Document Type


Publication/Presentation Date

February 2021

Conference Location



Purpose: Service-learning is widely accepted as an effective pedagogical strategy for increasing student commitment to social responsibility and civic engagement. Many Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) and Physical Therapist Assistant (PTA) programs may use some form of service-learning to achieve curriculum goals. The purpose of this report is to describe: 1) the process of transitioning content from 4 distinct face-to-face immersion experiences to 1 fully online experience; 2) the synchronous and asynchronous learning activities; and 3) reported student outcomes.Description: Students in the DPT and PTA programs at St. Catherine University are required to participate in a 2 week intra-professional service-learning immersion at the culmination of their program. Typically, they choose from 4 sites to participate in community engaged learning and activities: Minneapolis/St Paul; White Earth Indian Reservation; Clarksdale, MS; or Santiago, Dominican Republic. This spring, COVID-19 eliminated all travel and community-based activities and necessitated a quick shift to online delivery.9 DPT and PTA faculty and 1 staff from the Office of Community Work and Learning (CWL) collaborated to develop interactive modules that included: Inequities in our communities, housing injustice, ethics, historical trauma, social justice in a pandemic, 2020 census, policy and advocacy, and a project to provide isolated elders with materials and supplies to maintain mental and physical health at this challenging time. As with our typical implementation of service-learning, significant time for synchronous discussion and debriefing was maintained with small groups of 6 students to 1 faculty or staff facilitator meeting at least every other day.Although most students expressed disappointment at not being able to travel to their designated site or engage in in-person relationship building with communities, the response was overwhelmingly positive to the immersion experience. All survey respondents agreed or strongly agreed that the service learning experience: encouraged them to examine their values, beliefs and views of the world; increased their understanding of diverse perspectives; and prepared them to be an ethical, reflective and socially responsible leader.Summary of Use: With a high faculty to student ratio and significant support of the University’s Office of CWL, a two week immersion experience was delivered in a fully on-line format. Existing relationships with community partners allowed for meaningful projects to be completed by students for the community members those partners serve.Importance to Members: Given the on-going nature of COVID-19, educators need to be ready to place content on-line quickly and in an effective manner. This may be particularly challenging for content that relies on community based relationships and activities. This successful implementation provides an example for other DPT and PTA programs and their faculty to achieve positive outcomes from service-learning modified to be delivered in an on-line format.