The University of Iowa

Coronavirus and Community Engagement at Iowa

The spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) across the country and world has significantly impacted higher education institutions like the University of Iowa, where courses will move online for the remainder of the semester, in-person research is postponed, and many faculty and staff are working from home. These necessary steps to keep our students, staff and faculty safe changes how teaching, learning and research will be conducted for the next several weeks. This also has unique implications for community engagement at Iowa. While there are many critical issues on campus to consider during the COVID-19 pandemic, we encourage faculty, staff and students who are community-engaged to stay committed, to the best of their ability, to their community partnerships. The following page is intended primarily help faculty navigate this process, although community-engaged students and community partners may also find these resources useful. While there is no one-size fits all solution, we hope these resources and information will help you determine how best to move forward with your publicly-engaged teaching or research. Perhaps now more than ever it is important for all of us to work together.

If you have any questions or would like to discuss ways to continue your engagement activities online, please don’t hesitate to contact Nick Benson at nicholas-benson@uiowa.edu or 319-384-3464.

*This page will be updated with additional resources and information in the coming days.

Resources

The University of Iowa’s Coronavirus website provides up to date information on the university’s preparation and response to COVID-19 for faculty, staff and students.

 

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Iowa and Minnesota Campus Compact created an excellent webpage of general best practices and resources for publicly engaged campuses to consider during the COVID-19 outbreak.

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Teaching Community Engaged Courses Virtually:

For faculty teaching community-engaged (service-learning) courses, Campus Compact’s recommendations for creating online engagement opportunities for students may be particularly useful.

Virtual Engagement Ideas:

  • conducting background research or gathering best practices or other information requested the partner(s)
  • taping, recording, or streaming performances or workshops to benefit community partner(s)
  • creating digital and other social media content, print program materials, or other methods for information-sharing
  • undertaking assessment, evaluation, or feedback via phone or web-based services;
  • offering (or compiling, researching, or brainstorming) strategies that provide indirect support from volunteers as a result of coronavirus
  • conducting virtual or phone-based educational supports for youth and adults

General Recommendations

  1. Communication is key: Consistent communication is always a key to successful community engagement, but this is true now more than ever. New developments with the coronavirus seem to occur almost daily, so regular communication with all stakeholders (students, community partners) involved in the partnership is essential to ensuring everyone is on the same page.
  2. Collaborate with community partners to adapt partnership: As changes occur to the size, scope and nature of the engaged partnership, ensure that both campus and community partners are involved in discussing the changes. Community partners are being impacted by the Coronavirus as well, so make sure they are integrally involved in discussions about how to shape the partnership in the coming weeks.  
  3. Utilize technology: Even before the Coronavirus, being able to communicate and present effectively online were important skills for students to acquire. Now is a chance for students to develop and hone these skills. Often community engagement does not occur in our backyard, but across the state, nation and globe, and being able to work professionally in an online world will be invaluable for students as they progress in their career. See the section of this page titled “Virtual Engagement Ideas” on ways to incorporate online engagement into your classroom.
  4. Stay flexible and focus on building relationships: Community engagement is about building mutually beneficial partnerships and relationships, not about reaching a perfect outcome. Even the best laid plans for engaged research or engaged teaching over the next several weeks may not come to fruition as originally envisioned. This is OK! Instead of worrying about specific project details, focus on continuing to build relationships between campus and community partners. In the not too distant future, we will be again engaging in robust in-person collaboration with our community partners!