Definitions and Terminology

Within the service-learning and civic engagement communities, there are numerous definitions for the types of community engagement activities that are pursued. The University of Kentucky has sought to define the kinds of activities broadly grouped under “community engagement.”


Service-learning is an integrative experience through which learners engage in thoughtfully organized actions in response to community identified assets and needs. Experiences are designed to be reciprocal exchanges of knowledge and resources accomplished through service and reflection. Learning outcomes promote academic and civic engagement and are focused on an equal balance between holistic learner development and community well-being. Service-learning can be credit bearing or non-credit bearing.

Civic Engagement

Civic Engagement is working to make a difference in the civic life (both political and non-political processes) of our communities and developing the combination of knowledge, skills, values and motivation to make that difference.

Community Engagement

Community Engagement describes the collaboration between institutions of higher education and their larger communities (local, regional/state, national, global) for the mutually beneficial exchange of knowledge and resources in a context of partnership and reciprocity.

Community-Based Learning Experiences

Community-Based Learning Experiences are for-credit courses in which students apply, and thereby achieve greater mastery of, theoretical knowledge in real-world settings under the supervision of a faculty member.


Outreach is a focus on the application and provision of institutional resources for community use. Outreach can be formal or informal educational approaches to deliver university (research-based) information to the people and communities.