CELR – remote learning resources

CELR in times of remote learning and social distancing

As we adjust to remote teaching and learning in the face of COVID-19, below are resources and ideas for embedding civic engagement and community-engaged learning and research into a remote learning environment: civic engagement, virtual volunteering, teaching CELR in online environments, COIL methods, and discussion and reflection articles.

Recommendations for integrating remote CELR projects

Shifting from in-person CELR

To remote CELR projects

Planning your CELR integration with community partners 
  • With remote environment, need clear partner deliverables, often written down. Students also benefit from the project broken down into stages. More check-ins/small assignments throughout the quarter needed from faculty to ensure students are on track.
Invite partner(s) at beginning of class to provide an overview of their mission and project
  • Synchronous – invite partner to join class remotely via Zoom.
  • Asynchronous – ask partner if they would be willing to record themselves via video providing this overview. Then post video in Canvas and have an assignment connected to the watching the videos to ensure students watch video(s).
Student CEL groups – often you can provide in class time for student groups to check in with each other if they were behind or not connecting with each other
  • Structured group work contracts – have student groups at the beginning of the quarter articulate how they want to work together for the quarter. Turn this into an assignment for accountability and ask them to think through this early in quarter.
Student groups working with community partner(s). Groups could sometime meet with their partners once or twice throughout the quarter at the partner site.
  • Students and community partners agree how they want to communication and the frequency of communication.
  • Learning contracts that students complete alongside partners can be very supportive to a reciprocal experience for both student and partner.
  • If faculty members have  capacity, they can arrange to be at student group and partner online meetings during the first 3-4 weeks of the quarter.
  • Create opportunities and assignments for students to share stories, reflect on shifts and changes, and wonder out loud together. Many students desire more connection and interaction with each other, since they are getting less of this in-person and during remote learning.
Partner appreciation
  • End of quarter community appreciation assignment: example, students write a thank you email to their partner, copying you, describing what the experience meant to them and what they learned to their partner.
Invite partners at the end of the course to attend student final presentations.
  • Synchronous – Invite partners via Zoom to student final presentations. Partners have actually appreciated the easy access of joining via Zoom, rather than previously driving to campus.
  • Asynchronous – students record their final presentation to submit. Faculty shares final presentation to partner.
  • Both – assessment of final project. Create rubric/evaluation and ask partner for feedback. Incorporate partner feedback as a percentage of student grade (10% of project grade). Students know this up front in syllabus.
Risk management and safety trainings
  • It’s easier for the faculty if the CELR assignment is 100% remote, BUT if students need to visit or complete work on-site, interacting with other people, they are required to complete follow risk management protocol and complete safety training in Canvas.


See what messaging and partner survey went out to winter and spring community partners through Community-Engaged Learning and Research. We also encourage you to reach out to your partners to check-in and read their websites for updates.

Focus on civic engagement – Voting and Census

With the 2020 Census actively occurring and autumn elections around the corner, maintaining a focus on civic engagement is more important than ever. Here are opportunities to embed the 2020 Census count and voter registration as part of your course.

  • Washington BUS
    The Washington Bus engages young adults in voter registration, leadership development, and policy. WA BUS staff are excited to be invited as remote speakers to your class. They have developed workshops around understanding local politics and power, voter registration, voter suppression. Contact Libby Watson, WA BUS Colleges and Community Engagement Coordinator, at libby@washingtonbus.org if you would like to invite her to speak to your class.
  • Civic Action Projects for Your 100% Online Course from American Political Science Association
    Resource for instructors adapting their courses for a 100% online environment – Spring 2020 menu of civic learning projects, as adapted in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Virtual Volunteering & Projects

Create an assignment around students finding a virtual engagement project that connects to their community and course learning goals. Ask students to write a reflection paper connecting their virtual project to course concepts. Below are Washington entities that are tracking needs and posting opportunities:

Teaching CELR in online environments

While there are many examples of CELR 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. With this important caveat, here are some resources:

Additional articles:

Discussion & Reflections

  • UW Bothell librarians compiled a list of current resources highlighting the systemic inequalities that COVID-19 is revealing, and actions you can take to aid in relief efforts. There is a Canvas module that includes this list as well as discussion space to talk about how coronavirus is impacting your communities.
  • Discussion and Reflections – Articles about COVID-19 and the Public Good
    Macalester’s Civic Engagement Center is assembling links to accessible articles about COVID-19 and the public good that can be used for discussions and reflection. The articles highlight solidarity, mutual aid, and community resiliency.

COIL Pedagogy Methods from UW Bothell Office of Global Initiatives

Collaborative Online International Learning, or COIL, is a pedagogy that is international, interactive, virtual, and engages international higher education institutions as partners. Many tools and techniques used in COIL courses are great tools that can be used in remote CELR courses to connect students and local community partners.

Examples from UW COIL courses
This PPT goes in-depth to show concrete examples from COIL courses taught by UW faculty, including course logistics, assignment ideas.

Huge thanks to all the people and offices posting resources. Resources were pulled from multiple sites, including Portland State University’s Office of Community-Engaged Learning, IUPUI Center for Service Learning, Macalester’s Civic Engagement Center, Iowa Campus Campus, Washington Campus Compact COVID resources, UW Bothell Global Initiatives, UW Bothell/CC Librarians.