February 03rd 2021

Social commitment in studies: Service Learning at the study program "Business Administration Online"

Volunteer management as the basis for tomorrow's skills

Starting in the summer semester, students of the Bachelor's degree program "Business Administration Online" at the Entrepreneurial School® can have their volunteer work in projects of the Rotes Kreuz Tirol and the Caritas Freiwilligenzentrum Tirol Mitteolunteer credited as academic achievement. Within the framework of an elective course, students have the opportunity to deepen their knowledge and skills in a subject area of their own choosing and which is personally relevant to them. For this purpose, they can complete relevant courses offered by various educational institutions or now also work on a predefined volunteer project.

How can a business administration degree and social commitment be combined?

"Some people may ask what volunteering has to do with a business administration degree. Students should gain both professional and social skills during their studies. By giving credit for voluntary, community service activities, we want to encourage our students' social commitment. I am convinced that in these projects they not only make a contribution to society, but also gain important experience in terms of social interaction and their understanding of responsibility," Maria Pammer, Head of the "Business Administration Online" Department, told us about her intentions.

In the context of the universities' "3rd mission", the transfer of knowledge into practice and the assumption of social responsibility, alongside teaching (First Mission) and research (Second Mission), is already an integral part of the strategy at MCI. Topics relating to responsible management, such as social responsibility, ethics and sustainability, already extend throughout the entire course of study on the basis of PRME (Principles of Responsible Management Education). Service learning enables problem-based, socially constructive and reflective work on projects in conjunction with social commitment. Through the integration of service learning, a tangible link to practice is now to be established and a transfer of knowledge made possible.

In order to guarantee this process between the cooperation partners, the students define their individual learning goals before they start volunteering. This is equally concerned with the transfer of business know-how into practice and individual personality development. After completing the predefined volunteer work, students must write a final report in which they critically reflect on what they have learned.

"We want to offer students the opportunity to look beyond their personal horizons and bring them into contact with a reality that is perhaps beyond their imagination - with poverty, with loneliness, with hardship. I am convinced that leaving one's comfort zone allows us to mature and grow as a personality, and we want to offer young people this opportunity," added Margit Schäfer, Vice President of the Rotes Kreuz Tirol.

A mutual added value

"Service learning strengthens togetherness and offers students added social value," Sibylle Auer, head of the Caritas Freiwilligenzentrum Tirol Mitte, is also certain about this. Here, she emphasized that "the synergies and benefits of learning through engagement is not a way to wage dumping or replacing professional social workers or other paid employees." On the contrary, students should be "an addition, a new quality or something special in the institutions and organizations, but not maintain the daily operations and structure unpaid." This is exactly why the cooperation partners decided to define precisely the content of the volunteer project, in order to ensure mutual added value.

The importance of social responsibility and social competencies should ultimately be recognized and the experience should provide a basis in the continuing professional life.