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Service-Learning Requirement


The Senate-approved overall curriculum framework for the 4-year undergraduate degree structure (December 2010) stipulates that all students qualifying for the degree from 2012/13 onwards must successfully complete one 3-credit subject designated to meet the Service-Learning Requirement.



Definition of Service-Learning at PolyU


In the context of subject development and approval for meeting the Service-Learning Requirement, PolyU adopts a broader definition of service-learning which entails both

  1. Activities that directly serve people in need (e.g. health education for under-developed communities, providing scientific literacy classes for children in underperforming schools, building bridges for remote villages), and
  2. Civic engagement activities that indirectly serve the community or an underprivileged group (e.g. community-based research on sustainable development, consultancy service for NGOs or underprivileged groups, advocacy for social justice, etc.)


Please note, however, that for service projects, direct or indirect, to be counted as service-learning, they must

  1. Be coherent within itself and with the academic content of the subject, and require students to apply what they learn at university to serve the community,
  2. Provide ample opportunities for students to interact with the people in need so as to enable them to develop an increased understanding of, and empathy for, the underprivileged group they purport to serve,
  3. Require students to reflect deeply on their service experience, particularly on the linkage between service-learning and the academic content of the subject, as well as their role and responsibilities as a professional and a responsible citizen,
  4. Deploy purposively the deliverables and outcomes of the projects to bring about real and significant benefits to the community or the target underprivileged group to be served, and
  5. Ensure that students will be able to acquire substantive learning gains from the service experience rather than merely providing manual labour for other agencies. Both local and offshore service activities can be included.



Types of Service-Learning Subjects


Interested departments or staff can propose subjects that fulfil the Service-Learning requirement. These subjects may take the following forms:

  1. An open-for-all GUR subject (e.g. on a generic topic such as globalisation, inter-cultural issues, poverty) that is appropriate and contributes to the general education for students from any discipline
  2. A GUR subject targeted for students with certain background (e.g. subjects that address interdisciplinary issues/concepts such as health care for the elderly, engineering solutions for poverty relief, etc. that require more in-depth background specific to particular disciplines.)
  3. A DSR subject that fulfils the requirements of the service-learning requirement as well as the discipline-specific requirements.

Prior approval from the Head of the offering Department must be obtained for all subject proposals.

Individual programmes are strongly encouraged to give students maximal flexibility in choosing from the range of service-learning subjects available across the University to fulfil the Service-Learning Requirement, wherever possible.



Criteria for a Service-Learning Subject


To qualify as a subject meeting the Service-Learning Requirement of PolyU, the proposed subject:

  1. Must carry a minimum of 3 credits
  2. Must be a Level 2 or above subject
  3. Can last for one or two semesters. A single semester subject is one in which all teaching activities (including all services and assignments) end before the next semester starts. A two-semester subject has teaching activities in both semesters.
  4. Must include in its "Intended Learning Outcomes", in addition to the outcomes associated with the academic content of the subject, the following learning outcomes common to all service-learning subjects:
    [On completing the subject, students will be able to:]
    • Apply the knowledge and skills they have acquired to deal with complex issues in the service setting
    • Reflect on their role and responsibilities both as a professional in their chosen discipline and as a responsible citizen
    • Demonstrate empathy for people in need and a strong sense of civic responsibility
    • Demonstrate an understanding of the linkage between service-learning and the academic content of the subject
  5. Must include in its "Teaching/Learning Methodology" a requirement for all students to participate in community service or engagement activities that:
    • Support the academic focus of the subject
    • Address identified community needs in a meaningful way
    • Create opportunities for students to interact directly with the service users or community members, and
    • Benefit both the students and the service-users/the community at large
    • For a 3-credit subject, students are normally expected to spend a minimum of 40 hours (~ one third of the expected total student effort) in rendering the service. The expected hours of student effort in planning, preparing for and executing the service, etc. must be spelt out clearly in its "Student Study Effort Expected"
  6. Must include in its "Subject Synopsis/Indicative Syllabus" coverage on moral and ethical consideration relevant to the discipline and the service recipients
  7. Must include in its "Teaching/Learning Methodology" structured opportunities for reflection to enable students to connect their learning with the service, and to reflect on their role and social responsibilities both as a professional and a responsible citizen
  8. Must include in its "Assessment Methods" a rigorous and systematic process in which students' performance in and their learning from the required service activities are assessed, using a Letter-Grading system



Operational and Funding Models for Service-Learning Subjects

The teaching and operations of Service-Learning subjects are different from those of other general subjects as they include a community service component as part of the course requirement. It is important that the community service component is properly implemented to ensure quality learning outcomes. The provision of regular project supervision and good communication with the collaborating agency partners or service users are two key factors for success. There are some possible operational models that can be considered by departments when planning their SL subjects:

  1. Full involvement by department staff
  2. Cross-department collaboration
  3. Department in collaboration with Service-Learning and Leadership Office
  4. Department in collaboration with agency partners


Service-Learning subjects are funded by the University on per credit per student basis to the one-line budget of the department, and the related funding covers both the teaching and project components of the subject. The funding for SL subjects is higher than that for a normal GUR subject, taken into account that extra costs may be required in carrying out the community service project.

For subjects involving more than one department, e.g. those operated by models (b), (c) and (d) mentioned above, funding in proportion to the work involved should be given to all the parties involved to recognize their respective manpower input. Subject proposers please indicate the distribution of workload and funding amongst departments in the subject proposal form.



Risk Management


Service-Learning subjects/projects involve out-of-classroom activities in different settings and places. PolyU staff, students and the related parties such as the service recipients may be exposed to risky situations that warrant special attention. The subject/project leader and the subject offering department have the responsibility to follow the risk management policies developed by Service-Learning and Leadership Office, draw up and update the risk management plan, and monitor and review the implementation of the risk control measures of their own SL subject/project.

At the subject proposal stage, the subject proposers must conduct a preliminary risk assessment and draw up a risk management plan for the subject proposed. The information provided will assist the Sub-Committee on Service-Learning Subjects to consider the subject proposal’s suitability. It is the responsibility of the subject proposer(s) to ensure accuracy of the information provided.

The Sub-Committee may ask the subject proposer to provide further information for clarification. For details of the risk management policies and guidelines, please refer to the "Risk Management Handbook for Service-Learning at PolyU" published by Service-Learning and Leadership Office.



Credit Transfer


Some students may request credit transfer for Service-Learning subjects. For applications with corresponding subject indicated, Programme host department will send the application forms together with the supporting documents (including detailed syllabus) to the subject offering department for consideration. For applications without corresponding subjects indicated, applications should be submitted to Service-Learning and Leadership Office (SLLO) via the Programme host department. If in doubt, SLLO should consult the Sub-committee on Service-Learning Subjects.

The principles for the granting of Credit Transfer of Service-Learning subjects are:

  1. It must be a credit-bearing subject, with a minimum of 3 credits, or a total student study effort equivalent to a 3-credit subject as stipulated by PolyU regulations;
  2. The subject must have a service-learning component, and the amount of direct servicing should be a minimum of 40 hours (i.e., rougly one third of the expected total student effort);
  3. The subject must include clear academic contents that are linked to the service-learning component, and intended learning outcomes that are associated with service-learning (demonstrating understanding of social issues, empathy for people in need and sense of civic responsibility); and
  4. The subject must include assessment components in which students' performances in service delivery and achievement of learning outcomes are assessed, using a Letter-Grading system.

For details, please refer to the "Guidelines for Credit Transfer of General University Requirements Subjects under the 4-Year Undergraduate Curriculum".



Target Students and Selection


Subject-offering department/staff should indicate clearly whether the subject is open to all students or is intended only for students of a particular broad discipline/department/ programme, or for students with certain prior knowledge or background needed for the service.

If necessary, subject-offering department/staff can set up mechanisms and processes for selecting the most qualified/appropriate students for enrolling in the subject. In these cases, the criteria for selection should be transparent to the students.

It is understood that since the service beneficiaries in Hong Kong are mostly Cantonese-speaking people and those in Chinese mainland Putonghua-speaking, students who speak Cantonese and/or Putonghua will have an advantage during service delivery. However, departments are advised not to set any language requirement on the target students, unless it is absolutely necessary that this requirement apply to 100% of the students in the class. If the proposed subjec really can only accept Cantonese- or Putonghua-speaking students, please give strong justifications for consideration.



Declaration of Conflict of Interest


All staff members involved in the subject proposal are required to declare any actual, potential or perceived conflict of interest in the proposed subject, including but not limited to the selection of collaborating partner(s) or beneficiaries for the subject.



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