GivePulse is honored to be supporting the team of researchers from the University of Minnesota and the University of Georgia developing a standardised assessment tool designed to provide a quantitative measure of quality for credit-bearing service-learning courses. The team has been hard at work for the past five years, as part of a U.S. Department of Education-funded national project, focused on investigating the impacts of community engagement on higher education student’s educational success.
The Service-Learning Quality Assessment Tool (SLQAT) incorporates a set of 28 service-learning practices that research studies have found essential for promoting positive student outcomes. The tool takes into account these elements to establish a composite numerical score that indicates the “quality” of service-learning courses.
The research team has shared preliminary versions of this measurement tool with scholars and practitioners at conferences and workshops across the globe for input and feedback. They are now inviting you to join in the second phase of the research focused on assessing the reliability and validity of the tool. They are specifically looking for service-learning scholars, practitioners, and supporters to assign relative weights to each of the instrument’s 28 elements by completing a survey in which you will assign each element a score, based on what you believe its level of influence is on student learning outcomes. The survey will take about 20 minutes to complete.
Even as states begin to reopen, group gatherings will continue to be limited as a crucial safety precaution. But this does not mean that important events need to be postponed or cancelled — conferences, for example, can be just as meaningful and productive as ever!
GivePulse teammates attended the Association of Corporate Citizenship Professionals (ACCP) conference on April 30 and May 1 (the second half of the conference will happen in June with a virtual networking opportunity for attendees during mid Month), where, in addition to engaging in important conversations regarding corporate social responsibility in these unprecedented circumstances, we also had the chance to think through the Dos and Don’ts of virtual conferences. As with virtual volunteering, it is important to be guided by best practices to make sure that everyone stays connected to and invested in these conversations.
Below are our main takeaways for those hoping to set up a virtual conference:
Find creative ways to make sure the conference engages participants:
Staring at a screen and listening to speakers may offer less stimulus than most conferences entail. Because of this, it’s important to be creative! Use polls and break-out rooms to encourage participation, and consider shortening speaking times to allow for more breaks. Remind keynote speakers that the format difference may lead to changes in their presentation. Encourage them to avoid lengthy speaking segments in favor of interactive elements.
Conversations, follow up chitchats, downtime, etc. are crucial:
One of the most important parts of conferences is the opportunity to chat with others in your area of expertise or interest. This is an opportunity to learn, network, and grow, and needs to be maintained in the virtual environment. Break-out rooms, as suggested above, are a great way to organically recreate this environment; set up some break-out sessions specifically targeted at meeting, greeting or even downtime (either before, between or after panels, just like they exist in “normal” conferences). Create a virtual hub as well, where participants, vendors, and sponsors can display, engage, and promote their organizations and can reach out to like-minded groups. Ideally, offering an opportunity to explore and be engaged with the conference without the need to participate in a panel is important!
Virtual conferences can increase accessibility:
The ACCP scheduled portions of the conference over different dates across six weeks, and recorded the content sessions for those unable to make these times. They also offered built-in breaks between sessions. All of these reveal the benefit of virtual conferencing: extreme flexibility. Highlight this value, and use it as an opportunity to increase those who engage with the conference.
Beyond these takeaways, the conference reaffirmed the importance of collaborative and compassionate business models in this time. Compassionate businesses are the ones that survive and thrive. We are grateful to partner with so many compassionate businesses; learn more in our J.B. Hunt blog spotlight and a recent webinar on the impact of what businesses are doing in Austin, Texas through Austin Gives.
Novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has changed, and will continue to change, how we engage with our communities. Calls for physical distancing (commonly referred to as social distancing — we want to emphasize that social connection is of the utmost importance at this time; physical distancing refers to recommendations that we avoid unnecessary interactions, and maintain six feet of physical distance if we must engage in person) remind us how connected our actions are to the lives of everyone around us. Communities have rallied to provide care for those who are vulnerable or whose livelihoods are precarious in the face of changing suggestions and legislation. We know that we are sick together and well together. Our actions shape our communities’ health, in the most literal sense of the word.
Many direct service organizations, businesses, and higher education institutions work with populations particularly vulnerable to coronavirus, which makes it extremely important that we all find ways to keep our communities together and cared for while also being careful not to spread illness. We’ve been working to gather resources, processes, requirements, and tools to help our partners — institutions, nonprofits, volunteers, and communities — find the best paths forward. We are actively seeking input from our partners to ensure that we are making changes that best reflect the pressure points for these organizations and institutions. Please fill out our surveys for both higher education and community organization partners to help us make changes to our platform that will support you at this time, and email our Emergency Response Team at email@example.com if you have any additional suggestions, questions, or concerns.
We will continue to update this blog over the coming days and weeks, and will keep you informed on social media and through support articles as we make changes to our platform in order to best support our engaged communities at this time. Below are highlights of how community engaged teaching, nonprofit work, and volunteering are changing in light of COVID-19, as well as further resources for you to dig into. If we’ve missed a resource, feel free to send it to us through our support channel and we will add it to the list. We know that many institutions and organizations are engaged in conversations like this, and that information is changing quickly. We hope that we can be a hub for disseminating this information widely in order to ensure that the work of our incredible volunteers and partners can continue as our understanding of this virus and its impacts continues to grow.
Community Engaged Teaching
Engagement with partners is a core aspect of any community engaged pedagogy. With both universities and nonprofits shifting away from face-to-face interactions, this engagement will have to shift accordingly. Here are some of the crucial steps to take in addressing these changes:
If you have not done so yet, contact your community partners and learn how to best support them. Many are no longer doing any face-to-face service; however, some still are, in which case students leaving campus might create a sudden burden through lack of volunteers.
Determine the best path for moving community based teaching online (see resources below from our partners for some excellent suggestions).
Come up with alternative ways to have students volunteer. Ask your community partners if your students can help with research, content creation, or virtual forms of connection, or if there is any other form of virtual volunteering that they can help with. Keep an eye out for updates from GivePulse about how we are working on our platform to best support virtual volunteering at this time.
Use this as an opportunity to dive deeply into student reflections. You may not be able to track hours, but you can active your group wall and encourage students to discuss their experiences so far and their feelings at this time, getting a robust sense of how engagement has impacted their semesters thus far. This feedback will help you develop contingency plans now and plan for direct service going forward, and will also offer students an opportunity to engage with their community based learning in a different but still useful way.
Work with us to integrate with your current Learning Management System. Be it Canvas, Moodle, Blackboard or some other variant, let us know; there are currently a few different mechanisms to facilitate the integration. If it’s too soon for the spring semester, we can help gear you all up for the fall semester.
Below are resources that offer further support and ideas:
The Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning at Indiana University Bloomington have come out with resources for community engaged teaching at this time. In this blog, they also talk about how to utilize the concept of Retrieval Practice (recalling information when it is not in front of you) as an aspect of this online learning.
Iowa Campus Compact has put together a guide based on communications with other Campus Compact schools to help engaged campuses at this time. Going forward, Iowa & Minnesota Campus Compact will host a weekly virtual discussion on this topic every Friday at 2:30 pm central, which you can register for here. Campus Compact has also created an extensive resources list for institutions in this time.
Vanderbilt University’s teaching in a time of crisis article helps guide those who are teaching online courses. They recommend providing resources and guidance to students in this time, and acknowledging the mental stress that students are under. Inside Higher Ed also has helpful suggestions for creating community in a time of crisis.
This one-hour video by the Bonner Foundation offers helpful tips and suggestions for teaching an online social action course. From planning, establishing community norms, and creating an online community to structuring and evaluating, this video offers step-by-step and thorough information to help move teaching online.
Brands, Businesses and Member Organizations
Corporations that regularly engage with their communities will need to move away from a focus on direct service. Corporations should now focus predominately on pro-bono skills and project-based endeavors, as well as donations and corporate matching campaigns:
If you have not done so yet, contact your community partners and learn how to best support them.
Consider how your products, skills, or services might benefit those in your community (see resources below for some ideas). Offer up these services pro-bono in order to alleviate newfound burdens due to COVID-19.
Encourage donations — now might be an excellent time to engage in a corporate matching campaign, particularly to organizations that are directly involved with the coronavirus pandemic.
Use this as an opportunity to learn more about the causes that team members value most. You may not be able to track hours, but you can active your group wall and encourage robust discussion, learning more about how to encourage corporate giving moving forward.
If your employees are able to work from home, encourage them to do so. If not, work to create a hygienic space, keeping surfaces clean, offering antibacterial soap and hand sanitizer, and maintaining six feet of distance between any two individuals within this space.
Below are resources that offer further support and ideas:
This Google Doc tracks ways in which corporations have been working to alleviate the burdens on communities at this time (for example, Zoom is offering K-12 schools videoconferencing tools for free) — check to get ideas for your own business, and include any actions that you have taken so that organizations can reach out and benefit from your generosity.
Nonprofits will have to decide how best to support those they work with. Some will be able to move away entirely from face-to-face engagement; others may find such engagement even more crucial at this time. In either case, we hope that the below suggestions will be helpful.
For organizations that require the help of volunteers in person, work to create a hygienic space, keeping surfaces clean, offering antibacterial soap and hand sanitizer, and maintaining six feet of distance between any two individuals within this space.
Ask that any volunteers avoid engaging if they may be sick. Add registration questions and pop-up banners highlighting the steps volunteers need to take before engaging with the organization’s communities when physically present. Below is an example template of questions as requirements asked by Mile High United Way on their GivePulse events:
Wondering if you should register to volunteer. Based on the CDPHE and the CDC, we are asking you the following questions.
Share the Volunteer Health Guide graphic above with your volunteers to help them to practice safe measures when volunteering.
For organizations working with vulnerable populations who may have considered or decided to stop all in person direct service, we can help support shifts to digital work (or opportunities to be completed remotely). Some online and remote efforts that volunteers can help with include tutoring virtually via webinars and conference applications or helping with creation of educational videos that can be shared in lieu of in-person mentoring, virtually connecting with vulnerable populations who may be lonely or anxious, donating in-kind supplies and money, and more.
Nonprofits and Directors of Volunteers should update their liability and release forms, ensuring that volunteers know their rights when volunteering and the risks associated at this time.
Start fundraising campaigns and enable donations on your GivePulse page, and publicize these as an alternative to direct service. Volunteers who are looking for ways to help may be able to donate money in lieu of time.
Below are resources that offer further support and ideas:
The CDC has offered resources for community based organizations.
The Center for Nonprofit Studies at Austin Community College has compiled a list of of resources for nonprofits.
For many volunteers, volunteering is the best way to engage with their communities. Yet at this time, this has been severely interrupted. Some may be quarantined, isolated, or practicing physical distancing; others may hope to continue face-to-face service, but are unsure of the best way to do so. We hope that the below may help you to make decisions that will allow you to continue your engagement and support organizations at this time:
Make sure that you are healthy before volunteering. If you or someone you know has traveled to a country on the CDC’s Level 3 watch list, if you have come into contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19, or if you are experiencing any symptoms of COVID-19 (such as fever, dry cough, or shortness of breath), you should not volunteer.
If you are going to volunteer face-to-face, maintain six feet of distance between you and any other people you come into contact with if at all possible, wipe down surfaces with disinfectant wipes if you can, and wash your hands often. See the above Volunteer Health Guide graphic for more information.
If you do not believe you should engage in face-to-face volunteering, look for virtual opportunities. Contact your local partners and ask if you can help them with organizing fundraising campaigns, help to create content, or perhaps even connect virtually with those they assist.
Donate money and in-kind supplies to organizations. Food banks have been hit particularly hard at this time. Use GivePulse to search for your local food banks and contact their admins to see what you might be able to provide.
We at GivePulse pledge to continue to work alongside you. Over the upcoming weeks, we are working to create designations for COVID-19 related opportunities and virtual opportunities and to identify resource gaps, as well as learning how to best support our partners in other ways. If you have been sent our higher education or community organization surveys, please fill them out when you have the chance. We will be using this to inform our changes, and will also be highlighting the data gathered in upcoming blog posts and social media campaigns.
We will continue to update this post and our related support articles. Again, please let us know how we can best support you at this time. We are grateful to be part of this community.
John Carroll University (JCU), a Catholic liberal arts institution outside of Cleveland,Ohio with some 3,500 students signed-on with GivePulse in the spring of 2017 with an anticipated launch in fall 2017. They were moving from a custom-coded database that was difficult to navigate, hard to work with, and was quickly becoming obsolete for their expanding needs and level of student engagement. In planning for a successful migration to the GivePulse platform, they developed an integrated implementation plan and worked closely with a variety of key stakeholders at the University to make sure they would be ready to go live for fall 2017. Now after a successful launch and a full academic year of use by students, faculty, and staff, the director of the Center for Service and Social Action at JCU, Katherine Feely, SND, shares her five tips for success and other helpful hints when thinking about your own transition to GivePulse.
Work closely with your IT department – Review the technical dimensions of the product, including data security, firewalls, scripts needed to run, and the data interface with your student information system. Involve your IT team every step of the way. Enlist their support to migrate the data from your previous platform.
Test the Data – Before doing anything test the integrity of your existing data to make sure you have everything you need. Identify the essential fields that will be migrated over and match them to the appropriate fields in GivePulse. JCU migrated test data first, comparing that data to their “reliable and verified” data and checked for errors. JCU found key data elements that needed to be re-uploaded, fields that didn’t match up, and scripts that had to be adjusted. Once satisfied, we proceeded full-force with the data migration.
Training, Training, Training! Train every staff member. JCU trained all summer before going live (even those who didn’t necessarily need to know the new platform). Work together as a team so everyone understands the platform. Create a training plan with step-by-step instructions to make sure key stakeholders understand the new platform before going live. Create “test” events, registrations, activities, partners, courses, etc. so you can understand how to navigate each one. Staff members should navigate the site as a student user in order to understand navigation from their perspective.
Utilize the GivePulse Team – Periodic Zoom calls to GivePulse are a great way to go over various features if you can’t understand a feature on our own. JCU staff would explore different features, gather questions in summarized format, and email them in advance to the GivePulse team, then we would work through the questions during our calls. By working together in the actual platform and gaining a greater understanding of the architecture and capabilities of GivePulse, we could gain the confidence we needed to launch and avoid the pitfalls of ignorance.
Monitor the Roll Out – Have all eyes on roll-out when going live and catch things early! At JCU we had 600 to 700 students registering for academic service-learning placements during the course of four days. We knew that if we were going to fail, we were going to fail big. We had a few early registration roll outs with targeted courses to make sure all would work as hoped. During these first few days, we were in close touch with GivePulse to troubleshoot and their team was amazing! Their responsiveness and assistance made a huge difference – that was part of the success.
Moving away from a complicated custom-coded database, we had to figure out what we really needed to keep, and what we didn’t.
We really had to learn a whole different language and a way of engaging with the registration process. It could be challenging at times, but it was totally worth it.
Personnel changes! We lost our database staff member just before the migration started, making it a huge challenge, but it forced me as director to really get in the weeds and learn about GivePulse from the inside out.
Getting Buy-In from Stakeholders
Schedule meetings with your various stakeholders to showcase what GivePulse can do. We provided presentations to various departments and decision-makers, showing them how they would benefit from using the platform, and how it could ease their workload.
Meet with your director of IT and some team members. We conferenced with the GivePulse team so we could clear up as many technical questions about data integration, security, etc. With their support, everything went very smoothly.
After completing the first full academic year with GivePulse, we met with our IT director and the team to thank them for their support, and to show them what a difference GivePulse made in our work, data analytics, and in providing an excellent student experience. They appreciated seeing how their hard work and input mattered in advancing the mission of the University.
What Would I Do Differently
Not very much. We had a full year of lead time, and we needed it. Migrate early over the summer – not in August.
GivePulse is a great platform. It was an excellent choice and has such robust capacity that we are so glad we made the switch. We would never think about going back to the risk and headache of a custom-coded database when we have such a great platform and a team of technical and higher education civic engagement experts partnering with us at GivePulse.
Katherine Feely, SND Director Center for Service & Social Action John Carroll University
Austin, TX, March 4, 2018 – We are excited to announce a new collaboration with Campus Labs®, a leader in helping students connect with and manage co-curricular engagement opportunities, through an enriching integration with the community engagement functionality in GivePulse®.
Established in 2001, Campus Labs delivers an integrated platform that provides an end-to-end solution for setting strategic goals, collecting evidence, and reporting actionable insights. Today, 17 years after its founding, over 1,300 higher education institutions utilize the Campus Labs platform to manage their mission-critical information. Their Campus Labs Engage solution allows campus administrators to connect students to meaningful and guided opportunities, manage and track their involvement, and showcase the institution’s impact on the student experience.
Ryan O’Connell, Campus Labs Senior Product Manager for Student Engagement, stated “the team at GivePulse is very talented” and that “our Engage Member Campuses are going to love their expertise in service-learning and their fresh take on community service management.”
This new GivePulse integration will enable Campus Labs Engage Member Campuses to take advantage of the thoughtful and vast community service promotion, management, and tracking tools within the GivePulse technology; while serving as a valuable resource for student engagement exploration and documentation in Engage. The amazing Campus Labs team will collaborate with GivePulse to bridge together and strengthen a more connected student engagement experience.
“GivePulse is excited to collaborate with Campus Labs to streamline community engagement for students,” said George Luc, GivePulse’s Chief Civic Evangelist and Cofounder. “Together we will enable community organizations to partner with higher-ed institutions on curricular and co-curricular service activities, research, and projects advancing social good!”
To learn more or attend the April 17th webinar, you can go here: https://www.campuslabs.com/resources/upcoming-webinars/enriching-service-management-a-preview-of-our-integration-with-givepulse/