Indiana State University Newsroom

Community engagement goes cyber: new nonprofit classes at Indiana State

October 23, 2014

Indiana State University is No.1 in community service and as the world becomes more tech-savvy, the university's Nonprofit Leadership Alliance Certification Program has brought community engagement and service-learning online.

"Enrollment in online programs is increasing all over the country and higher education has seen a simultaneous significant increase in community engagement and service-learning" said Nathan Schaumleffel, associate professor in the department of kinesiology, recreation and sport. "And these two things haven't really collided yet nationally. There are very few people doing community engagement and service-learning in the online environment."

Schaumleffel is campus/executive director of Indiana State's Nonprofit Leadership Alliance Certification Program, which earned national Sprint Campus of the Year honors in 2013. Alliance members are dedicated to educating, preparing and certifying professionals to strengthen and lead nonprofit organizations.

Schaumleffel completed five online courses during his spring 2014 sabbatical, all focusing on online instruction and e-service-learning. One 10-week class awarded him the online instructor certificate from Indiana State. The completion of four other classes provided him with certification from the Online Learning Consortium (formerly the Sloan Consortium), which trains professors to be online instructors. Much of this was made possible by a $3,000 Service Engagement grant from Indiana Campus Compact.

Upon gaining these certifications, Schaumleffel put his knowledge in action by developing and teaching four new classes during the summer, two sections each of a Fundamentals of Fundraising course and an Advanced Nonprofit Administration course. These courses are unique because Schaumleffel designed each course to include e-service-learning and developed the courses as open educational resource and as SENCER courses. SENCER, Science Education for New Civic Engagements and Responsibilities, is a national program that Indiana State works with to promote civic engagement.

The fundraising course included a project where students worked with a nonprofit organization to write a fundraising case statement. Students also developed a direct mail annual fundraising campaign letter for a local health and medical-related nonprofit organization. In the process of developing the annual fundraising letter students explored the civic issue of lack of affordable health care for SENCER requirements.

The advanced nonprofit administration students conducted a project where they learned how to use social media to implement nonprofit advocacy plans. The students worked with the National Parks Conservation Association to explore hydraulic fracturing near national parks. Schaumleffel noted that a 2012 paper published by Leora S.Waldner and Murray C. Widener of Troy University and Sue Y. McGorry of DeSales University described online learning as "a facilitator rather than a barrier to service-learning. E-service-learning holds the potential to transform both service-learning and online learning by freeing service-learning from geographical constraints, and by equipping online learning with a tool to promote engagement. Thus, it is a key to the future of service-learning."

Bethany Alkire, a senior biology major from Greenfield and student president of the Nonprofit Leadership Student Association , took the fundraising course. At first, she was hesitant about the idea of an entirely online e-service-learning class. However, she said, "I learned more in this five week class than I've learned in most semester classes. The e-service component-both the case statement assignment and the direct mail campaign assignment-gave me practical experience working on fundraising with two local nonprofit organizations. The experiences helped me build competencies that are necessary to work in the nonprofit profession."

The decision to use open educational resources was a dual response to high textbook prices and acknowledgement that the "black and white text" approach may not work for every student. Additional resources, such as videos for visual learners and course-related twitter accounts for the hands-on student, satisfy diverse learning preferences and the growing call for institutions to embrace social media, Schaumleffel said.

"It also expands the amount of content available to students and provides them with diverging opinions," he said.

Schaumleffel integrated Twitter timelines into online learning by using course hashtags, which allowed students such as Alkire to build their social media skills. She chose to buy the optional textbook for the course.

"I am glad, however, that I was not required to buy an expensive textbook that I would not use."

In addition to the new online courses, there will be two new undergraduate routes through which students can earn professional certification as a Certified Nonprofit Professional. According to an independent study conducted by LinkedIn, people with the certification are seven times more likely than those without certification to reach a director-level or higher position at a nonprofit organization. The study also found that half of all certified professionals stay in the nonprofit sector 50 percent longer than those who are not certified.

Beginning fall 2015, students will be able to earn a full minor in Nonprofit Leadership or earn a Bachelor of Science in recreation and sport management with a concentration in nonprofit leadership. Both of these new opportunities will lead to certification, in addition to the current interdisciplinary path to certification that has existed for more than a decade. University Honors students will continue to earn certification for the leadership and civic engagement concentration.

Graduate students completing an online Masters of Public Administration degree can now earn a nine-credit hour nonprofit leadership concentration and complete additional requirements to earn certification.

Other graduate students can become certified by completing nonprofit leadership electives. Lastly, there is a post-baccalaureate path for graduates wishing to become certified without having to take credit courses.

Schaumleffel is not content to limit the benefits of his initiative to Indiana State. He has been approved to reveal an assessment of his e-service-learning and extreme e-service-learning teaching experience at the Assessment Institute in Indianapolis.

For more information on e-service-learning, extreme e-service-learning, the Nonprofit Leadership Alliance, or related information, Schaumleffel may be contacted at or 812-237-2189.

Writer: Kristen Kilker, media relations assistant, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3773 or