What is Community Based Learning (CBL): How to Implement with a Modern LMS in 2024

Community based learning ties academic studies to real community issues, allowing students to apply their knowledge practically while fostering civic responsibility. This article covers its key concepts, benefits, and how to implement it effectively.
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Community based learning ties academic studies to real community issues, allowing students to apply their knowledge practically while fostering civic responsibility. This article covers its key concepts, benefits, and how to implement it effectively.

What we will learn together:

  • Community-based learning (CBL) integrates academic study with real community issues, engaging students in practical applications and fostering a dynamic exchange of knowledge and service.
  • CBL enhances students’ civic responsibility, critical thinking, and emotional intelligence, preparing them for citizenship, work, and life through experiential learning and community engagement.
  • Effective community-based learning programs rely on strong relationships with local community partners, structured reflection, and tailored technological solutions like Disco AI to deliver personalized and impactful learning experiences.

What is Community Based Learning?

At the heart of community-based learning lies the powerful connection between academic study and the pulsing life of local communities. Community-based learning (CBL) fosters an educational environment transcending traditional academia by engaging students with real community issues.

It’s a symbiotic relationship that brings together students, faculty, and community partners in a dynamic exchange of knowledge and service. It creates a rich soil where guidance, foundational knowledge, and intellectual analysis support profound learning.

This integrative model combines traditional classroom instruction with meaningful community engagement, allowing students to connect concepts to practical applications. In doing so, it weaves together the diverse threads of institutions, history, literature, cultural heritage, and natural environments.

This presents a multidimensional canvas for student learning to paint their experiences.

The Benefits of Community Based Learning

Community-based learning is not just a method; it’s a catalyst for transformation. With field-based experiential learning, students step directly into the community, facing issues head-on and contributing to efforts to solve them. This immersive approach forges a strong foundation for civic responsibility, encourages robust communities, and creates a bridge between academic theory and practical, real-world experience.

However, the benefits of CBL extend beyond academic enrichment. It prepares students for citizenship, work, and life by fostering a commitment to social justice and community well-being. CBL cultivates higher-order skills like critical thinking and writing, increases self-efficacy and emotional intelligence, and promotes academic learning and civic development by addressing real-world problems.

Moreover, participation in CBL has been shown to enhance undergraduate students’ commitment to civic engagement and intercultural competence.

Creating Your Own Community Based Learning Program in 2024

Embarking on the journey of creating a community-based learning program begins with cultivating strong relationships with local community partners. These strategic partnerships form the cornerstone of a successful program, ensuring that the invaluable insights and needs of the community are woven into the fabric of the learning experience.

The pedagogical formats such as service-learning, practicum, and community-based research provide varied opportunities for students to engage with and learn from their communities through community-based learning practices.

An effective community-based learning program should:

  • Seamlessly integrate learning activities, combining both in-person and online learning strategies
  • Incorporate opportunities for reflective thinking
  • Allow students to transform their experiences into concrete learning
  • Provide instructional connections to class materials
  • Facilitate community integration via guest speakers and field trips
  • Engage students in collaborative learning community projects

By following these guidelines, the program’s design can foster impactful learning and civic action.

Structured Reflection in Community Based Learning

Structured reflection is the linchpin that secures the connection between students’ experiences in the community and their academic coursework. It is a critical component of community-based learning, enabling students to unpack the layers of their community engagement and extract meaningful insights.

This reflective practice is not only essential for students but also for educators and community partners to evaluate how learning objectives are being met.

Providing structured time for reflection allows us to introduce students to:

  • Explore the connection between their direct experiences and civic development
  • Enrich their understanding of the academic material
  • Understand their role as active citizens

Such a focus on reflection ensures that the lessons taught in the field are carried into the classroom setting, fostering a deeper understanding and transforming them into skills for life.

When it comes to online learning, community-based learning can be seamlessly implemented through discussion boards, forums, and channels where a community learns and shares insights collectively.

Presented below is an example of an online discussion feed where students can exchange ideas and provide constructive feedback to one another.

Academic Credit and Assessments

In community-based learning, academic credit is awarded not for the quantity of service hours but for the quality of learning outcomes that arise from engagement with the community.

The community based learning course is carefully designed to ensure that the academic content informs the community service, creating a seamless blend of theory and action. Community based learning courses often focus not only on the acquisition of knowledge but also on the development of civic responsibility and skills that transcend the classroom.

Assessment in CBL is multifaceted, incorporating self-assessment, peer assessment, and feedback from community partners. This approach provides a comprehensive evaluation of the student’s ability to apply theoretical knowledge to real-world issues, fostering an environment where students are recognized for their scholarship and their capacity to make a tangible difference in the community.

Partnering with Community Organizations

The synergy between community-based learning programs and community organizations is a delicate dance of trust, clear communication, and personal connections. Understanding the service provider’s mission and proactively using the right tools to address community needs is crucial for building effective partnerships.

Setting expectations early on lays the foundation for a collaborative relationship that is responsive to the evolving dynamics between educational institutions and community partners.

Adapting Community-Based Learning for Digital Spaces in 2024

The evolution of community-based learning into the digital era is a testament to the power of innovative technology in enriching educational experiences. Disco AI emerges as a leader in this transformation, integrating artificial intelligence to customize and scale learning for each individual.

By leveraging Disco AI, educators can enhance the sense of community and connection to course material, ensuring that every student's learning path is as unique as they are.

Save Tons of Time Managing Your Community with Disco AI: Answer Member Queries with an AI Assistant

In the evolving landscape of community-based learning, adapting to digital spaces is essential. Disco AI plays a pivotal role in this adaptation by efficiently handling and responding to member queries. This capability ensures immediate and accurate answers, significantly enhancing user engagement and satisfaction within the community.

By leveraging AI, community-based learning programs benefit from 24/7 availability, consistent and scalable support, and improved efficiency.

To get started, create a channel on the Disco platform and see how Disco AI can assist you in managing your community. Make sure to enable the Disco Q&A suggestions so the AI can work effectively.

⚠️ If you haven't created a learning product at Disco, here's a short tutorial to do so:

Every time you create a feed or a channel, Disco AI will automatically message you with prompts to initiate a conversation that you can publish as a post. Simply click on the Disco AI icon to see the suggested prompts, and then choose and click on 'draft message channel' to enhance and publish the post.

After successfully posting in the channel, Disco AI will suggest responses to your post. You can edit and use or dismiss the suggestion. This also works with your members' posts, comments, and queries! In short, you don't need to spend hours replying to your members' queries. With Disco AI, you can save a significant amount of time.

AI assistants can personalize responses based on individual member data, offering a more tailored experience that aligns with the principles of community-based learning.

Additionally, the data insights gathered from AI interactions can inform future improvements, enhancing overall member satisfaction and engagement, and fostering a more active and supportive community environment.

Train Disco AI with Your Community's Content

Among all community platforms out there, Disco is the only platform that allows you to train its native AI tool with your knowledge base. At Disco, we understand that managing a learning community is time-consuming. That's why we built our own AI tool that suggests prompts, engages in conversations like a chatbot, and trains as if it's your own AI assistant.

Navigate to the Admin Area -> Settings -> Training Sources. Click 'Add Training Sources' and then copy and paste the URL of your content. You can also choose if you want the system to scrape the entire domain or just specific subpaths. Click submit, and the processing time will take around a few hours.

Create Groups/Subgroups to Craft Meaningful Interactions

Disco AI's sophistication lies in its capability to identify and engage specific learner sub-groups within a larger community. It customizes the learning experience to align with the distinct goals of various groups, defined by:

  • Special interests
  • Different stages in the learning process
  • Geographic locations
  • Levels of expertise

Through tailored navigation and a modular approach, Disco AI ensures that every learner finds their place in the community. Additionally, the platform's support for live events, complete with Zoom integration and calendar syncing, allows for targeted activities that enhance group cohesion and active engagement.

📺 Watch this 2-min tutorial and learn how to create groups/subgroups:

Peer Learning through Assignments

Another way to execute peer feedback is through assignments utilizing an AI course creator tool. In the example below, I have created an assignment and configured its visibility within specific subgroups.

If you haven't set up subgroups in your course yet, click the '+' icon, navigate to 'Settings', and then select 'Subgroups'. Fill in the necessary fields to create your subgroups.

Here's what it looks like after creating your subgroups.

Host Live Events for Your Community and Learning Programs

Hosting events is another powerful way to foster community interaction and engagement. Disco AI can assist in organizing and managing these events, from scheduling to participant follow-up, ensuring that each event runs smoothly and effectively contributes to the community's learning goals.

📺 Here's how you can add your events to your course:

Examples of Successful Community Based Learning Programs

The tangible impact of community-based learning is best exemplified by the success stories that have arisen from programs like:

  • Contrarian Thinking, has nurtured a network of critical thinkers and dealmakers through mentorship and practical experiences, leading to tangible successes such as business acquisitions. This is evident in the stories of members like Colin Callahan, who acquired an electric bike tour company, and military veteran Renan Cortez, who utilized the community’s negotiation strategies to acquire his first business.
  • Enterprise Sellers, which has empowered individuals to excel in sales and entrepreneurship, resulting in success stories like Sarah Johnson, who built a thriving e-commerce business from scratch.
  • Old Girls Club, which has provided support and resources for women in business, led to achievements such as Lisa Thompson, who launched her own successful consulting firm.

These programs have demonstrated the power of community-based learning in driving real-world success.

Enterprise Sellers and Old Girls Club have also demonstrated the potential of CBL programs in creating supportive environments for aspiring entrepreneurs and empowering women through skill-building workshops and networking opportunities.

These programs underscore how community-based learning can extend its influence beyond the classroom, impacting lives and shaping careers through real-world experiences.

💡 These community-based learning examples are using Disco as their platform. If you want to build your community with us, we'd love to hear from you! Book a demo so you can talk to our expert team.

Supercharge Your Learning Community

A step-by-step guide to build and grow a thriving learning community.

The Learning Community Playbook by Disco

Introducing DISCO: The Ultimate Community-Based Learning Platform for Modern Communities!

Disco is the premier platform that seamlessly integrates learning and community, making it the perfect solution for growing and scaling your community or virtual academies.

With features like a comprehensive course builder, customizable learner dashboards, custom onboarding experiences, discussion channels, and direct messaging, Disco enhances the learning experience and fosters a sense of community.

It also supports event hosting with Zoom integration and calendar automation, allowing creators to monetize their content while providing learners with a dynamic and personalized journey.

Other amazing features of Disco:

  • Disco AI
  • Advanced course builder
  • Quizzes, assignments, lessons, tasks, certificates
  • Discussion boards, forums, and messaging
  • Event management tool with video streaming and Zoom integration
  • Full customization of the platform from branding, domain, and labels
  • Groups and subgroups for peer learning
  • Integration, automation, and course duplication
  • Engagement scoring and learner progress reports
  • Advanced analytics and insights
  • Mobile app and custom branded app - coming soon!
  • SSO, API, and other enterprise features
  • Membership plans, public pages, and Stripe integration
  • Disco Academy and many more!

Used by learning organizations for up-skilling, customer enablement, partner enablement, cohort training, and accelerator programs, Disco’s AI-powered platform makes learning together super engaging and easy to operate.

Aside from that, Disco is named Fast Co’s most innovative edtech of the year and Edtech Breakthrough’s Startup of the Year. Clients include the Toronto Board of Trade, Kaplan, Coursehero, MonitorDeloitte, XPrize, Baptist Health, and more.

Surround Yourself With Like-Minded People: Join the Disco Academy! 🏫

Experiencing the Disco Platform firsthand is essential to truly embrace its capabilities. Disco Academy extends an invitation to join its community for free with a 14-day free trial using its platform. Join today and learn with like-minded people who are making learning happen in every community.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is community learning theory?

Community learning theory, also known as Community-Based Learning (CBL), is a teaching strategy that connects academic theory with real-world practice to address community needs and promote civic development among students.

How does community-based learning benefit students?

Community-based learning benefits students by developing critical thinking, civic responsibility, intercultural competence, self-efficacy, and emotional intelligence as they engage in solving real-world community issues.

What role does technology play in community-based learning?

Technology, such as AI-powered platforms like Disco AI, plays a crucial role in community-based learning by personalizing the learning experience and managing member engagement, providing targeted experiences for different groups within the community.

Can community-based learning lead to academic credit?

Yes, students can earn academic credit in community-based learning courses by applying theoretical knowledge to address real-world issues and demonstrating learning outcomes achieved through their engagement with the community. This can be a valuable way to gain academic credit while making a meaningful impact in the community.

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