Community-Engaged Learning

A form of experiential learning and community-engaged scholarship whereby students actively engage with course content through the combination of collaborations with community and facilitated reflection

About CEL

At the core of CEL is the reciprocal, mutually beneficial partnership between community, faculty and students. This partnership facilitates an active interchange of knowledge both to the community from the student and to the student from the community. Additionally, the activities in the learning process contribute to community. The community (both on and off campus) is broadly defined and includes community groups, businesses, governmental and non-governmental agencies, industry, First Nation communities, and others.

There are a number of ways that the engagement between the community, the student and the instructor can happen, including research, projects, outreach, participation, creative activity and business plans. These are explained further in our Spectrum of Engagement.

Spectrum of Engagement

Low engagement and simple reciprocity


Students interact with community partners through the exchange of knowledge

Example: Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps discussing the urban food system with students in the Growing Community Class.



Students provide research or project support for community partners

Example: Students studying Comparative Electoral Systems joint with local political organizations to host community outreach events around electoral reform in BC.

Medium engagement and average reciprocity


Students participate in community partner endeavours

Example: Psychology students work with the Centre for Autism Research Technology and Education to enhance the social and emotional skills of children and adults with autism spectrum disorders (ASD).



Students and/or faculty develop and implement mutual projects with community partners

Example: Anthropology students learning about Indigenous cartographies and ethnographic mapping through collaboration to protect ancestral sites with Hul’qumi’nun elders and Parks Canada.

High engagement and complex reciprocity


Faculty and community partners c0-create, co-deliver and co-evaluate community-engaged learning

Example: Archaeology Field School: Students excavating at an ancient Tseshaht First Nation settlement in the Broken Group Islands unit of Pacific Rim National Park Reserve.

Opportunities to Participate

Community Service Learning

  • Integrates voluntary, unpaid community service into a credit-bearing course which includes student reflection on the volunteer experience
  • Reflection enhances understanding of civic engagement and builds connections between the experience and course content
  • Typically starts with 4 weeks in the classroom, following 7 weeks of volunteer service (30-40 hours) and ending with 2 weeks in the classroom, relating experience back to theory

Field Experience

  • Intensive on-site work experience in an immersive setting relevant to students’ field of study for an amount of time (generally 1-3 weeks)
  • Field experiences (or field placements) do not require supervision of a registered or licensed professional and the completed work experience hours are not required for professional certification
  • These are CEL experiences not encompassed by other forms, such as: co-op, clinic, practicum, and internship

Applied Projects

  • A student collaborates with a community partner by creating a project related to the student’s learning objectives while also contributing to the community
  • Applied projects are generally not research-based

Applied Research

  • Involves completing a project (or part of a larger ongoing project) for a community partner, simultaneously supporting student/course learning objectives
  • While applied research projects often look like literature reviews or policy analyses, these can also occur as consulting projects, design projects, or as community-based research projects
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