Known as "ALIVE" or "A Learning Initiative and the Volunteering Experience," the course, which has been established under the University's Community Knowledge Initiative (CKI), is an effort to recognise the potential support students can make to various communities. The initiative is based on service learning: a pedagogy of action and reflection, which is fairly new to Ireland. "Service Learning is a form of experiential learning where students apply academic knowledge and critical thinking skills to address genuine community needs," explains CKI Project Manager Jacinta Barrins. "It enables students to bring their knowledge base to the benefit of a wide range of organisations and to take their learning from that experience back to the classroom, where the analysis becomes a significant part of their education."
The proposed course builds on the strong tradition in some faculties of staff involvement in community activities and on student-initiated and student led volunteer activities currently underway at NUI Galway. The course, which is available to all NUI Galway students, combines 12 hours of lectures with an additional 45 hours of volunteering over two semesters. The student chooses a not-for-profit organisation to work with from partnerships developed by CKI which include a number of organisations under the umbrella group of Galway Volunteering Network, IRD, Kiltimagh, Co. Mayo, and Galway Leader Companies.
According to Jacinta Barrins, "NUI, Galway is currently promoting the development of student-led projects on campus. We hope that students will create their own student initiated and led volunteering projects on campus,"
The aim of this initiative is to develop various characteristics among students, with a positive spin-off for the community. The course will develop university-community interaction, civic responsibility and self development in students." There are various positive outcomes for students who participate in the project. Participating in the course could assist in enhancing your employability skills, particularly as employers are now looking for the more 'holistic' employee," she says.
Most organisations who are involved in the ALIVE partnership provide basic training. In addition, the ALIVE course provides training in a number of areas including Personal Development Planning, Communication Skills, Civic Engagement Issues, Teamwork and Self Management.