The spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) across the country and world has significantly impacted higher education institutions like the University of Iowa, where the vast majority of teaching, learning and research has been moved online. This transition 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 to help faculty navigate this process, although community engaged students and community partners may also find these resources useful. There is no one-size fits all solution, but we hope this information will help you determine how best to move forward with your community engaged teaching or research. If you have any questions or would like to discuss ways to continue your engagement activities online, please contact Nick Benson at nicholas-benson@uiowa.edu or 319-384-3464.

University of Iowa 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.

Campus Compact Resources:

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

Ideas for Teaching Community-Engaged Courses Virtually:

  • conducting background research or gathering best practices and other information requested by the community 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 (compiling, researching, brainstorming) strategies that provide indirect support from volunteers as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic
  • conducting virtual or phone-based educational support for youth and adults

 

Fall 2021 COVID-19 Recommendations for Community Engagement:

 

While many Americans are fully vaccinated and we look forward to the resumption of in-person community engagement activities, the Office of Community Engagement encourages students, faculty, and staff to work collaboratively with community partners to determine appropriate COVID-19 protocols for partnership work occurring this Fall semester. Communicating with community partners early during project and partnership development about expectations for meetings, presentations and site visits will ensure all stakeholders are comfortable and prepared for activities this year. While faculty, staff and students should adhere to all university COVID-19 guidelines (https://coronavirus.uiowa.edu/fall-2021), individual community partners may have additional protocols for their own organization or building, and campus partners should abide by these protocols during community site visits. As a reminder, instructors planning community partner visits should review the university’s field trip guidelines: https://riskmanagement.fo.uiowa.edu/field-trip-guidelines-faculty-and-staff.

OCE also encourages campus partners to consider a variety of methods of communication with community partners, including continuing some of the virtual communication practices developed this past year. Leveraging virtual communication tools allows faculty and students to stay more closely connected to community partners during times when in-person visits are not available. .

Please contact the Office of Community Engagement at ui-engagement@uiowa.edu with any questions, concerns or requests for further assistance with community engagement as we prepare for the 2021-22 academic year.

 

General Recommendations:

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 COVID-19 pandemic seem to occur almost daily, so regular communication with all stakeholders, especially students and community members, involved in the partnership is essential to ensuring everyone is on the same page.

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 COVID-19 pandemic as well, so make sure they are integrally involved in discussions about how to shape the partnership as new developments occur.

Utilize technology

  • Even before the pandemic, 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 world, and being able to work professionally in an online world will be invaluable for students as they progress in their career.

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 months may not come to fruition as originally envisioned. Instead of worrying about specific project details, focus on continuing to build relationships between campus and community partners so they will be stronger than ever when it's safe to return to normal.