When life gives you lemons… : a creative approach to teaching sustainability to a large and diverse postgraduate engineering cohort

Pillai, Gobind and Gooneratne, Samantha and Jacob, Seibu Mary and Knowles, Michael; (2022) When life gives you lemons… : a creative approach to teaching sustainability to a large and diverse postgraduate engineering cohort. In: Proceedings of the 8th International Symposium for Engineering Education. University of Strathclyde, Glasgow. ISBN 9781914241208

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A surprising impact of the COVID19 pandemic was the significant increase in taught postgraduate student enrolments across the UK higher education sector. Our university was no exception in this and total enrolment onto our Engineering MSc courses has more than doubled in each of the past two years. As a result, the September 2021 occurrence of the MSc-level Sustainability module had an enrolment of over 400 students across five disciplines. This Case Study showcases our efforts in planning and delivering this module in a meaningful way using active learning, authentic assessment and the leveraging of innovative delivery mechanisms and digital tools. Research-informed lectures were delivered by a multidisciplinary teaching team, to reinforce the relevance of sustainability to students from a range of technical and cultural backgrounds. Seminars were designed to emulate an academic conference focusing on engineering contributions to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals [SDGs], thereby capturing the students’ imagination and promoting genuine engagement with discipline-specific sustainability issues. The SDGs also featured in group-based formative assessment and individual summative assessment. All sessions were run in hybrid mode due to prevalent travel restrictions in some countries. The resulting complex organisational needs were met using a variety of digital tools, including MS Teams and Power Automate, Blackboard Ultra, Turnitin Rubrics and QuickMarks. The daunting physical and academic resource challenges of this module were overcome through a combination of collaboration, innovation and creativity. The result is a promising proof-of-concept model for the sustainable management of large modules with a diverse student cohort.

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