Service Learning in Business Writing Courses

A major challenge for service learning programs is how to create reciprocal, sustained collaborations with communities—a challenge that persists even as digital tools provide new options for collaborative writing. Despite the many opportunities for collaboration afforded by digital media, its use by service learning students often maintains the characteristics of the “one-way street” model, where students write for communities but rarely write with them in a reciprocal relationship. When searching for examples of collaborative digital media that move beyond a “drive-by” or “one-way street” model of
service learning, however, my colleague Stacy Nall and I faced a shortage of theoretical and pedagogical materials. In response, we designed a research project to understand how digital tools for collaboration offer new approaches for university instructors and students to work together with communities in reciprocal ways. Although our complete manuscript for this project is currently under review, here is a snapshot of what students said about conducting service learning in Business Writing classes:

Student Reflections on Service Learning in Business Writing

  • “We’re always open to constructive criticism. We want to think that they think it’s a good idea. I don’t think they’ve ever worked with a class before.”
  • “Yeah, working with an organization involving so much money, it’s great to see that we can work within their parameters.”
  • “Basically, we want to make sure that we don’t step on the toes of the people in charge at the [organization].”
  • “If we push their boundaries, they’ll probably shut down the whole thing.”
  • “The people ‘upstairs’ need to know why it’s useful and important to ask for donations [in this particular way].”
  • “I want the Google Doc to be worth their time to look at, because I don’t want to ask them to read through stuff that’s not worth their time.”
  • “It [Google Docs] reveals your process and could make you feel self-conscience about your writing skills.”
  • “I didn’t want to present anything to her that is not well-organized. Anything south of email isn’t what I like to have with community members because I just don’t think it’s professional.”


How do you use digital tools to conduct service learning in your classrooms?



About taylo206

I am CEO of Untold Content, a writing consultancy headquartered in Cincinnati, Ohio. As a PhD level technical writer and content strategy, I support organizations in sharing their expertise in compelling, clear ways.
This entry was posted in Business Writing, Public Rhetorics, Teaching Approaches, Theories of Composition and Rhetoric. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Service Learning in Business Writing Courses

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