Key success factors

  • The community partner is engaged, supportive, and acknowledged as a co-educator and co-learner.  

  • Students understand the value of service learning and reciprocity. The software created by the students is also open source, meaning that Northwood and the residents can use, change, and distribute the software to anyone and for any purpose. 

  • Residents gain self-confidence and take on more of a teaching role to advocate for their specific needs. Seven of the thirteen projects created in a recent term feature individualized software interfaces to meet residents' exact needs and preferences.  

Unique characteristics

  • This is a rare service learning opportunity in the field of computer science 

  • The opportunity represents an intergenerational collaboration between students and Northwood residents, who form a team that openly shares ideas and feedback. 


  • The software created wasn't originally open source, which created issues around intellectual property. This caused reflection on the professor and community partners’ behalf, and they decided to work toward making the projects open source in future terms. 

  • Questions around data storage were also addressed by the faculty member, who collaborated with the community partner and solved problems within the university and department. 

  • This is a highly unique project where the challenges can be unpredictable. The stakeholders work collaboratively to solve problems that arise.


Saint Mary's University

Key characteristics

  • Type: Service Learning
  • Year program was established: 2017
  • Number of students per year: ~30
  • Number of employers/partners per year: 1
  • Programs/academic disciplines participating: Computer Science 
  • Duration of experience: 100+ hours over the term
  • Submitted by: Sarah Bray