Service-learning at Virginia Commonwealth University traditionally involves students performing community service to address community needs, coupled with guided reflection for holistic growth. In the spring of 2020 in-person courses were suspended due to the Covid-19 pandemic, necessitating a transition to online classes. This study aimed to determine if online service-learning provided the same benefits as in-person experiences, focusing on students' perceptions of inclusion/acceptance, empathy, and accessibility. Online surveys were administered to students enrolled in service-learning courses during the semester. Results showed reduced levels of support compared to Fall 2019, but increased social activism and awareness. The study noted that remote learning may have affected accessibility and awareness of inequities. The author recommends that the university continues this line of research to better understand how the changes in higher education influence the practice of service-learning and related students and community members.

Author's note

My name is Jessie Feng, a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University in 2021, with a B.S. in Biology and minors in Chemistry and Psychology. Currently, I am working in the medical field, with aspirations of matriculating into medical school. My experiences as a Service-Learning Teacher’s Assistant inspired this project, as I first-hand witnessed the empowering impact of service-learning. With the onset of the pandemic and the subsequent transition to online courses, I found it imperative to explore whether these benefits could translate to online community engagement to ultimately assist in the strengthening of service-learning programs.

This piece has undergone substantial revisions for various purposes, this product was initially developed for the VCU Undergraduate Research and Creative Scholarship Summer Fellowship followed by the VCU Poster Symposium. From there, this project was revised for the 2021 Gulf South Summit, and now the VA Engage Journal. The final product is almost unrecognizable from my original submissions and I could not be more proud of this work. I am excited to share the results of this rewarding experience with a broader audience.

I could not have achieved this level of success without the support of my service-learning mentors at VCU: Dr. Amanda Hall, Prof Katie Elliott, and Prof Jill Reid. I am forever grateful for the opportunities and support they provided during my undergraduate career. Additionally, I would also like to thank my wonderful boyfriend, who constantly reminded me of why I took up these projects and never let me quit. Lastly, I would like to thank Dr. Steve Grande for his thorough feedback, meaningful discussions, and unwavering support throughout this publishing process.

All opinions expressed in this paper are my own and I have no conflicts of interest to disclose.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to email: fengjc@alumni.vcu.edu.



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