Civic engagement

Our experiences during the COVID-19 Curriculum Shift have illustrated how important it is to provide a mix of online and on-campus instruction, synchronous and asynchronous endeavours, and individual and group tasks for students. Civic engagement tasks are good candidates for inclusion in the flow of activities you are designing for your blended learning courses. By providing ‘hands-on’ experiences and opportunities for both individual and group work, civic engagement activities can enrich both social interactivity and active learning in our courses.

These activities can complement tasks through which students engage the main taught material (e.g., readings, videos, problem sets), helping you keep things fresh. Activities can be done online or in-person, although they offer special opportunities to use the internet’s distance-spanning technology to great advantage.

Civic engagement blended learning activities

The goal is for these activities to give students a concrete basis for thinking more deeply and critically about the central concepts, issues and arguments in the course when they meet in seminars or peer study groups, watch lecture videos, write essays, etc. Including tasks like these in your flow of course activities can boost the animation with which students engage the course material and enable them to have a more lively and impactful experience in the course.

In addition, pursuing such opportunities for online civic engagement will doubtless help them see for themselves how digital involvement in public affairs can ‘extend well beyond being a “keyboard warrior” on social media’, as political scientist Elizabeth Bennion (Indiana University South Bend) puts it.

Mapping the political landscape

Students could “map” the political landscape regarding a public issue related to the course material by doing online investigations to create a short list of interest groups and local government agencies involved in the issue. The list could include key information about each organisation’s mission, degree of influence and notable accomplishments.

Virtual public meetings

Students could attend a virtual public meeting of a group or agency, write a paragraph to reflect on what they witness (who speaks, what conflicts arise, how decisions get made) and share their reflections with peer study group members.


Students could volunteer for a charity that works in an area related to the course content, taking advantage of the growing roster of online opportunities being developed by the LSE Volunteer Centre. Students could write a blog to share with the study group or wider audiences.

Online data sources

Students could search online data sources for information about a specific, current example of a general problem being treated in the course, e.g., a local manifestation of racial inequalities in pandemic-related job loss; gendered effects of home schooling during lockdown; air quality measures for cities before, during and after lockdowns; bills before Parliament on NHS funding in current and recent sessions. Students could summarise the information they find and discuss how course readings illuminate, or fail to explain, the data’s significance.

UK Supreme Court

Students could watch an online UK Supreme Court hearing on a case relevant to the course. Students could then write a reflective paragraph (on what points of law and fact were contested, how each side presented its case, what questions the justices asked, and which side seemed to have the more compelling arguments) and share the paragraph with the peer study group.

Online media coverage

Students could examine online media coverage of a topical issue related to the course. Students could then write a reflection on such coverage (what sources cover the issue, how the issue is framed, what are presented as significant facts, who is given legitimacy as a spokesperson, how text and visual/video elements interact), and share the reflection with the peer study group.

Practitioners as guest speakers

Invite a leading non-academic practitioner working on an issue related to your course to talk with students via Zoom about the work this individual does.

LSE Student Futures and civic engagement

Are you looking for ways to enhance students’ experiences of interactivity and community in one of your courses this coming year, and are you interested in promoting student civic engagement? If so, you might want to consider having students participate in an online research project enabled by the LSE Public Research Partners component of LSE Student Futures.

LSE Public Research Partners provides School resources to support the conduct of faculty-supervised student research activities that involve partnerships with London-based external organisations, in the context of taught courses. The idea is to match organisations’ research needs with faculty expertise and teaching priorities, and to respond to students’ eagerness to learn research skills. Research projects can be central to the course or a minor activity; compulsory or optional; spread out over multiple weeks or a short-term endeavour.

Successful pilot projects ran in 2020/21 and relied entirely on online methods of communication and research, including interview-based inquiries. Perhaps an NGO, public agency or social enterprise in your research network would be a good candidate for a public research partnership in one of your courses. Even if that is not the case, numerous organisations in the London area have advised us that they would like to partner with LSE student researchers if a faculty member is interested in supervising. To learn more, contact Dr Paul Apostolidis in the Government Department, coordinator of the LSE Student Futures Civic Engagement strand, at

Transnational civic engagement through CIVICA

In a time of hardening nationalisms in many countries, transnational forms of cooperation have become increasingly vital to promoting open intellectual exchange and critical learning. Through the LSE’s participation in CIVICA – The European University of Social Sciences, initiated in 2020, we are generating more opportunities like this for our own students and their peers at CIVICA partner universities on the continent including Sciences Po, the Stockholm School of Economics, and Bocconi University.

Consider joining the growing network of faculty colleagues who offer a ‘CIVICA Engage Course.’ Such a course includes a civic engagement activity that connects academic material to concrete social problems by asking students to investigate or reflect on social issues treated in the course. Activities within a wide and flexible range could constitute such a project, prepare LSE students for transnational learning in a partner university’s ‘CIVICA Engage Course’ and participation in the intensive summer ‘European Week’ experience, and offer our partners’ students a venue for civically engaged learning at the LSE (in limited numbers, of course).

To learn more, contact Dr Paul Apostolidis in the Government Department (manager of the Civic Engagement Work Project for LSE’s role in CIVICA) at

Further reading