22 SES 12 C, Civic Engagement in Higher Education Teaching and Learning
Universities facilitate students’ civic engagement either by providing courses as part of study programmes, for which students can earn credit, or by offering extra-curricular projects, in which students volunteer for a community service. For both activities of engagement, the encounter with a dynamic real-world problem is crucial for enhancing students’ civic engagement and effecting their academic learning by applying their knowledge to social situations (Merbert et al., 2020). However, the application of digital tools challenges the notion of civic engagement as being vividly involved in a real-world problem. Thus, more research is needed to deepen our understanding how civic engagement is being translated through digital technologies and what potentials and limitations it offers for students’ engagement and learning processes. This contribution offers insights into two case studies from Austria. While first focuses on students who support Caritas projects in the community as part of their study programme, in the second students engage on a voluntary basis in mentoring services for schools. For the empirical study, n=4 in-depth semi-structured interviews were conducted with students and project leaders about civic engagement and the potentials of digitalising their projects within HE. The interviews were transcribed in full and analysed using qualitative content analysis (Mayring, 2014). In the first case study, students take up the course “Project Management Today”. The prior objective of the course is for students to learn how project management works in practice. By collaborating with the community service Caritas, students carried out different engagement activities (e.g. collecting hygiene products for the homeless, creating upcycling ideas). Because of COVID19, all activities had to be reorganised digitally. In the second case study, students with a migration background take part in the programme “Intercultural Mentoring for Schools” in which they regularly visit schools and support pupils in their training. However, due to COVID19 students could not continue their mentoring on site at schools. Moreover, it was hardly possible to transfer their activities into a ‘digital classroom’. In both cases, preliminary results indicate that a trustful relationship with community partners is essential to keep up the communication through digital tools. We found similar opinions about digital tools in both case studies, namely that respondents found digital instruments as helpful on the one hand but also critical on the other. Also, the engagement activity itself needs to change when it is transferred into the ‘digital world’ depending on the creativity of students and teachers.
Mayring, P. (2014). Qualitative content analysis: theoretical foundation, basic procedures and software solution. Retrieved from https://nbn-resolving.org/urn:nbn:de:0168-ssoar-395173 Mebert, L., Barnes, R., Dalley, J., Gawarecki, L., Ghazi-Nezami, F., Shafer, G., Slater, J., & Yezbick, E. (2020). Fostering student engagement through a real-world, collaborative project across disciplines and institutions. Higher Education Pedagogies, 5(1), 30-51.
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