Special Session: Teaching & Communicating Sustainability

With an increasing number of quantitative and qualitative tools available, teaching and communicating sustainability to different target groups become even more important in paving the way towards a sustainable future and meaningful actions. In fact, teaching and communication will help in putting tools and practices, developed by scientists, into application.

Many aspects of sustainability have found their way into teaching at universities and continuous professional education, and many scientists are actively engaged in this process. This session aims to provide a platform for exchange of experiences, methods, and inspiration regarding the teaching of sustainability on the university level, continuous professional education, and broad societal communication to consumers or politicians (e.g. via labels, or the media).

Short presentations followed by interactive session.

CHAIR: Ben Amor
10:30 Laurel McEwen

What makes e-learning meaningful? – Understanding the Cognitive theory of Multimedia Learning

ABSTRACT. We have all sat through an hour webinar and learned very little. Downloaded whitepapers, videos and PowerPoints, read watched for an hour, and still did not feel any smarter. We have also had positive experiences learning from these formats. So what makes one webinar effective at helping you construct new knowledge and another ineffective? What makes e-learning meaningful?

E-learning (learning conducted via electronic media, typically on the internet) comes in a dizzying variety of forms. Ranging from simple videotaping lectures that are posting online for anytime access, to downloadable materials such power-points, videos, white papers, to live webinars, social forums and chat rooms, to highly sophisticated multi-media learning systems that may use cognitive tutors, interactive games, provide assessment and issue certifications. Each of these can be used effectively to promote learning. Frequently, however, they are ineffective.

Good multimedia instruction considers the guidelines provided by the Cognitive Theory of Multimedia Learning. This theory encompasses the work of cognitive scientist studying how people learn, and hundreds of evidence based studies evaluating the effectiveness of multimedia instructional design.

Mayer, Richard E. “Applying the science of learning: evidence-based principles for the design of multimedia instruction.” American Psychologist 63.8 (2008): 760.

10:40 Jon Dettling

An Experiential Serious Game to Stimulate Life Cycle Thinking in Organizations and in Education

ABSTRACT. Recent years have seen a significant increase in the importance of environmental protection and sustainability to consumers, policy makers, and society in general. Reflecting this, most organizations are at least aware of this new agenda and wish to be seen as taking steps to improve behaviors in this regard. However, there appears to be a gap between this evolving agenda and the comparatively low level of knowledge that marketing managers actually have of the environmental impact of their own functional decisions.

We suggest that this low knowledge level may be due, in part, to the marketplace focus of foundational marketing educational programs, and we attempt to show how broadening the horizons of marketing courses can help students (i.e., future managers) more deeply understand the environmental consequences of their actions.

We demonstrate the use of a novel business game, based on the Life Cycle Assessment method, as the foundational cornerstone for the development of a broad understanding of the environmental impact of marketing decisions and actions for the entire life cycle of a product—from raw material extraction to ultimate disposal. The results of an empirical study show that this approach increases students’ appreciation for, and understanding of, these fundamental environmental sustainability concepts.

10:55 Chirjiv Anand and Ben Amor

Confronting the Challenges in integrating sustainable development in a Curriculum – The case at the Civil Engineering Department at Université de Sherbrooke (Quebec, Canada)
SPEAKER: Ben Amor / Presentation

ABSTRACT. Curriculum integrations are challenging and time consuming and hence require certain protocol for effective integration that defines the entire integration approach. Therefore, the goal of presentation is to provide a non-discipline specific curriculum integration approach, for consistent and effective integration of sustainability concepts.

The presented approach suggests the following steps a) mapping of courses in a curriculum, to identify the existent levels, as well as the scope of integration in each course, b) setting up integration targets in each course c) developing an action plan to achieve the targets d) evaluating student competencies in sustainability & e) assessment and monitoring of the integration, for effective integration of sustainable development in the curriculum.

The suggested approach is applied at the department of Civil Engineering, Université de Sherbrooke, and the successful application is presented as the results of this approach. As a part of curriculum integration at the Université de Sherbrooke, the concept of Life Cycle Assessment was introduced at various levels along the curriculum. In addition, life cycle assessment concepts were introduced and discussed in the context of the particular civil engineering course. Students were also introduced to different life cycle assessment tools, and a life cycle assessment tool was developed for the purpose of use in teaching modules.

11:10 Getachew Assefa

Reflection on the Experience of Teaching Sustainability Related Courses at Different Levels
SPEAKER: Getachew Assefa

ABSTRACT. This contribution is based on the experience of teaching three courses on Industrial Ecology (IE) in Sweden, Canada and China, two graduate courses on Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) in Canada and one Ph.D. course on Sustainable Development (SD) in Ethiopia. The IE courses (two masters and one Ph.D.) and LCA graduate courses differ in length of time from two weeks intensive course to a full semester course. The SD course is a Ph.D. course offered over a month.

Depending on the length and type of course, group project, individual assignments, case study presentations and computer labs were used as delivery methods. Some of the challenges are different backgrounds of students thereby varying level of preparedness; group dynamics, finding appropriate study visit sites depending on where the course is offered. On the other hand, appealing content, interdisciplinarity and research connection are the opportunity of offering a graduate course on LCA and IE to students with diverse backgrounds. Factors mentioned by students as contributing to a successful learning experience include content, format, length of time, inclusion of locally relevant examples and outside class support.

In terms of communicating sustainability to the general public in a learning environment, an experiment with a one-day course was found to be working well.

11:25 Olivier Jolliet and Shanna Shaked

Creating a Community of LCA Teachers
SPEAKER: Olivier Jolliet

ABSTRACT. LCA education is fun, because the students come from a wide range of horizons while having one point on common: the curiosity for system discoveries !

Building on 25 years of LCA teaching with more than a thousand students, we are publishing an Environmental Life Cycle assessment textbook to enable a larger number of professional and students worldwide to teach themselves LCA good practices and to discover the beauty and limitations of this system approach.

Thinking of building an open website to make our own teaching material available, gave us the idea to broaden the initiative. We therefore propose the launch of the www.teachinglca.org website to enable all interested LCA teachers to share their teaching material in multiple languages and exchange experiences, as a first step towards the creation of a community of LCA teachers.

We would like to discuss what would best format for such a website, to brainstorm about the best for such a community of LCA teachers and to identify interested potential partners.