Service-learning and online learning

Last week, a friend sent me this article in which the author  muses about seemingly opposing pedagogies.  He observes that those that teach in higher education are simultaneously "pressured" to teach online while being "pushed" to increase civic engagement.  The author points out that the former completely ignores space, while the latter is very much tied to it. While it may seem like an obvious dichotomy, service-learning courses have been taught online successfully and, I imagine, not without challenge.  When I teach in-person service-learning courses, I have always chosen the community partner for the course with my co-teacher.  Recently, though, I have attended at least two conference presentations, one at the First Year Experience Conference and one at the LOEX conference, during which the presenters have explained that they have allowed their students to choose their own community partners (both for classroom courses).  The prospect of this arrangement simultaneously thrills and frightens me.  I can see the benefits, but I can also see some huge pitfalls.  If the students select their own partner, they may be even more invested in the partnership.  With any luck, they may choose a cause or an organization that means something to them that will compel them to form a strong sense of responsibility in doing good work with that partner to help them solve a problem.  On the other hand, I can imagine that some students would have trouble choosing a partner. Many service-learning experts have written about maintaining strong relationships with community partners.