, or other community engagement to a remote environment. While there are many examples of service-learning in online courses, those were often constructed over a longer period of time and could still have students active face-to-face in their community.  You can see a collection of resources for that scenario

Remember this quick switch in teaching and learning is likely uncharted territory for us all, including your students and community partners. High quality community engaged learning isn't about logging a certain number of hours, it is about learning and being responsive to community partner needs. Perhaps at this time, the ultimate way to be engaged in the community is in ways that are grass-roots and emerging as the situation unfolds.  

Note, the information here does not supplant directives from the institution, the system, or the government regarding social distancing, isolation, and quarantine.  This is simply a collection of ideas that might help keep your course community-connected learning goals moving during this disruption. Use your best judgement for how to proceed. Please don't hesitate to share your ideas with us.  

Should you have any immediate concerns/questions, please contact ICCE:

Connect With Your Community Partner(s) and Internship Sites  

Faculty, if you haven't done so already, please check in with your community partner(s) and internship sites. If you are concerned that a further cancelation from us could disrupt operations with your partner, please ask them about timing. How soon do they need to know? If you are teaching a service-learning class this semester, offer some additional flexibility in timing or even consider that content may need to change. Students may still be able to conduct project-based or indirect activities to meet community priorities and course requirements. 

Our community partners and internship sites are also facing a disruption in their day-to-day operations. Here are some things to keep in mind when reaching out to them: 

  • Read their website and social media posts to see what they have already shared about impacts. They may be closed entirely, operating with limited services, limiting outside contacts, etc. Be mindful of the additional burden planning for students might cause as well as the additional support that might be beneficial. 

  • Reach out to your partner/site contact (email is likely best at this time, plan for delayed responses). Let them know the current status of classes at SF State. Come with an idea in mind of what may be reasonable for your students to still do. If you need help with this, please connect with Nina Roberts, Director of Community Engaged Scholarship & Learning who can support with resources as you begin to move your community-engaged courses online.

  • Have an open conversation and respect their limits in hosting your students at this time.  What is reasonable on their end? On yours? On the students? Are there other needs they have that are different than your usual involvement that might work for all involved? 

Make a plan: 

  • Move forward with students engaged in some way. Again, think of all the parties involved. As you develop a plan with the community partner, factor in the new realities for your students.  Keep reading below for ideas on ways to get creative in this time.

  • Decide to suspend temporarily. Set a time with your partner/site where you will check back in. Your partner organization may also have shifting restrictions. Decide when you'll check back in and keep plans flexible for shifting impacts for both SF State  and the community partner/site. 

  • Decide to connect with a different partner. Consider other community partners and efforts that might need support in virtual modes. Follow the same steps to check in with them and make plans. This could include more indirect work and/or working with the VISTAs. 

  • Decide to suspend community-based work for the semester.​​

  • Reflect: Use this time with your students to learn about the impacts of the pandemic on community organizations (see below for more resources to guide that reflection),

Going Remote With Your Partner/Site

If it is possible to transition to remote or virtual engagement with your community partner or a new partner, here are some ideas that might work with your course and partner needs: 


  • Conducting background research or gathering best practices or other information requested by the partner(s)/site(s)

  • Conduct online research on best practices or develop tools for program assessment 

  • Create a listing of grant opportunities that may be applicable for their organization

  • Remote interviewing current/past clients about their experiences or the impact of the organization on where they are today

Content/Product Creation

  • ​Create marketing or social media content for future use by the partner/site

  • Create brochures or other materials for information-sharing

  • Data analysis 

  • Create content for workshops to benefit community partner(s)/sites (in collaboration with community partners)

  • Create a resource (build a website?) of activities for after-school programming 

Virtual Connecting

  • Provide assistance via phone or web based meetings with organization team member support to those being served by the organization or others in the community

  • Work with staff to share videos or use technology to continue visits with residents or patients of retirement home facilities

  • Conducting virtual or phone-based educational supports for youth and adults


  • Offer (or compile, research, or brainstorm) strategies that provide indirect support from volunteers as a result of coronavirus​

  • Write a positive review for the organization to help with their marketing efforts

Virtual Volunteering

There are many ways to do meaningful things for the common good or directly with others in a virtual way.  Check it out. 

Reflection on COVID-19

  • Analyze the COVID-19 outbreak and public responses to it (including changes in university policy) through a lens that is attentive to underlying structures of power and inequality.

  • Offering students a conceptual framework (and a corresponding digital platform) that presents 'consciousness-raising' as a radical and transformational mode of social change (rather than 'helping' or 'serving' per se).

  • Discussion of the xenophobia that is emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Non-Community-Engaged Ways to Connect Your Course to the Community

It's possible that the best option for now is to not have students directly connected to the community.  If that is the case, there are many resources for exploring the concepts of community with your students.  Here are just a few: 

  • Discuss and reflect on the notion of community and the various forms it takes (recognized 501(c)3 Organizations, grassroots organizations, neighbor to neighbor connections, family and friends). ​

  • Check with the campus library to see what streaming videos they might have available to enhance the course. 

  • National Issues Forums has a great collection of resources that explore a variety of issues.  You could have students read the materials and engage in an online discussion. The website has resources for how to structure the experience. 

  • Teach students how laws are created, help them discover who their elected officials are, have a discussion about the importance of advocating for what you believe in.  

  • Think about what organizations and businesses are impacted by COVID-19. Perhaps some of them would benefit from positive Google or Yelp reviews if the students have interacted with them? 

Things People in Our Communities Might Need in These Times

  • Healthy people who can go to the grocery store for them and doorstep deliver groceries for them

  • Google Hangout/Facetime/Zoom conversations to counteract the physical social isolation

  • Extra craft/art supplies, books, videos for families with kids at home

  • A kind note/letter to organizations serving communities of color who may be facing xenophobic reactions

  • Interruption of xenophobic reactions on social media or in conversations

  • Calls or emails to elected officials to advocate on behalf of needs in this time

  • Check ins with folks you know are living alone and/or are isolating or in quarantine

  • Notes of thanks to those in leadership roles or in positions that are not able to stay home.  

  • Quarantine Chat. Allows users to receive phone calls from other random users who want to talk. 

ICCE will be reaching out to community partners with a general statement about how movement to online teaching will affect the students working with their organization, however, we ask that faculty also contact community partners directly to determine the best way for community projects to be completed remotely. 

Special thanks to Campus Compact of Minnesota for the development of this list of ideas and Sonoma State University Center for Community Engagement and the CSU Center for Community Engagement.