Navi Mental Health Wayfinder
Community-Engaged Learning - Experiential Learning Hub

Learning Type:

Community-Engaged Learning


Students participate in a structured learning experience in partnership with communities or grassroots, non-profit or public organizations. These partnerships are driven by community partner priorities and provide reciprocal benefits to those partners and the students engaged with them. In this type of experience, students undertake reflection to connect their community engagement to the learning outcomes of the course/program, which can be curricular or co-curricular in nature.



  • Eligibility criteria will vary depending on the initiative in which you are interested in participating.


  • Curricular community-engaged learning opportunities may involve part-time hours with a community organization and can last from a few hours to a number of days or weeks over the course of an academic term. The timelines vary and will be set within the course.
  • Co-curricular community-engaged learning opportunities may be one-time experiences or longer-term placements with a flexible duration.

Recognition and / or compensation:  

  • You will receive course credit for participating in curricular community-engaged learning opportunities.
  • Most co-curricular community-engaged learning opportunities are unpaid and many will offer recognition through the co-curricular record (CCR).


  • Inclusion in EL is achieved when an experience supports learning for all students. In keeping with the Ontario Human Rights Code, the University of Toronto has a commitment to an equitable learning environment for people with disabilities. It is important to engage in an interactive process to determine the optimal and most appropriate accommodations for individual students engaged in experiential learning.
  • If a student requires an accommodation related to an community-engaged learning opportunity, you may wish to connect with one of the accessibility services offices at the University of Toronto. Staff at these offices will advise you on the disclosure of accommodation requirements as well as support you through the process of determining and negotiating effective accommodations for the student’s individual circumstances.
  • Student support offices strive to create a safe and comfortable community where students have opportunities to discuss navigating barriers, find peer support and learn about various academic and social opportunities. 


  • Review the Guidelines & Procedures page to further understand which partnership agreements, insurance and liability coverage and health and safety policies are applicable to community engaged learning experiences. The Experiential Learning Risk Management Matrix provides a one-page overview.
  • Curricular Community-Engaged Learning:
    • An unpaid student placement agreement between the University of Toronto and the partner organization needs to be in place. This agreement will clearly outline items such as responsibilities, provisions and policies to be followed for both the University and the partner organization. 
    • Students engaging in a curricular community-engaged learning experience (for credit for an unpaid placement), receive workplace insurance coverage through the University or Ministry of Colleges and Universities.
    • Students engaging in a curricular community-engaged learning experience (for credit for an unpaid placement) have general liability coverage through the University.
  • Co-Curricular Community-Engaged Learning:
    • A student placement agreement is not required for a co-curricular community-engaged learning experience (not for course credit).
    • Students engaging in a co-curricular community engaged learning experience (not for course credit) do not receive workplace insurance coverage through the University or Ministry of Colleges and Universities.
    • For information about liability coverage for co-curricular community-engaged learning experiences, this depends on the circumstances of the experience, instructors or program. Coordinators should contact the Risk Management and Insurance Department.


  • Community-engaged learning experiences allow students to integrate the theoretical and the practical by using their disciplinary skills and knowledge in an applied setting.
  • Community-engaged learning encourages students to consider the public role of their discipline as well as how their field can learn from, and contribute to, the work of communities and community organizations.
  • In community-engaged learning opportunities, students learn new knowledge and skills while also offering fresh insight to community organizations through a context of partnership and reciprocity.
  • Community-engaged learning provides students with opportunities for development in a range of areas including personal, career and civic development.
  • In community-engaged learning, students consider their projects and placements through a disciplinary lens which supports them in understanding the applicability of their degree.
  • Community-engaged learning allows students to work in solidarity with others to transform systems of oppression and develop a deeper understanding of the complexity of structural social issues.

Ideal time to participate:  

  • This depends on students’ academic, professional and personal goals as well as the academic program they are enrolled in. Students may want to discuss this with their academic unit or their registrar’s office.

How to access / locate opportunities:

  • Community engaged learning courses are available through various academic programs at the University of Toronto. These opportunities can be embedded in a course, part of students’ degree requirements, or offered as an elective. Students should take some time to research the community-engaged learning courses offered through their academic unit.
  • Co-curricular community-engaged learning opportunities exist across the University. Some potential avenues to locate opportunities include:
    • Review the Centre for Community Partnerships website for information related to Community Action Projects, Alternative Reading Week and other community-engaged learning opportunities
    • The Co-Curricular Record also features some Co-Curricular Community Engaged Learning opportunities
    • Visit the University of Toronto Mississauga’s Centre for Student Engagement page to find various co-curricular opportunities
    • The University of Toronto Scarborough’s Community Engagement page provides an overview of co-curricular opportunities

Resources and Next Steps for Faculty, Staff and Librarians

Next Steps for Partners/External Organizations

  • Curricular community-engaged learning experiences are unpaid as students’ participation is recognized through course credit. Co-curricular community-engaged learning opportunities are likely to be unpaid and considered volunteer opportunities for students. 
  • For academic internships (i.e., unpaid placements), a formal agreement between your organization and the University of Toronto needs to be in place if your opportunity will involve bringing students into your organization. The University representative you are working with will be able to provide you with this agreement, if applicable. This agreement will clearly outline items such as responsibilities, provisions and policies to be followed for both the University and your organization.
  • If the opportunity involves a professional work-term and is not directly connected to a course (i.e., does not count towards course credit), students must be paid by your organization. For paid work-terms, an agreement or contract between your organization and the participating student(s) will need to be established.

Community-engaged projects, placements, or partnerships are coordinated by various offices at the University of Toronto. You may wish to reach out to a divisional experiential learning office or to one of the three campus-based offices that support community-engaged learning: