E-service-learning: a gerontological social work approach

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Service Learning (SL) is an innovative teaching methodology that allows an equal integration between learning and the service provided by students in a community and/or organization. Taking into account the teaching potential of this methodology and its usefulness to the community, during the 2021/2022 academic year, an educational experience was developed in the Social Work degree course. The main objective of the SL project was to reduce the isolation of institutionalized older adults through the use of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) since in the pandemic context this population is especially vulnerable. SL counted with the participation of 12 final-year students and 16 users of a Private Institution of Social Solidarity in Portugal. The objectives of this study were to understand the concerns and expectations of the partner organization and users regarding participation in SL, as well as to analyze the students' perception of the learning acquired. The research adopted a qualitative strategy, with exploratory interviews being carried out with 6 users and 3 social workers. The sources of evidence were also the assessment elements requested in the course (individual student reports). The data from the exploratory interviews revealed that one of the expectations of the organization was to seek actions to articulate, improve and develop the institution's services, namely the use and acceptability of digital tools in social intervention, as well as to increase the socialization of older people through interaction with young university students, as an opportunity to share experiences and knowledge. From the point of view of the elderly, their expectations are essentially related to new playful-recreational dynamics. These expectations result, to a large extent, from the concern felt with the worsening of the pandemic situation, since the interviewees refer to the significant reduction of activities since some of them carry a higher risk of disease transmission. In this sense, SL in the online modality responds, at a critical stage in the institution, to needs that include fighting social isolation, optimizing the elderly's feelings of well-being, and intensifying psychosocial support and follow-up services. Based on the evaluative elements of the course unit, we highlight that students reported significant academic growth, reflected in the expansion of theoretical and practical knowledge in the area of gerontological social work. Thus, in the students´reports there was an appreciation of the theme of ageing, referring to a greater identification with this area of work, as well as a real notion of the Social Worker's intervention in this area. From this point of view, the students who had already had contact with the theme of ageing mentioned that it was an opportunity to meet different citizens, such as people with intellectual disabilities. From the point of view of skill analysis, it was mentioned that this educational experience allowed a great involvement and commitment from all the students, the improvement of oral skills, stimulation of creativity, empathy, and a feeling of civic commitment and social usefulness.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationICERI2022 Proceedings
PublisherIATED Academy
Number of pages1
ISBN (Print)9788409454761
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2022
Event15th annual International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation - , Spain
Duration: 7 Nov 20229 Nov 2022


Conference15th annual International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Internet address


  • Service-learning
  • Higher education
  • Gerontological social work
  • Older adults
  • COVID-19


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