SLIDE | Service-Learning as a pedagogy to promote Inclusion, Diversity and Digital Empowerment

Programme Erasmus+ Key Action 2: Cooperation partnerships in higher education


The Service-Learning, Inclusion, Diversity and Digital Empowerment Manifesto (SL&DE) aims at emancipating target groups involved in service learning and digital empowerment by formulating a policy and action plan. The target groups are community members and organizations, students, academic faculties and higher education institutions.
The SL&DE Manifesto will for each target group present a call to action based upon needs, innovation, expected impact and the potential to transfer best practices. In general, the aim of the manifesto is a call to action to combine A) a response to the need for the digital empowerment of teachers and students brought into focus in an education shaped by COVID-19 with B) the pedagogical approach of service-learning using the lessons learned from COVID-19 understanding that C) this enables a connection between higher education institutions and communities at risk.
SLIDE Project
Project: Summary:

The idea of SL&DE is to digitally empower HEI teachers and students to engage with communities at risk, either in their direct proximity or further away (rural areas). The manifesto (call to action) is inspired by insights, examples and experiences of the four stakeholders expressing their need for SL&DE, the innovative effects of SL&DE for them, the expected impact for them and how they can support SL&DE to grow. Part of the manifesto is a description of the (pre)conditions needed to make SL&DE successful. It is intended to stimulate ideas about creative and inclusive online and face-to-face teaching. Each point will be deliberately interpretable, and made open so that other individuals and institutions could remix and rewrite it.
The expected impact on community organizations is:

  • Encouraged reflection on their level of Digital (il)literacy and ‘professionalism’ of usage of digital technology to develop a plan to support inclusion and diversity of the communities and their capacity to innovate (new to the organization or the region);
  • An action plan to develop skills of digital literacy. As the action plan is based upon the experiences within the project in diverse communities and countries, it will be highly transferable.

The expected impact on students is increased understanding of digital savviness, inclusion and diversity and what they need to be able to digitally empower others, in the community but also with their older family members. We expect that this change of perspective (how can I help others to better use digital tools) is innovative for them and will positively impact employability as they develop teaching skills, sense of agency by taking concrete action themselves, a concrete set of soft skills including a sense of affiliation, critical thinking, respect for diversity, ability to work independently and in teams, the capability to learn and use knowledge and professional capabilities (ethical values, integrity, reflexive capacity, socialization). As the student-part will present inspiring stories of students, if possible in the form of vlogs, it will create a longing for this kind of experiences in their education, we expect to be highly transferable.

The expected impact on academic faculty is a shared set of principles, claims and commitments that enables them to collaborate with the community, improve the experience of students and, at the same time, boost their own relevance for the community supported by the use of digital devices.

The impact on HEIs is the increase of innovative ways of connecting academia to communities at risk. The online experiences have shown anecdotes of the power of opening up academia by internet as the accessibility enlarges. But in order for this higher accessibility to be turned into actual impact, institutions of higher education need to support the development of digital literacy in the community. SL&DE can be a perfect tool for this.

Project objectives:

The SLIDE-project aims to intertwine the service-learning (SL) pedagogy with digital empowerment (DE) in order to promote inclusion (I) and diversity. SLIDE will be able to bring together students and academics from a wide range of European universities to draw on existing practices, share knowledge and develop best practices in and with the community whereby all become teaching resources, problem solvers, and partners.

The overall purpose of service-learning (SL) is to instill a sense of civic engagement and responsibility in students and to motivate them to make positive social change, while the purpose of digital empowerment (DE) is to make an individual fit to the digital technology, placing that individual at the center of teaching and drawing upon his personal experiences to engage him.

The objectives of the SLIDE-project are to:

  1. Collectively understand and promote service-learning (SL) as a pedagogical approach that promotes inclusion and diversity, as well as digital empowerment of the ones lagging behind the most, embedding and developing civic engagement within higher education students, teachers, and the wider community in Europe;
  2. Equip students with digital capabilities and skills necessary for the use of technology in creative, critical, competent, and inclusive ways (with special attention on addressing differences in relation to the access and use of digital learning resources by people with fewer opportunities) through SL activities that address human, social, and environmental needs from the perspective of social justice;
  3. Increase the capacity and readiness of HEI teachers to manage an effective shift towards digital education, to encourage the purposeful and inclusive use of digital technologies for teaching, learning, assessment, and engagement, as well as the development of digital pedagogy and expertise in the use of digital tools for teachers, including accessible and assistive technologies and the creation and innovative use of digital education content;
  4. Facilitate the exchange, flow, dissemination and co-creation of knowledge on SL and DE in Europe, consolidate institutional and national commitments and enable a culture of promotion and public articulation of university-community partnership through service-learning.

Long-term goal: prepare an ERASMUS MUNDUS European Master on Service Learning and Digital Empowerment after the end of this project.

Project results:
  • Addressed differences in relation to the digital access and use of technology by people with fewer opportunities and a call to action inspired by insights, examples, and experiences of the four stakeholders expressing their need for service-learning & digital empowerment (SL&DE), the innovative effects of SL&DE, the expected impact and how they can support SL&DE to grow (PR1).
  • Development, testing, and implementation of a training program on digital empowerment and service-learning for educators and educational leaders to improve the digital readiness, resilience, and capacity of the higher education sector (PR2).
  • Increased awareness on the value of inclusive environments that foster equity and equality, and that are responsive to the needs of the wider community (PR3).
  • Development of an online modular course on digital empowerment and service-learning for students leading to micro-credentials (2 ECTS) and recognition that can be integrated into curricula of any European university to: a) develop digital and social competences, social and civic engagement, critical thinking, and digital literacy of students b) tackle societal challenges through the engagement of wider society in service-learning and c) prepare students for the labor market by empowering them with digital competence, digital fluency, and digital intelligence (PR4).
  • Increased understanding of digital savviness, inclusion, and diversity among students and a shared set of principles and commitments that enable them to collaborate with the community and boost their own relevance for the community (PR5).
  • Improved social inclusion and digital competences for people with fewer opportunities and local communities through e-service-learning projects (PR5).
  • Facilitated exchange, flow, dissemination and co-creation of knowledge on SL and DE in Europe (PR6).
  • Purposeful use of digital technologies in teaching, assessment, and engagement through the development of digital pedagogy and expertise in the use of digital tools for teachers, including accessible and assistive technologies and the creation and innovative use of digital education content (PR7).

Project contributions SDGS’s:

  • GOAL 4: Quality Education
  • GOAL 5: Gender Equality
  • GOAL 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth
  • GOAL 10: Reducing inequalities
  • GOAL 11: Sustainable cities and communities
  • GOAL 16: Peace, justice and strong institutions

Project partners

  • UCSIA – Belgium (coordinator)
  • Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam – Netherlands
  • Sveuciliste u Zagrebu – Croatia
  • Hochschulnetzwerk Bildung durch Verantwortung e.V. – Germany
  • Universitatea Politehnica din Bucuresti – Romania
  • Asociacion de Aprendizaje-Servicio Universitario – Spain
  • Pädagogische Hochschule Wien – Austria
  • Univerzita Mateja Bela v Banskej Bystirci – Slovakia
  • Libera Universita Maria SS. Assunta di Roma – Italy
  • European Association of Service-Learning in Higher Education – Belgium

Associated partners

  • KU Leuven – Belgium
  • CLAYSS – Argentina
  • PALECH – Spain

Contact person: Kaat Somers


Project start date: 01/01/2022

Project finishing date: 31/12/2024

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