Project-Based & Direct Service: What’s the difference?

By Jordan Perras.
September 13, 2016

One of the best things about the Service-Learning Program is that every placement is unique. Considering the program includes courses that range from Software Development and Physical Therapy to Education and Advanced Chinese, this is unsurprising. You’ll never know exactly what your service experience will be like until you start serving at your community partner (or talk to your S-LTA!). However, service can, but doesn’t always, fall into two categories: direct service or project-based service. Faculty members, S-LTAs, and community partners collaborate to find the best type for each course.

Direct service is generally what many people imagine when they think of community service. Direct service tends to be service where you are personally interacting with people in the community. This can be anything from tutoring and mentoring students to facilitating programs at a local nursing home. For example, S-LTA Alyssa Rubin shares that her students in Professor Chris Featherman’s First-Year Writing class serve as tutors at 826 Boston Writer’s Room at the John D. O’Bryant High School in Roxbury. The service-learners helped the high school students brainstorm, develop their papers, do research, and make edits and revisions. This helped Alyssa’s students to improve their own writing skills as they work with the high schoolers.

Project-based service tends to focus more on long-term needs, and much of the work is done behind the scenes. Courses that incorporate project-based service are typically taken by advanced students because they are trying to address a more tangible issue facing their community partner. The students use skills that they have learned during their earlier classes at Northeastern. For example, S-LTA Liza Ashley shares that students in Professor Paula Caligiuri’s Becoming a Global Leader course complete a variety of projects which include designing effective management trainings for supervisors, creating pitch presentations to garner more corporate partners and designing a marketing strategy to revitalize a neighborhood. Many of her MBA students were able to apply what they have learned in previous full-time roles or other MBA courses.

Whether you’re placed in a direct, project-based, or hybrid service role through your service-learning course, you’ll be sure to have an engaging experience that will help you apply your course concepts and enhance your learning experience!

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