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Answer Students’ FAQs

The Service-Learning staff tried to think of every possible question or challenge that MIGHT arise during the semester. Only a few may happen with each class… but it’s good to be prepared!  Some of these relate only to classes that use online student project registration (with pre-set orientation times).

The First Few Weeks:

Q: Some of my students want to choose their own agency.

A:   It is at the discretion of the instructor to allow students to serve at an agency not on the list of pre-established projects. If allowed, the student should complete a “Student-Initiated Project” form (under “Forms” on the SL website) and submit it to the instructor for approval.

Q: A student tells me that the project they want is “full” (they were blocked from selecting it online)

A:  Agencies set the number of students they can take for each project. If the project is full, the student can contact the agency to request an additional slot.  If the agency is willing to take an additional student, the student should contact the SL office to update the number of slots and enroll the student.

Q: Some students are registered for more than one SL class concurrently, and want to know if their hours can be reduced.

A. The Service-Learning Office recommends a reduction of 20% of the combined hourly requirement. However, the student must complete all of their service at one agency (in order to ensure that agencies have sufficient participant-hours), and only if that agency offers an experience that the student can relate to the learning objectives of both classes.  Course assignments must not overlap (i.e. the same essay may not be submitted to both instructors).  Agencies should be consulted about any reduction in hours of service.  The student, faculty, and agency should discuss and record how these requirements are met and then clarify the hour reduction.

Q: A student really wants to do a particular project but the orientation does not fit their schedule.

A:  Tell the students that they could call the agency and ask if they would mind scheduling an individual interview.  The agency may or may not say yes, because it requires them to go beyond what we have asked them to do.

Q: A student is already volunteering somewhere, so wants to do their SL there.

A:  Allowing this is at the discretion of the instructor; see question above about Student Initiated Projects. However, since SL is meant to help students grow personally and professionally, it may be a missed opportunity for students to do their SL at an existing volunteer position. We recommend encouraging the student to do a special project or take on new/different type of responsibility that relates to the learning objectives of the class.

Q: Can a student count hours at an internship site as SL hours?

A: A student cannot count the same hour towards internship requirements AND service-learning requirements (also known as the “double dip”). This is a BSU policy (not just SLP) because these hours are fulfilling academic requirements, and would be akin to turning in the same paper for two classes. The student can be at the same site for both internships and service-learning, but must count hours separately.

Q: The checklist says students must maintain health insurance to participate in SL. What if they don’t have it?

A: Health Insurance is not mandatory to participate in SL; however we strongly encourage it because BSU liability insurance does not cover students if they are injured at the site.  Most –but not all– agencies have liability insurance to cover students.  The important thing is for students to be aware of this.

Q: Students are asking if orientations count toward their service hours.

A:   Yes. The SL Program recommends that the orientations are considered part of the service hours.

Q: All students are supposed to register by the end of week two, because orientations start in week three.  It’s the end of week two and a lot of students have not registered.

A. In class, tell the students that they must register ASAP! …or else they may 1) not get the project they want, 2) risk missing the agency orientation, 3) in general find themselves in a muck.  Instruct them to go to the SL Office in Riverfront Hall 313 for assistance. The SL staff will sit down with the student to help them find a good project.

Another approach:

  • Prevent this situation by establishing consequences for non-compliance. For example, “if you are not registered by next Tuesday, you will miss x# points”.
  • Offer a specific time when you can help them. This might be, “I will stay after class today to assist anyone who would like help registering.”.
  • Learn WHY the students have not registered. Maybe do a five-minute paper (or a post on Canvas) asking questions that get at this, such as “have you registered for a project? if not, why not? ” “have you gone to an orientation yet?  If no, when is your orientation scheduled?  “Are you encountering any challenges?”  “What are you most looking forward to?” or something like that (I just brainstormed these quickly… they may not fit your situation).

Q:  It is the end of the third week and some students are calling and e-mailing me that they missed their orientations.

A:  Agencies usually provide two pre-scheduled orientations.  If the student has missed both orientations but would like to serve with that agency, tell the student they need to make their own arrangements with that agency.  The agency may (or may not) be able to accommodate their special needs (each orientation requires 1-2 hours… imagine if several students ask for individual orientations).  Usually the agency will accept the student, but if not, please direct the student to the SL office for assistance in finding an alternative placement.

Throughout the semester:

Q: What do I do if there are students who are really negative or disruptive in the reflection session?

A:  Asking other students for input is a good deflection technique.  For example, if a student says, “I don’t see how putting together a brochure relates to writing . . .”, you might say, “What do others of you think brochure writing has to do with composition?”  Chances are, someone else will step up.  Remember, it’s not your job to have “all the answers”.  It’s your job to guide the discussion and make sure that everyone’s concerns are heard and reflected upon, but not necessarily “solved”.  Part of Service-Learning is seeing that not every problem has a quick fix!

Q: What if students have not started and show no signs of starting their SL?

A:  Communicate the class expectations, timeline, and consequences of delaying their SL.  Try to end the discussion with a positive note… “Those who are doing their SL are getting ahead and making connections.”

Q: What if a student is asked to change agencies, or if a student wants to change agencies in mid-to-late in the semester?

A:  Only allow a student to switch agencies if the student is willing to serve no less than ten hours for the new agency, because the agency will need to invest time giving that student an orientation.  Then decide whether the original agency or the new agency (or both) should evaluate the student.   If the student cannot serve ten hours at the new agency, brainstorm with the original agency possible alternative assignments that would satisfy both the student and the agency.

Q: When I ask in class how everyone is doing and if they’re getting their hours, they just shrug and nod and I’m not sure if they’re really doing okay.  Is there any way I can really find out?

A: Here are a couple of quick “check-in” ideas for use in weeks 6-12.  In all cases, discuss your findings with faculty and collaborate on any problems:

  • The “Five minute paper” Ask students to take out a blank sheet of paper and ask students to record: their name, their agency name, the supervisor they most recently worked with, whether they have attended an orientation (ask in week 5-6 only), the number of hours complete so far, challenges they are having (if any), and whether they anticipate problems completing their hours.  Students find it helpful if you write these questions on the board.  Collect, review, respond as needed, and share with the faculty member.
  • The “reflection check-in”: Ask students to take out a blank sheet of paper.  Assign a five minute prompt on appropriate site topic i.e. “What was something that happened at your S-L that surprised you or made you uncomfortable; how did you handle it?” or “What have you seen to be the reason why your site is needed in our community and who else do you think should be helping out?”.  Collect, review, and respond–they’ll know you’re concerned!

Q: The project isn’t giving students as many hours as they had planned, and the students might come up short.  Do we have any back-up hours or projects for them?

A:  Ask the student to discuss their concern directly with the agency. Often times the agency can find alternative projects for the student to complete. If this is unsuccessful, contact the SL office for assistance.

Wrapping up

Q: I’ve just found out that a student hasn’t started their hours and it’s over halfway through!  What do I do?

A:  If the student is doing well in the class otherwise, and/or has a valid reason for the late start, please contact the SL office for assistance in finding a suitable placement for the student.

Q: If the students are not participating in group discussions or in reflection, should I contact the agencies they’re working with just to make sure they’re doing the SL?

A:  It’s a good idea to check in with agencies and ask how your specific students are doing.  Some agencies work with multiple classes, so be specific about which class you are calling from, and which students you are checking on.

Q: How do I help the students transition out of their service if they are working with vulnerable populations and have established personal relationships?

A:   It’s important students do something to bring closure to their relationship.  Suggest students talk to their companion about their approaching end of time together.   Often students will give their companion a small symbolic gift  (a poem, a greeting card, etc.).  Sometimes they plan a little celebration together.

Q: Students ask if they can continue serving even after their SL requirement is complete. How do I advise them?

A:  That’s wonderful!  The agencies will really appreciate their continued participation. Encourage them to consider using the experience as an internship. Internships are coordinated through Career Services: or Telephone: (208) 426-1747.

Other Questions?

For any other questions please call us at 208-426-1004.