From 14.05 – 29.05.2021 the Online Spring School – Students’ Training Week on Service Learning and Student Engagement was organized by the University of Porto. The Spring School offered opportunities for students to learn more about Service Learning and to share their previous experiences involving community engagement in their universities. Since participants were from six different countries – Portugal, Lithuania, Romania, Italy, Ireland, and Austria – they had the opportunity to contact and work with students from other countries. This was a particularly enriching experience that enabled them to exchange information and ideas with people with other background, perspectives, and even study area.
The Spring School Programme addressed three main themes – Service Learning, Research Methods and University Social Responsibility – during plenary sessions, including two keynotes and a roundtable, as follows.
- Service Learning programs by Andrea Hoyer-Neuhold (University of Vienna)
- The importance of field notes by Sofia Marques da Silva (University of Porto)
- How SL can promote university’s social responsibility? Roundtable with Gabriel Dima (Polytechnic University of Bucharest), Jovita Vasauskaite (Kaunas University of Technology), Maria Slowey (Dublin City University), and Márcia Coelho (University of Porto).
Besides, students were actively involved in small mixed-international groups on the following Thematic Workshops:
- Challenges of SL in action
- The dangers of othering
- Collecting and Analysing data1
- Collecting and Analysing data 2
- Reporting and Sharing
In these thematic workshops the participants discussed the challenges of SL, the risks of othering, learned how to conduct interviews and how to write reports, while designing SL projects, and were able to talk about their projects, their difficulties and bring questions to debate.
For the final assessment, students were asked to work in small groups to create a project that would help their universities put their social responsibility into practice. They had one hour per day to work together and to clear any doubts they had with the teachers. To present their project they had to elaborate a poster containing the main information about it. It was a huge success with many different and creative projects from animal control to including elders in the digital world.
During the entire Spring School there were comfort breaks and Active Breaks that were held by University of Porto’s CDUP team.
Since this was an Online Spring School, for the final ceremony, the organization decided it would be a good idea for the participants to learn more about the countries involved. So, an interactive quiz with pictures of landscapes, monuments, food, and music was created and it was a fun way to end.
During the Online Spring School, participants reflected on the applicability of Service Learning at their universities. They were also invited to think about their responsibilities and the various aspects that need to be taken into consideration while creating a project and developing them. Despite the Covid-19 Pandemic, the Online Spring School was able to promote interesting contacts and bring together people from different places, with the help of technology. This Online Spring School was a pleasant journey, and it was only possible with the help of everyone who participated and made the most of it. We are sure that SL and community engagement gained more supporters with this event!