City as your textbook

Community-Based Learning

Make the city and community your textbook with Community-based Learning (CBL) courses! CBL courses incorporate at least 25 hours of meaningful community engagement with course content so you can get real-world experience as part of a for-credit class. This might look like volunteering, working on a project with a community partner, or a combination of both.

In these courses, students have a chance to learn from community partners and community experiences while also providing their own expertise and enthusiasm to community partners, resulting in a relationship where both students and community partners benefit.

Community engagement is built into the courses themselves, rather than being an “add-on” that students do outside of the course’s time requirements. The community engagement also relates directly to the course topic, which results in deeper and more enjoyable learning.

More than 40 departments teach 110+ Community-based Learning courses every year. This is your chance to add hands-on, meaningful experience to your class schedule while getting involved in your community.

Use the Course and Search Enrollment Guide to see all the Community-based Learning courses offered each semester.

Select the term. At the bottom left, click on ‘Other Options’ and select ‘Community-based Learning – 25 Hours or More.’ You can use other Course Guide functions to narrow your search.

Some examples of CBL courses include:

  • a communications course where students develop a communications plan for and with a nonprofit organization
  • an engineering course where students work with community partners to develop solutions to real-world engineering problems
  • an education course where students mentor youth as they learn about urban education
  • a special education course where students work with individuals with disabilities while learning about exceptional children and youth
  • a science course where students learn about science education while leading youth science clubs

Check out current course offerings in a variety of majors and subjects as well as other courses offered in past semesters and sessions!

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SUMMER 2021

SPRING 2021

Community-based Learning classes include at least 25 hours of service throughout the semester as part of the course requirement. Typically, you’ll begin by exploring the background of the issues related to the class and preparing to work with a community organization or agency.

Then you will usually spend a few hours a week at that community partner site or working on a project for a community partner, using your skills to provide real benefits to your community partner. During the course, you will learn from your community partners and experiences in the community, while also learning during class time.

The Morgridge Center offers transportation options to help Community-based Learning students get to and from their community partner sites.

The Morgridge Center is currently only providing transportation for courses that meet the UW guidelines for fieldwork AND receive approval from their department’s Dean.

If your course fits these criteria, please email the transportation intern for next steps.

Check out UW-Madison’s CBL FAQ  for more information on how the Student Volunteer Commitment & Safety Guidelines for COVID-19 have adjusted CBL courses to provide a safe, educational environment amid the pandemic

Assistant Director of Community-Engaged Scholarship Haley Madden: hmadden@wisc.edu

On the fence about taking a CBL course? Discover what CBL does for the community and what it can do for you below.

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CBL Course Benefits

Students report that in CBL classes, they learn more, understand course content better and enjoy the class more.

Some key takeaways include:

  • Greater motivation to learn; deeper understanding of subject matter; integration of concepts from class to authentic issue
  • Reduction of potential negative stereotyping; increase in cultural awareness
  • Greater self-knowledge; increased awareness of community and social issues
  • Enhanced interpersonal skills; improved leadership
  • Especially valuable for those who learn best through experience and teaching others
  • Encourages retention of first-generation students and students of color

Student Testimonials

A recent UW–Madison survey found that over 91% of Community-based Learning students got more out of their Community-based Learning course than a traditional course. Additionally, 100% of those students surveyed had a positive experience.

Just ask former Community-based Learning students!

“It is one thing to sit in a classroom and learn about something, but when you are actually out in the real world applying what you have learned to certain situations, you definitely get more out of the class.”

“This will have been the most hands-on, productive class I’ve ever taken. It will have been the most important class I took at UW.”

“The best part of my service experience was…getting to be closer friends with someone who could offer me a completely different perspective on life.”

Connect with Community

Connect with Community

Every university resides in a community. Whether a small town or large city, universities are surrounded by homes, businesses, schools, community centers, theaters–people’s lives. Collaborating with citizens in these spaces to help improve them has historically been one of the primary purposes of higher education in the United States, yet is one we often overlook today.

Community-Engaged Scholarship (CES) helps bridge this gap by fostering sustainable partnerships between university faculty, staff, and students with local citizens and organizations to address real community concerns. Sometimes called “service-learning,” Community-based Learning is a credit-bearing educational experience that integrates meaningful community service with guided reflection to enhance students’ understanding of course content as well as their sense of civic responsibility.

CBL Interns

2019-20 CBL Interns

Instructors of courses that have received CBL designation may request an undergraduate Community-based Learning intern to assist them in the planning and implementation of their course for up to five hours a week at no cost.

Interns are assigned for at least one semester to, among other things, establish community placements, lead reflection exercises and maintain ongoing communication between the community organizations and the students or instructor.

Working as a CBL intern is a great next step for those who have taken a CBL course, are interested in learning more about CBL, or may want to teach a CBL course someday. Please contact Haley Madden at hmadden@wisc.edu for more info.