Service Learning
A teaching tool connecting community and classroom

Civil Engineering - Principles of Building and Communications

Civil Engineering

Course Director: Jamie Goggins

Course Title: BE in Civil Engineering/ BE in Energy Systems Engineering/BSc in Project & Construction Management
Subject: Principles of Building and Communications [Community based Engineering Project]
Year: 2nd Year
Participants: 80 - 130 students
Hours: 80 Hours
Credits: 4 ECTS
Length: 1 Semester months
Community Partners: Partners have included: Ability West, Alan Kerins Projects, Ballinfoyle Family Services Centre, Ballybane Enterprise Centre, Ballyglass Preschool, Clann Resource Centre, Clonakilty Garda station, Cope Galway, Corrach Bui community centre, Corrandrum National School, Creagh N.S. Ballinasloe, Crescent College Comprehensive Limerick, Dunmore McHales GAA, Enable Ireland, Engineers Ireland, Foundation Nepal, Galway Access for All, Galway City Council, Galway City Partnership, Galway County Council, Galway Harbour Company, Galway Rape Crisis Centre, GSPCA, Liscarbin Community Hall, Lough Keel Scout Campsite, Loughrea Town Council, Mayo Education Centre, MS Ireland, NAGARHOPE IRELAND, NUI Galway, Portlaoise parish church, Salthill Devon FC, Scariff Community College, Scouts Neagh, Skreen Dromard Community Council, St Hilda's Services Athlone, St. Joseph's College Rowing Club, St Tiernans Community Playschool, St Vincent De Paul, Town Hall Theatre, Tullamore Rugby Club, Westmeath County Council, Westside Community Library, Yeats College.

Within Community-based Engineering Project, students must form small teams, identify a suitable community partner and set up a ‘learning agreement' with the community partner that clearly outlines the goals of the project and tasks involved in completing the project, as well as the learning outcomes for the students. The specific aim of the project is fulfil a real need of the community partner that relates to the associated module taken by the students ‘CE202 Principles of Building'. The outcome of the project is a written technical report, which is sent to the community partner. Some community partners and community-based projects have been identified by the instructor. However, the onus is very much on the students to identify suitable community-based projects.

A ‘learning agreement' must be completed by the students with their community partner and submitted by the students within 2 weeks of starting the project. In addition to the set learning outcomes for the project, the students must also decide on 3 additional learning outcomes that relate to this component of year's work. Marks are allocated for the technical context and presentation of a written report and oral presentation Marks are allocated for level of engagement with the student's community partner and for producing a report or outcome that relates directly to a real need in the community. The students must each complete a self assessment marking sheet at the end of the project, which is subsequently marked by a grader (postgraduate student or lecturer). The criteria in self assessment sheet are in line with the learning outcomes. There are a number of lectures and workshops held during the semester on effective communication, which are facilitated by a PR consultant.

Postgraduate students act as mentors by hosting weekly drop-in centres for the students to give technical and report presentation advice. Objectives set for the students in ‘Mini Group Project' guidelines include:

This year, an award has been introduced for the best community-based project. Shortlisted projects are presented by the students to their peers, academics and wider community with the project judged by those in attendance to be the best receiving an award.

When asked in a grouped student evaluation survey in 2011 what they liked about the project and the way it was set up, many students mentioned the community partners and how they liked getting involved/ interacting/ meeting/ working with groups and/or individuals in the community. Further, when asked what do they feel they gained from completing the project 24 of the 40 groups who responded felt that they obtained an increased knowledge and understanding of the project topic, while 3 groups thought they gained a better understanding overall of the content of the whole course from completing the project, and 16 groups felt that they gained by completing a project on real world applications. It should be noted that the students were asked to complete the survey in the groups which they were in for their community-based project (2 or 3 person groups). A total of 40 groups took part in the survey. The students were asked to document the group's opinion and consensus into five key questions. The survey was designed to capture relevant information that will be useful for identifying positives and areas for improvements in the set-up or delivery of the module. .

Service learning is a very worthwhile pedagogy. This has been proven from the student feedback from structured surveys conducted in 2009 and 2011 and from the very positive feedback received from community partners (see below). 139 students partook in the community-based project in 2011, which is similar numbers to 2010. It has taken three years to develop the structure of the Community-Based project set-up, as well as establishing its value within the university and community.

Feedback FROM COMMUNITY PARTNERS:

All feedback is positive. Working with the students was great. One of them even got involved in a street collection for the centre! The drawings and plans are much more detailed than the year before's ‘[The reports] are fantastic and we are delighted with them, we will be definitely using some of the solutions that the students put forward this year.' (GSPCA, 2010)

‘...the report arrived and it appears to be a good assessment of the state of the building energywise. We have already changed from diesel to kerosene. Also the two windows downstairs have been change to double glazed in the two offices. The rest of the recommendations will depend on funding being made available. It was great working with the two students and good to get the report back.‘ (Clann Resource Centre, 2010)

We did receive the project material from your students. Our board found it very useful. We have actually progressed a number of the suggestions contained within the report and should have them completed early this spring. Well done to the young engineers involved and your work with getting them involved in real projects that will have tangible effects.' (Director Mayo Education Centre)

"I am very grateful for this project as I intend to use its findings in a submission to the Department of Education and Skills. We are in the process of making a case for a new school. The information in the project will be very useful. I wish to thank you and the students for all their work. They carried out their surveys in a very professional way.", (Saint Paul's school, Laois, 2012)

QUOTE FROM A STUDENT:

"Through travelling and interacting with people from different backgrounds, I have gained a strong appreciation for the importance of community, and indeed a global network of such communities. By involving students within the community, we can create a symbiotic relationship where the power, exuberance and intellect of the youth can be harnessed to create positive effects in the community whilst the students benefit in terms of knowledge, skills and goodwill gained. To me, this is a very positive outcome." Martin Howley, musician, PhD student in Engineering, and mentor for the community based-project.