Awarding of Academic Credit for Community-Engaged Work

Guideline Statement:

Academic credit provides a comparable unit of measurement to capture the value, time, or level of a course and the learning that a typical student should do in a course. Academic credit, by policy at the University of Minnesota, is dependent on the amount of time a student spends working on the course (either in class or outside of class). It is also a measure of the learning that the student is expected to do in the course. Throughout the U.S. and at the University of Minnesota, instructors are increasingly being asked to document the class time, workload expectations outside of class, and the learning objectives for the courses they teach. For courses involving community-engaged work, it is essential to document community activity time commitments as well as the learning the student is intended to achieve during these community-based experiences.

Reason for Guideline:

The Office for Public Engagement has received a substantial number of inquiries from faculty and department administrators on how academic credit should be assigned for community-based experiences. In addition, it has come to the attention of the Office for Public Engagement that a number of students who “volunteer” or do “community service” are receiving academic credit for their service activities. While it is likely that there is some learning that results from these community experiences, the learning outcomes are not always well-articulated, clearly defined, or well-documented. This guideline offers resources to improve the consistency of awarding academic credit for community-based learning experiences.


Question: Can an individual student (or group of students) receive academic credit for community-engaged work outside of a regularly scheduled course?

Yes. To receive academic credit, there must be a faculty member willing to support the awarding of academic credit, there must a certain equivalency of work in the community for the awarding of academic credit, and there must be either a syllabus (see or a contract (see below for sample contracts) to support the awarding of such credit.

Question: How much community-based work is required for each unit of academic credit awarded?

According to the University’s policy on Expected Student Academic Work per Credit, at least 45 hours of appropriate academic community work would be needed for each undergraduate credit hour awarded in a single semester. However, the academic department offering the credit may require additional work per credit hour, depending on the course level (graduate or undergraduate), professional norms in that unit, and/or the nature of the academic work. While it is impossible to define a precise number of hours of community-based work needed for each academic credit hour awarded, you should attempt to determine the total hours of the internship devoted to academic or learning activities. This should include time spent on the journal, papers, readings, etc. for the academic credit. Time at the workplace spent on clerical tasks and other non-academic tasks should not be included in the time estimates.

Question: How often and for how long should a faculty member meet with students who are receiving academic credit for community-engaged work?

There is no universal policy that provides an answer to this question. Current University policy specifically exempts a standard for instructional time per course credit for community-based work included in clinical experiences, field work, internships and practica, and other experiences outside the classroom and often beyond the physical boundaries of the campuses (see Faculty and students should check with the department/unit in which the course is being offered for any particular guidelines and expectations.

Question: How much and what kind of oversight should an instructor provide for community-based experiences to ensure that learning is taking place?

There is no one specific model that works best for all situations and all community settings. Instructors should work to maximize student contact hours in ways that ensure positive student learning and community outcomes.