Students at NUI Galway have the opportunity to learn outside the classroom, with non-traditional experience-based teaching methods supported by the Community Knowledge Initiative (CKI).
Service Learning encourages students to explore societal issues, both inside and outside the classroom. Students learn by actively engaging with communities, and academic staff guide them through this engagement. Communities involved in Service Learning can be charities, non-governmental organisations, statutory bodies, community associations or organisations with a focus on social responsibility.
The objectives of service learning are to
There are thirty service learning modules and degree programmes at both postgraduate and undergraduate levels, offering a truly unique education experience for students and benefits for community partners.
The service learning module helps show students how engineers can make contributions to their communities as well as helping them to meet and interact with people from different backgrounds in a role of service. As part of the service learning module of their Mechanical Engineering course at NUI Galway, 3rd year students Alan Divilly and John Joe Finn have designed and developed a mobile, fold up, wheelchair ramp for disabled people in partnership with the Irish Wheelchair Association.
For one semester during the 2nd year of the Masters in IT course, students do a project within their service learning module as a consultant for a community organisation.
"It’s something that all the student’s need, a link module that will put the practical into effect," Pat Byrne Director of the Master’s degree in Information Technology said. "They need some way of putting their theory into practice, so we designed it in that way."
Students are focus on being consultants to a charity in the local community. During their service learning modules, students initially go and talk to the charity about how they are currently using IT and some of the things they would want to do in the future using IT. Students would then be required to assess some of the work that had been done in the charity and would make suggestions as to how they might be applied to further their aims. It is then that the students would act as a consultant, putting their skills from the classroom into actual practice.
"The students will come away, think about these needs, formulate some plans, and put those suggestions to the organisation in question and perhaps give them a variety of choices as to where they want to go or how the students can help them."
Some of the projects the Masters in IT students have developed with community organisations include, a website for the Gaf Youth Cafe and networked computers at the Galway Centre for Independent Living.