Mike Murray, [Senior Teaching Fellow in Construction Management], discusses how he developed and implemented a teaching resource in the Sustainability Toolkit, and what he’s learned from integrating it into his modules over the years.

It has been said that ‘pedagogical innovation stems from very personal origins within the university teacher, who appears to seek to move towards their pedagogical ideal’ (Walder, 2014). So, please bear with me as I travel back along the path to where the story begins. 

I introduced the coursework on Developing Intercultural Competence in my Engineering and Society module in 2015, and nine years on I am unable to recall why! It may have been an epiphany. I now carry a notepad in case I forget. I travel to university by train, and this affords an opportunity to gaze through the picture frame windows at the Perthshire countryside, and to daydream. Some of my best pedagogical interventions have been developed on train journeys, and more often than not they are informed by my readings of books and papers (and highlighting, see my penchant for stationery later!) on pedagogy in higher education. So, the intervention was not a macro-level programme intervention, it was not a meso-level case of Action Research, rather it was bottom-up micro-level, a do-it-yourself, intuitive pedagogy. No permission requested, no questions asked. Indeed, many of the teaching resources in the Sustainability Toolkit fall into this category. I rather like the idea of punk, guerilla, and pirate pedagogy (Murray,2023).  However, on reflecting on the matter, I can see that my fascination with internationalising the curriculum has been a slow burner.  

 

“We’re all Jock Tamson’s Bairns” 

This is a colloquial conversational term used in Scotland to denote that we are all the same; we are all equal. On a global scale it suggests we are all world citizens. It has resonance with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and it sits comfortably in my outlook on life. It reflects my own maxim for academics in higher education- to treat each student as if they were your son, daughter, niece or nephew. That is, I have sought to reduce the power that I am granted as an expert and to see my students as co-learners travelling the same path. This is not a case of ‘sparing the rod to spoil the child’, it is not about ‘killing my students by kindness’, it is not about encouraging student to satisfice. Rather, it is a belief that universities should not be a sort of exam factory schooling that depends on many sages on the stages. I seek to introduce my students to the spirit and soul of learning, to ‘learn along the way’, to focus on the journey and not solely the destination. In these learning spaces, students can develop habits of mind consistent with lifelong learners such as curiosity about the world and other cultures and people.  

This then is an apt moment to explain the title of this blog. The quote is taken from the Scottish novelist and travel writer Robert Louis Stevenson, grandson of lighthouse builder Robert Stevenson.  For me, it says something about how we should look upon our planet and its people. Whilst it would be naively optimistic to suggest that our planet has no travel boundaries (i.e. North Korea) we all have something in common given we share space on our planets surface. This is everyone’s link to humanity. Whilst our cultures and customers may be different, we are global citizens on planet earth. 

 

My Internationalisation at home 

My journey to intercultural competence started long before I reached university. As a sixteen-year-old apprentice plumber attending Perth Technical College (1980-1984), I witnessed students from Uganda, Iran, and Iraq, who were enrolled on an air training course. Whilst I recall being somewhat envious of these students, thinking that they were cool and quite exotic, I know now they must have had their own issues settling into studies in a foreign country. My next exposure to international students came when I was a lecturer at North East Surrey College of Technology (1988-1992). In addition to my teaching role, I was a live in warden in a small student hostel, accommodating twelve male students each year. With students from Zimbabwe, Botswana, and Lesotho, my knowledge of the African continent was enhanced.  

In my current role at Strathclyde I was involved in a European Union (EU) Tempus project (2004-2006) to establish a MSc Construction Management programme for the Department of Civil Engineering, University of Aleppo, Syria. Visting Syria, and hosting academics and students from Syria in Scotland, was a lesson in the generous hospitality extended to guests in Muslim societies. The project also involved partner academics from universities in France and Germany and all meetings were undertaken with a great sense of collegiality and conviviality. This project conveyed a sense of ‘brotherhood’ in learning, and a mission to improve industry practice and society in Syria.  It was a great sense of personal disappointment to me when the war in Syria began in 2011, and thereafter when the UK populace voted to leave the EU in 2016. Of late, my students who hail from Syria, and the Ukraine (with refugee status) have helped my first-year students to see past the media coverage of their countries as only war-torn.  

These episodes, and others, have shaped my professional interest in internationalisation. I have a healthy disrespect for treating our international guests as “cash cows” for UK Higher Education. In 2014 I established an International Society for students in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department, with associated annual events (Robert Burns lunch) and a social calendar with visits to engineering projects. And in 2015 I introduced the internationalisation at home coursework for my first-year students. 

 

Flags, Flags, Flags 

Since 2015 the coursework has involved 147 international mentors, representing sixty nationalities*. Reading the list, I imagine the flags of these countries on poles, fluttering proudly in the wind above my university campus, a symbolic image that conveys a sense of a ‘United Nations’. Given the revised coursework brief places added importance on Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) it is important to recognise the disparity that is evident in this list vis-à-vis the SDGs. There are significant complexities and contradictions in hosting internation students from countries who are at war with each other, who have opposing religious and / or political views, who hail from countries damaged by climate change because of another country’s pollution. I have to confess that to date I have avoided this arena. I have not courted conflict and sought out divergent views on global issues. I have assumed (wrongly!) that all students are somewhat neutral.  

When I heard that the Sustainability Toolkit was seeking examples of coursework that integrates ESD and the SDGs in engineering, I was eager to share this resource. Now, I hope others can learn from my experience as well as from the challenges I faced in implementing it and the lessons I’ve learned in doing so. 

*Afghanistan, Angola, Australia, Austria  Bulgaria, Brazil, Canada, China, Croatia, Democratic Republic Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia Eritrea, Estonia, Ghana, Hungary, Finland, France, Germany, Guyana, Greece, India, Indonesia, Iran, Italy, Ireland, Jordan, Kenya, Kuwait, Lebanon, Lithuanian, Luxembourg, Malawi, Malta, Malaysia Netherlands, Nepal, Nigeria, Norway, Oman, Panama, Pakistan, Poland, Qatar, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Slovakia, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Switzerland, Syria, Turks and Caicos Islands, , USA, Ukraine, Venezuela, Yemen, Zimbabwe. 

 

Time for Reflection 

Academic writing for publication is typically peer reviewed by critical friends. The process for submitting resources to the Toolkit was no different and has been subject to a ‘review-revise-resubmit’ process. This afforded an opportunity for self-reflection and to improve the coursework brief. The revised brief bolsters the link between Intercultural Competence (IC) and ESD through more explicit cognizance of SDGs. Moreover, given the original purpose of the coursework was to improve students IC, the revised coursework has a symbiotic link to engaging students in a decolonisation of the engineering curriculum, and for them to consider social justice and climate justice in engineering practice. 

 

Challenges 

Post-Brexit, there are fewer EU students across our undergraduate programmes. Over the past nine years I have sought assistance from students studying on our MSc & PhD programmes. However, a sizeable number of these students do not have an undergraduate civil engineering qualification. With a little persuasion, I explain to these students that they only require a general tourist guidebook knowledge of their home countries buildings and infrastructure.  With the revised coursework brief putting more emphasis on the SDGs, it is to be expected that the conversations between students will become more exploratory. 

The international mentors include students from across our programmes. It is not possible to coordinate the various timetables for them to meet the first-year students in the Engineering and Society class in which the coursework is assigned. I request that each first-year group nominates a point of contact with the international mentor. As I have circa twenty-two groups each year, I adopt a hands-off approach and resolve problems as they arise. Micromanaging this process through a sign-up system may be appropriate, but it will also make a ‘rod for your own back’ and there are many other daily tasks competing for our time! 

Communication between student peers, and between the groups and their international mentors can be troublesome. Despite emphasising the need for students to read their emails daily, and for prompt responses, not all students appreciate the need for professional and collegiate behaviour. This is a perennial issue, despite emphasising to students how employers value professional behaviours. Helping students to accept their agency and become independent learners is problematic if they are treated as passive learners, abused by a banking model of learning! 

Some students may consider the task to be ‘edutainment’ and that such playful learning lacks the rigour they expected in a civil engineering degree. Feedback (reflective writing) suggests that on completion of the poster, these students tend to re-evaluate their views, signifying a shift in their personal conceptions of learning. There is much work still to be done in engineering education on finding time to consider student’s epistemic beliefs, and for them to build these into their Personal Development Plans!  

 

Lessons Learnt 

One key development was to introduce a session on sketching to help raise students’ self-confidence in preparing the final deliverables. Some students have graphical communications skills from school. However, there appears to be a general fear of sketching and embarrassment amongst the first-year cohorts. As an essential skill for engineers (and an important way to communicate), sketching should be more dominant throughout our programmes. 

 

Scalability 

In this example there are circa 80-100 students (20-25 groups) each year. Increasing the cohort size would not present a significant burden on the time to assess the submissions. However, a major challenge would be securing additional international mentors. The mentors receive a thank you letter for their support, and this is evidence of their own Initial Professional Development (IPD) during their studies. It is conceivable that that this may be a sufficient attraction to invite international students from other engineering disciplines (interdisciplinary) or from other faculties (transdisciplinary) such as humanities. The latter would provide an early opportunity to introduce students to the ‘liberal engineer’ with the associated knowledge of Government policy, politics, finance, and human behaviour issues.  

 

Suggestions for Transferability 

Whilst the poster deliverable for my module focuses on buildings and structures, this coursework could be easily replicated by other engineering disciplines.  With modification on the subjects to be sketched, there is potential to consider engineering components / artifacts / structures, such as naval vessels / aeroplanes / cars, and wide number of products and components that have particular significance to a country (i.e., Swiss Army Knife). 

No matter what adaptations you make to this or any other resource in the Sustainability Toolkit, it’s essential that we emphasise how intercultural competence informs a globally responsible approach to the role of an engineer. Using the Sustainability Toolkit to help our students develop these mindsets is a very good way to do that, and I recommend it to all educators – the wealth of the resource cannot be understated in its support to a teacher’s session design and, most importantly, to a student’s learning. 

 

You can find out more about getting involved or contributing to the Sustainability Toolkit here. 

 

References 

Murray, M (2023). An autoethnography of becoming an innovative engineering academic- punk, pirate and guerilla pedagogy, 51st Annual Conference of the European Society for Engineering Education (SEFI), 11-14th September, TU Dublin, Ireland.  

United Nations. (2023). The Sustainable Development Goals Report: Towards a Rescue Plan for People and Planet. 

Walder. A.M (2014). The Concept of Pedagogical Innovation in Higher Education. Education Journal, 3(3):195-202.  

 

Any views, thoughts, and opinions expressed herein are solely that of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, policies, or position of the Engineering Professors’ Council or the Toolkit sponsors and supporters.

This blog is also available here.

The Sustainability Toolkit was unveiled as one of three major initiatives launched together at the Engineers 2030 event on 18th March 2024, hosted at the Royal Academy of Engineering. There were a number of prestigious speakers, but the keynote that made everyone sit up most and which set the tone for the discussion for the rest of the event was by Kayley Thacker, a third year Chemical Engineer at the University of Birmingham.

Kayley has kindly given us permission to reproduce her keynote in full.

 


 

Why did you decide to be an engineer? This is a question that I’m sure follows us wherever we go, from our initial steps into university to the various stages of our careers.

Perhaps this is asked so frequently because many people are uncertain about what engineers actually do. The common assumption is that we generally fix things – whilst sometimes true, there is so much more to engineering than that. Engineers have had an impact, whether good or bad, on every aspect of our lives today, and we all have varied and profound reasons for entering this field.

At school, I was one of those people who would change their dream job every week. I went from being an author, to a baker, to a marine biologist. However, I knew I wanted a career that would constantly teach me new skills, where I would be challenged and pushed out of my comfort zone, and where I would get to work with a diverse range of people of different skill sets and backgrounds – but above all I wanted to make a difference in the world.

One day, I decided to entertain the idea of studying engineering, which seemed like an absurdity. Me, an engineering student? I was the girl who was told off for reading books during lessons, and isn’t engineering supposed to be a ‘boy’ subject anyway?

Regardless, I decided to do some more research and I was hooked. Engineering seemed like a dream – it would be both academically invigorating and would equip me with the skills to change the world. And here, I began to understand that engineering wasn’t just about fixing things – it was about understanding complex systems, innovating technology and working collaboratively across disciplines to bring about positive change. I carried this sentiment with me to university, where I started my degree in Chemical Engineering at the University of Birmingham.

 

University experience

My engineering degree has, for the most part, lived up to my expectations. It has certainly been a challenging journey, pushing me to the limits of my problem-solving skills. With the technical knowledge I have gained, I feel as though I am equipped with the skills to work with the current infrastructure in our society. However, there has always been something lacking – a disconnect between the theoretical concepts I am learning about and the real world.

This reflection has led me to the question: shouldn’t our education be as much about forging paths for the future as it is about understanding the constructs of the past?

Another problem that has stood out to me during my time at university is the fact that different types of engineers are taught in isolation. As a chemical engineer, I have never had the opportunity to work alongside mechanical, civil and electrical engineers for example. We aren’t even able to access the engineering building or any of its facilities! Why is it that engineers are educated separately, when we are all working alongside many other disciplines to solve the same problems? Even beyond that, the challenges we face today require a collaborative and interdisciplinary approach, one that our current system does not fully embrace.

 


 

Towards the start of my first year at university, we were told a staggering statistic rather offhandedly by our lecturer: “90% of the things we are going to learn about, we will never use in our careers.”

This is quite a bleak truth to tell to a group of wide-eyed students, eager to learn all that they can. And this has echoed throughout every module, every assignment, every new topic we are taught. Even if we don’t directly use this knowledge, why aren’t we taught the critical thinking skills that allow us to apply this learning elsewhere?

Additionally, there is a distinct lack of responsibility being taught in our courses. Why is it that ethics and responsibility are integral to the training of doctors and lawyers, but is more often than not tacked on to the end of engineering degrees?

Engineers are responsible for the construction of buildings, motorways, vehicles, the food we eat, the products and devices we use. Every day, we use things that have been desgined and created by engineers. And if we make a mistake in those designs and creations, thousands of people can be affected.

So where did the message get lost? Why does it feel as though the responsibility of an engineer is taken for granted? Shouldn’t our education be explicitly led with the responsibility we will shoulder throughout our careers?

Engineers need to be categorically trained to put people and the planet first.

 

Call for change

Ask yourselves, what does an engineer 5, 10, 30 years from now actually do? With the advent of tools such as AI and machine learning, would engineers be better off developing our skills beyond the fundamentals? The modern engineer not only needs to be equipped with mathematical and scientific knowhow, but also needs to be able to draw on a range of soft skills such as critical thinking, interdisciplinary collaboration and global awareness. It is clear that the traditional expectations of engineers are expanding. We need to prioritise skills that foster innovation, sustainability and ethical responsibility. These are the tools that will empower engineers to not only cope with future challenges, but to be at the forefront of finding their solutions.

Despite university education offering a wealth of interesting and complex material, there is something evidently wrong with the way engineers are being educated if the main takeaway from our education is a stark awareness of its deficiencies rather than the engaging content and skills we are taught.

It is clear that our education needs to be more grounded in the modern era if we are to solve 21st century challenges. In order to best develop our education, it is critical that students are kept in the loop and actively involved throughout the entire change process. We require an education system that is not only adaptive and responsive to the needs of students, but also one that anticipates and exceeds the evolving expectations of our society.

Reflecting on the way in which engineers have already shaped our world, we have to recognise that whilst engineers have achieved remarkable feats, their endeavours have also contributed to some of the most pressing challenges we face today.

Years ago, engineers wanted to vastly improve our lives, however they lacked the foresight of what their creations would do – they often overlooked the long-term environmental and societal impacts they would have. And even now, we have limited time to sort things out, with looming deadlines of the UN Sustainable Development Goals fast approaching.

The consequences of our actions, or rather our inactions, are undeniable, and there is a desparate need for change. Despite these challenges, we are all here today because we believe that our current systems can change, that through working together we can equip the engineers of tomorrow with the skills to protect our planet and our quality of life.

 

Reflections

We are so fortunate to have environments such as universities available to us, to help us hit the ground running in our careers. However, the journey of an engineer does not end with a degree. The rapidly changing world requires engineers to continually adapt, learn and apply new skills, and cultivating a mindset of continuous learning and improvement must be a priority of engineering degrees. Engineers inherently solve complex problems, and the upcoming cohort needs to be equipped to see complexity in different ways, beyond equations and traditional methods.

So I’d like to return to my initial question: why did you decide to become an engineer?

Many of my peers admit that they were attracted to the degree’s prestige, and how it can be used as a launchpad into careers such as finance or business. While these are important fields, it does make you question the purpose of an engineering degree. How can we realign our focus to attract creative problem-solvers and innovators to the field of engineering? And how can degree programmes be tailored to suit the needs of an ever-changing world?

As we gather here today to both celebrate and reflect on the progress made so far, it is clear that we must embrace the strengths of our current systems and still be open to feedback and growth, ensuring that engineering education not only meets but exceeds the demands of the future.

Universities have already shown a capacity to adapt to and navigate change. For example, the rapid development of artificial intelligence over the past few years has already caused universities to question their teaching and assessment methods. The climate crisis has been an ongoing threat for decades, so why has this urgent issue not prompted a similar response? One ‘difficult to navigate’ change to our education can positively benefit thousands of upcoming engineers. Even if system change feels difficult, remember why it is so important.

I would like to end my keynote with a reminder of why we are here this afternoon. The students of today and tomorrow are the future of engineering – we are at the starting line of our careers and we need to leave university with the ability to keep up with the pace of an ever-changing world.

I am thankful for the opportunity to share my views with you, however I am just one voice. There are tens of thousands of engineering students going through the education system right now that aren’t well represented in this room. I hope that, after today, we can continue to use student voices to best inform the direction of education so that as many new engineers as possible can feel this change.

Engineering is not just a career, but a calling to enact positive change, and it is critical that upcoming engineers feel empowered to do so with the right skills and confidence to make a difference in the world.

 


 

Visit Engineers 2030, a cross-sector initiative led by the Royal Academy of Engineering, to foster a new generation of engineers who understand that their purpose is to create change for the benefit of the planet and its inhabitants. 

The Sustainability Toolkit, created by the EPC in partnership with the Royal Academy of Engineering and Siemens, was launched at the Engineering 2030 event, alongside Engineers Without Borders UK’s Reimagined Degree Map. A webinar to celebrate the launch of the Toolkit and explore its resources will be held on 28th March 2024 – register here.

 

This post is also available here.

Any views, thoughts, and opinions expressed herein are solely that of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, policies, or position of the Engineering Professors’ Council or the Toolkit sponsors and supporters.

Authors: Dr Homeira Shayesteh (Senior Lecturer/Programme Leader for Architectural Technology, Design Engineering & Mathematics Department, Faculty of Science & Technology, Middlesex University), Professor Jarka Glassey (Director of Education, School of Engineering, Newcastle University). 

Topic: How to integrate the SDGs using a practical framework.   

Type: Guidance.  

Relevant disciplines: Any.  

Keywords: Accreditation and standards; Assessment; Global responsibility; Learning outcomes; Sustainability; AHEP; SDGs; Curriculum design; Course design; Higher education; Pedagogy. 
 
Sustainability competency: Anticipatory; Integrated problem-solving; Strategic.

AHEP mapping: This resource addresses two of the themes from the UK’s Accreditation of Higher Education Programmes fourth edition (AHEP4):The Engineer and Society(acknowledging that engineering activity can have a significant societal impact) andEngineering Practice(the practical application of engineering concepts, tools and professional skills). To map this resource to AHEP outcomes specific to a programme under these themes, access AHEP 4hereand navigate to pages 30-31 and 35-37. 

Related SDGs: SDG 4 (Quality education); SDG 13 (Climate action).  
 
Reimagined Degree Map Intervention: Adapt and repurpose learning outcomes; Authentic assessment; Active pedagogies and mindset development.

Who is this article for?  This article should be read by educators at all levels of higher education looking to embed and integrate sustainability into curriculum, module, and / or programme design.  

 

Premise: 

The critical role of engineers in developing sustainable solutions to grand societal challenges is undisputable. A wealth of literature and a range of initiatives supporting the embedding of sustainability into engineering curricula already exists. However, a practicing engineering educator responsible for achieving this embedding would be best supported by a practical framework providing a step-by-step guide with example resources for either programme or module/course-level embedding of sustainability into their practice. This practical framework illustrates a tested approach to programme wide as well as module alignment with SDGs, including further resources as well as examples of implementation for each step. This workflow diagram provides a visual illustration of the steps outlined below. The constructive alignment tool found in the Ethics Toolkit may also be adapted to a Sustainability context. 

 

For programme-wide alignment: 

 1. Look around. The outcome of this phase is a framework that identifies current and future requirements for programme graduates. 

a. Review guidelines and subject/discipline benchmark documents on sustainability. 

b. Review government targets and discipline-specific guidance. 

c. Review accreditation body requirements such as found in AHEP4 and guidance from professional bodies. For example, IChemE highlights the creation of a culture of sustainability, not just a process of embedding the topic. 

d. Review your university strategy relating to sustainability and education. For example, Middlesex University signed up to the UN Accord. 

e. Consider convening focus groups with employers in general and some employers of course alumni in particular. Carefully select attendees to represent a broad range of employers with a range of roles (recruiters, managers, strategy leaders, etc.). Conduct semi-structured focus groups, opening with broad themes identified from steps a through d. Identify any missing knowledge, skills, and competencies specific to particular employers, and prioritize those needed to be delivered by the programme together with the level of competency required (aware, competent, or expert). 

 

2. Look back. The outcome of this phase is a programme map (see appendix) of the SDGs that are currently delivered and highlighting gaps in provision.  

a. Engage in critical reflective analysis of the current programme as a whole and of individual modules.   

b. Conduct a SWOT analysis as a team, considering the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats of the programme from the perspective of sustainability and relevance/competitiveness. 

c. Convene an alumni focus group to identify gaps in current and previous provision, carefully selecting attendees to represent a broad range of possible employment sectors with a range of experiences (fresh graduates to mid-career). Conduct semi-structured discussions opening with broad themes identified from steps 1a-e. Identify any missing knowledge, skills, and competencies specific to particular sectors, and those missing or insufficiently delivered by the programme together with the level of competency required (aware, competent, or expert). 

d. Convene a focus group of current students from various stages of the programme. Conduct semi-structured discussions opening with broad themes identified from steps 1a-e and 2a-c. Identify student perceptions of knowledge, skills, and competencies missing from the course in light of the themes identified. 

e. Review external examiner feedback, considering any feedback specific to the sustainability content of the programme.  

 

 3. Look ahead. The goal of this phase is programme delivery that is aligned with the SDGs and can be evidenced as such. 

a. Create revised programme aims and graduate outcomes that reflect the SDGs. The Reimagined Degree Map and Global Responsibility Competency Compass can support this activity. 

b. Revise module descriptors so that there are clear linkages to sustainability competencies or the SDGs generally within the aims of the modules.  

c. Revise learning outcomes according to which SDGs relate to the module content, projects or activities. The Reimagined Degree Map and the Constructive Alignment Tool for Ethics provides guidance on revising module outcomes. An example that also references AHEP4 ILOS is: 

  1. “Apply comprehensive knowledge of mathematics, biology, and engineering principles to solve a complex bioprocess engineering challenge based on critical awareness of new developments in this area. This will be demonstrated by designing solutions appropriate within the health and safety, diversity, inclusion, cultural, societal, environmental, and commercial requirements and codes of practice to minimise adverse impacts (M1, M5, M7).” 

d. Align assessment criteria and rubrics to the revised ILOs.  

e. Create an implementation plan with clear timelines for module descriptor approvals and modification of delivery materials.  

 

For module-wide alignment: 

1. Look around. The outcome of this phase is a confirmed approach to embedding sustainability within a particular module or theme. 

a. Seek resources available on the SDGs and sustainability teaching in this discipline/theme. For instance, review these examples for Computing, Chemical Engineering and Robotics.  

b. Determine any specific guidelines, standards, and regulations for this theme within the discipline. 

 

2. Look back. The outcome of this phase is a module-level map of SDGs currently delivered, highlighting any gaps.  

a. Engage in critical reflective analysis of current modules, as both individual module instructors and leaders, and as a team.  

b. Conduct a SWOT analysis as a module team that considers the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats of the module from the perspective of sustainability and relevance of the module to contribute to programme-level delivery on sustainability and/or the SDGs. 

c. Review feedback from current students on the clarity of the modules links to the SDGs. 

d. Review feedback from external examiners on the sustainability content of the module. 

 

3. Look ahead.  

a. Create introduction slides for the modules that explicitly reference how sustainability topics will be integrated.  

b. Embed specific activities involving the SDGs in a given theme, and include students in identifying these. See below for suggestions, and visit the Teaching resources in this toolkit for more options.  

 

Appendix:

A. Outcome I.2 (programme level mapping)  

 

B. Outcome II.5 (module level mapping) – same as above, but instead of the modules in individual lines, themes delivered within the module can be used to make sure the themes are mapped directly to SDGs. 

 

 C. II.6.b – Specific activities 

 

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. 

Any views, thoughts, and opinions expressed herein are solely that of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, policies, or position of the Engineering Professors’ Council or the Toolkit sponsors and supporters. 
 
 
To view a plain text version of this resource, click here to download the PDF.

Author: Mike Murray BSc (Hons) MSc PhD AMICE SFHEA (Senior Teaching Fellow in Construction Management, Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering, University of Strathclyde). 

Topic: Links between education for sustainable development (ESD) and intercultural competence. 

Tool type: Teaching. 

Engineering disciplines: Civil; Any. 

Keywords: AHEP; Sustainability; Student support; Local community; Higher education; Assessment; Pedagogy; Education for sustainable development; Internationalisation; Global reach; Global responsibility; EDI. 
 
Sustainability competency: Self-awareness; Collaboration; Critical thinking.

AHEP mapping: This resource addresses two of the themes from the UK’s Accreditation of Higher Education Programmes fourth edition (AHEP4): The Engineer and Society (acknowledging that engineering activity can have a significant societal impact) and Engineering Practice (the practical application of engineering concepts, tools and professional skills). To map this resource to AHEP outcomes specific to a programme under these themes, access AHEP 4 here and navigate to pages 30-31 and 35-37. 

Related SDGs: SDG 4 (Quality education); SDG 16 (Peace, justice, and strong institutions). 
 
Reimagined Degree Map Intervention: More real-world complexity; Active pedagogies and mindset development; Authentic assessment.

Educational level: Beginner. 

 

Learning and teaching notes: 

This resource describes a coursework aligned to three key pedagogical approaches of ESD. (1) It positions the students as autonomous learners (learner-centred); (2) who are engaged in action and reflect on their experiences (action-oriented); and (3) empowers and challenges learners to alter their worldviews (transformative learning). Specifically, it requires students to engage in collaborative peer learning (Einfalt, Alford, and Theobald 2022; UNESCO 2021). The coursework is an innovative Assessment for Learning” (AfL) (Sambell, McDowell, and Montgomery, 2013) internationalisation at home (Universities UK, 2021) group and individual assessment for first-year civil & environmental engineers enrolled on two programmes (BEng (Hons) / MEng Civil Engineering & BEng (Hons) / MEng Civil & Environmental Engineering). However, the coursework could easily be adapted to any other engineering discipline by shifting the theme of the example subjects. With a modification on the subjects, there is potential to consider engineering components / artifacts / structures, such as naval vessels / aeroplanes / cars, and a wide number of products and components that have particular significance to a country (i.e., Swiss Army Knife).

Learners have the opportunity to: 

Teachers have the opportunity to: 

 

Learning and teaching resources: 

 

Rationale: 

There have been several calls to educate the global engineer through imbedding people and planet issues in the engineering curriculum (Bourn and Neal, 2008; Grandin and Hirleman 2009). Students should be accepting of this practice given that prospective freshers are ‘positively attracted by the possibility of learning alongside people from the rest of the world’ (Higher Education Policy Unit, 2015:4). Correspondingly, ‘international students often report that an important reason in their decision to study abroad is a desire to learn about the host country and to meet people from other cultures’ (Scudamore, 2013:14). Michel (2010:358) defines this ‘cultural mobility’ as ‘sharing views (or life) with people from other cultures, for better understanding that the world is not based on a unique, linear thought’.  

 

Coursework brief summary extracted from the complete brief:

Civil Engineering is an expansive industry with projects across many subdisciplines (i.e. Bridges, Buildings, Coastal & Marine, Environmental, Geotechnical, Highways, Power including Renewables. In a group students are required to consult with an international mentor and investigate civil engineering (buildings & structures) in the mentor’s home country. Each student should select a different example. These can be historical projects, current projects or projects planned for the future, particularly those projects that are addressing the climate emergency. Students will then complete two tasks: 

 

Time frame and structure: 

1. Opening lecture covering:

a. Reasoning for coursework with reference to transnational engineering employers and examples of international engineering projects and work across national boundaries. 

b. Links between engineering, people, and planet through the example of biomimicry in civil engineering design (Hayes, Desha, & Baumeister, 2020) or nature-based solutions in the context of civil engineering technology (Cassina and Matthews ,2021). 

c. Existence of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) such as RedR UK (2023) Water Aid (2023) and Bridges to Prosperity (2023). 

d. The use of corporate social responsibility (CSR) to address problematic issues such as human rights abuses (Human Rights Watch, 2006) and bribery and corruption (Stansbury and Stansbury) in global engineering projects.  

 

2. Assign students to groups:

a. Identify international mentors. After checking the module registration list, identify international students and invite them to become a mentor to their peers.  Seek not to be coercive and explain that it is a voluntary role and to say no will have no impact on their studies. In our experience, less than a handful have turned down this opportunity. The peer international students are then used as foundation members to build each group of four first-year students. Additional international student mentors can be sourced from outside the module to assist each group. 

b. Establish team contracts and group work processes using the Carnegie Mellon Group Working Evaluation document

 

3. Allow for group work time throughout the module to complete the tasks (full description can be found in the complete brief). 

 

Assessment criteria: 

The coursework constitutes a 20% weighting of a 10-Credit elective module- Engineering & Society. The submission has two assessed components: Task 1) a group international poster with annotated sketches of buildings & structures (10% weighting); and Task 2) A short individual reflective writing report (10% weighting) that seeks to ascertain the students experience of engaging in a collaborative peer activity (process), and their views on their poster (product). Vogel et al, (2023, 45) note that the use of posters is ‘well-suited to demonstrating a range of sustainability learning outcomes’. Whilst introducing reflective writing in a first-year engineering course has its challenges, it is recognised that  reflective practice is an appropriate task for ESD- ‘The teaching approaches most associated with developing transformative sustainability values stimulate critical reflection and self-reflection’ (Vogel et al, 2023, 6). 

Each task has its own assessment criteria and process. Assessment details can be found in the complete coursework brief.  

 

Teaching reflection: 

The coursework has been undertaken by nine cohorts of first-year undergraduate civil engineers (N=738) over seven academic sessions between 2015-2024. To date this has involved (N=147) mentors, representing sixty nationalities. Between 2015-2024 the international mentors have been first-year peers (N=67); senior year undergraduate & post-graduate students undertaking studies in the department (N=58) and visiting ERASMUS & International students (N =22) enrolled on programmes within the department.  

Whilst the aim for the original coursework aligns with ESD (‘ESD is also an education in values, aiming to transform students’ worldviews, and build their capacity to alter wider society’ -Vogel et al ,2023:21) the reflective reports indicate that the students’ IC gain was at a perfunctory level. Whilst there were references to ‘a sense of belonging, ‘pride in representing my country’, ‘developing friendships’, ‘international mentors’ enthusiasm’ this narrative indicates a more generic learning gain that is known to help students acquire dispositions to stay and to succeed at university (Harding and Thompson, 2011). The coursework brief fell short of addressing the call ‘to transform engineering education curricula and learning approaches to meet the challenges of the SDGs’ (UNESCO,2021:125). Indeed, as a provocateur pedagogy, ‘ESD recognises that education in its current form is unsustainable and requires radical change’ (Vogel et al ,2023, 4).  

Given the above it is clear that the coursework requirement for peer collaboration and reflective practice aligns to three of the eight key competencies (collaboration, self-awareness, critical thinking) for sustainability (UNESCO, 2017:10). Scudamore (2013:26) notes the importance of these competencies when she refers to engaging home and international students in dialogue- ‘the inevitable misunderstandings, which demand patience and tolerance to overcome, form an essential part of the learning process for all involved’. Moreover, Beagon et al (2023) have acknowledged the importance of interpersonal competencies to prepare engineering graduates for the challenges of the SDG’s. Thus, the revised coursework brief prompts students to journey ‘through the mirror’ and to reflect on how gaining IC can assist their knowledge of, and actions towards the SDG’s. 

 

References: 

Beagon, U., Kövesi, K., Tabas, B., Nørgaard, B., Lehtinen, R., Bowe, B., Gillet, C & Claus Spliid, C.M .(2023). Preparing engineering students for the challenges of the SDGs: what competences are required? European Journal of Engineering Education, 48(1): 1-23 

Bourn, D and Neal, I. (2008). The Global Engineer: Incorporating Global Skills within the UK Higher Education of Engineers. Engineers against Poverty and Institute of Education. 

Einfalt, J., Alford, J & Theobald, M.(2022). Making talk work: using a dialogic approach to develop intercultural competence with students at an Australian university, Intercultural Education, 33(32):211-229 (Grandin and Hirleman 2009). 

Harding, J and  Thompson, J. (2011). Dispositions to stay and to succeed, Higher Education Academy, Final Report 

Higher Education Policy Unit .(2015). What do prospective students think about international students 

Human Rights Watch. (2006). Building Towers, Cheating Workers: Exploitation of Migrant Construction Workers in the United Arab Emirates  

Michel, J. (2010). Mobility of engineers; the European experience, In UNESCO, Engineering: Issues, Challenges and Opportunities for Development, pp 358-360 

Sambell, K, McDowell, L and Montgomery, C.(2013). Assessment for Learning in Higher Education. London: Routledge. 

Scudamore, R. (2013). Engaging home and international students: A guide for new lecturers, Advance HE 

Stansbury, C. and Stansbury, N. (2007) Anti-Corruption Training Manual: Infrastructure, Construction and Engineering Sectors, International Version, Transparency International UK. Online.  

UNESCO. (2021). Engineering for Sustainable Development, delivering on the sustainable development goals,  

Universities UK. (2021). Internationalisation at home – developing global citizens without travel: Showcasing Impactful Programmes, Benefits and Good Practice,   

Vogel, M., Parker, L., Porter, J., O’Hara, M., Tebbs, E., Gard, R., He, X and  Gallimore,J.B .(2023).  Education for Sustainable  Development: a review  of the literature 2015-2022, Advance HE 

 

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Authors: Dr Jonathan Truslove MEng PhD and Emma Crichton CEng MICE (Engineers Without Borders UK). 

Topic: Assessing sustainability competencies in engineering education. 

Type: Knowledge. 

Relevant disciplines: Any. 

Keywords: Assessment; Design challenges; Global responsibility; Learning outcomes; Sustainability; AHEP; Higher education; Pedagogy. 
 
Sustainability competency: Integrated problem-solving, Critical thinking.

AHEP mapping: This resource addresses two of the themes from the UK’s Accreditation of Higher Education Programmes fourth edition (AHEP4): The Engineer and Society (acknowledging that engineering activity can have a significant societal impact) and Engineering Practice (the practical application of engineering concepts, tools and professional skills). To map this resource to AHEP outcomes specific to a programme under these themes, access AHEP 4 here and navigate to pages 30-31 and 35-37.  

Related SDGs: SDG 4 (Quality education); SDG 13 (Climate action). 
 
Reimagined Degree Map Intervention: Authentic assessment; Active pedagogies and mindset development.

Who is this article for? This article should be read by educators at all levels of higher education looking to embed and integrate sustainability into curriculum design. It may also be of interest for students practising lifelong learning to articulate and explore how their learning translates into competency development as they embark on their careers. 

 

Premise: 

Today we know that how we engineer is changing – and this change is happening at a quicker pace than in previous decades. The decisions engineers make throughout their careers shape the world we all inhabit. Consequently, the education of engineers has a profound impact on society. Ensuring our degrees are up to date is of pressing importance to prepare all future practitioners and professionals. Arguably, it is especially important for engineers to act sustainably, ethically and equitably. 

How do engineers understand their roles when sustainability becomes a key driver in the context of their work? What does sustainability look like in learning journeys, and how can it be incorporated into assessments? This article does not advocate for simply adding ‘sustainability’ to degrees; rather, it encourages the connection between sustainability competencies and engineering assessments. 

 

Developing 21st-century engineers 

Choosing to become an engineer is a great way to be useful to society. Studying an engineering degree can develop what people can do (skills), what they know (knowledge) and how they think (mindset), as well as open up a diverse range of career opportunities. 

The path to becoming an engineer can start at university (though there are other routes in). Weaving in a focus on globally responsible engineering throughout a degree course is about embracing the need to develop a broader set of competencies in engineers and expand the types of projects they practise on during their degree to reflect the problems they may encounter during their career. 

This doesn’t mean that engineering degrees as they are aren’t valuable or useful. It’s about strengthening the building blocks of degrees to ensure that 21st-century engineers have space to play their role in addressing 21st-century societal challenges. These building blocks are what learning outcomes are prioritised, what pedagogies are used, the types of projects students work on, who they work with and the way we assess learning. All of these elements can be aggregated to develop competence in sustainable engineering practice. 

 

What are sustainability competency frameworks saying? 

There are many frameworks exploring what are the competencies most needed today (such as UNESCO Education for Sustainable Development competencies, EU GreenComp, Inner Development Goals). Many frameworks are calling for similar things that allow us to shift focus, attention and energy onto how to truly develop a person over the three to five plus years of experience they might gain at university.  

By designing education to meet learning outcomes, you build and evidence a range of competencies, including developing the mindsets of learners. Practically, it is the use of different competency frameworks, and the associated updates to learning outcomes, and how we deliver education and assessment that really matters. The table below, in the second column, synthesises various competency frameworks to clearly articulate what it means a learner can then do. Rather than argue different frameworks, focusing on what a student can do as a result is really key.  

Figure 1. Competencies for sustainable development in Advance HE and QAA (2021) and UNESCO Education for Sustainable Development (2017). 

 

By reading through this table, you can see that this is more than just about ‘sustainability’ – these are useful things for a person to be able to do. Ask yourself, what if we don’t develop these in our graduates? Will they be better or worse off? 

Graduates can then build on this learning they have had at university to continue to develop as engineers working in practice. The Global Responsibility Competency Compass for example points practitioners to the capabilities needed to stay relevant and provides practical ways to develop themselves. It is made up of 12 competencies and is organised around the four guiding principles of global responsibility – Responsible, Purposeful, Inclusive and Regenerative.  

 

What needs to shift in engineering education? 

The shifts required to the building blocks of an engineering degree are:  

  1. To adapt and repurpose learning outcomes. 
  2. To integrate more real-world complexity within project briefs. 
  3. To be excellent at active pedagogies and mindset development. 
  4. To ensure authentic assessment. 
  5. To maximise cross-disciplinary experience and expertise.  

All of the above need to be designed with mechanisms that work at scale. Let’s spotlight two of these shifts, ‘to adapt and repurpose learning outcomes’ and ‘to integrate authentic assessment’ so we can see how sustainability competence relates. 

 

Adapt and repurpose learning outcomes. 

We can build on what is already working well within a degree to bring about positive changes. Many degrees exhibit strengths in their learning outcomes such as, developing the ability to understand a concept or a problem and apply that understanding through a disciplinary lens focused on simple/complicated problems. However, it is crucial to maintain a balance between addressing straightforward problems and tackling more complex ones that encourage learners to be curious and inquisitive.  

For example, a simple problem (where the problem and solution are known) may involve ‘calculating the output of a solar panel in a community’. A complex problem (where the problem and solution are unknown) may involve ‘how to improve a community’s livelihood and environmental systems, which may involve exploring the interconnectedness, challenges and opportunities that may exist in the system. 

Enhancing the learning experience by allowing students to investigate and examine a context for ideas to emerge is more reflective of real-world practice. Success is not solely measured by learners accurately completing a set of problem sets; rather, it lies in their ability to apply concepts in a way that creates a better, more sustainable system. 

See how this rebalancing is represented in the visual below: 

Figure 2. ​​​​Rebalancing learning within degrees to be relevant to the future we face. Source: Engineers Without Borders UK. 

 

Keeping up to date and meeting accreditation standards is another important consideration. Relating the intended learning outcomes to the latest language associated with accreditation requirements, such as AHEP4 (UK), ABET (US) or ECSA (SA), doesn’t mean you have to just add more in. You can adapt what you’ve already got for a new purpose and context. For instance, the Engineering for One Planet framework’s 93 (46 Core and 46 Advanced) essential sustainability-focused learning outcomes that hundreds of academics, engineering professionals, and other key stakeholders have identified as necessary for preparing all graduating engineers — regardless of subdiscipline — with the skills, knowledge, and understanding to protect and improve our planet and our lives. These outcomes have also been mapped to AHEP4. 

 

Integrate authentic assessment: 

It is important that intended learning outcomes and assessment methods are aligned so that they reinforce each other and lead to the desired competency development. An important distinction exists between assessment of learning and assessment as or for learning: 

  1. Assessment OF learning e.g. traditional methods of assessment of student learning against learning outcomes and standards that typically measure students’ knowledge-based learning.
  2. Assessment AS/FOR learning e.g. reflective and performance-based (e.g. self-assessments, peer assessments and feedback from educators using reflective journals or portfolios) where the learning journey is part of the assessment process that captures learners’ insights and critical thinking, and empowers learners to identify possibilities for improvement.  

Assessment should incorporate a mix of methods when evaluating aspects like sustainability, to bring in authenticity which strengthens the integrity of the assessment process and mirrors how engineers work in practice. For example, University College London and Kings College London both recognise that critical evaluation, interpretation, analysis, and judgement are all key skills which will become more and more important, and making assessment rubrics more accessible for students and educators. Authentic assessment can mirror professional practices, such as having learners assessed within design reviews, or asking students to develop a portfolio across modules.  

 

Engineers Without Borders UK | Assessing competencies through design challenges: 

Below is an example of what Engineers Without Borders UK has done to translate competencies into assessment through our educational offerings. The Engineering for People Design Challenge (embedded in-curriculum focuses on placing the community context at the heart of working through real-world project-based learning experiences) and Reshaping Engineering (a co-curricular voluntary design month to explore how to make the engineering sector more globally responsible). The competencies in the Global Responsibility Competency Compass are aligned and evidenced through the learning outcomes and assessment process in both challenges.  

Please note – the Global Responsibility Competency Compass points practitioners to the capabilities needed to stay relevant and provides practical ways to develop themselves. 

See below an example of the logic behind translating competencies acquired by participants to assessment during the design challenges.  

Figure 3. Example of the logic behind translating the Global Responsibility Competency Compass to assessment during the design challenges. Source: Engineers Without Borders UK.  

 

    1. The Competencies developed through the educational offering are orientated around the Global Responsibility Competency Compass to align with the learning journey from undergraduate to practising globally responsible individuals in learners’ future careers.
    2. We then align learning outcomes to the competency and purpose of the design challenge using simple and concise language.

  a. Useful resources that were used to help frame, align and iterate the learning outcomes and marking criteria are shared at the end of this article.

    1. The Marking Criteria draws on the assessment methods previously mentioned under ‘Assessment OF’ and ‘Assessment AS/FOR’ while aligning to the context of intended learning i.e. design focussed, individual journals reflecting on the learning journey, and collaborating in teams.
    2. We frame and align key action words from Competency to learning outcome to marking criteria using Bloom’s taxonomy (in Figure 2) to scale appropriately, the context of learning and what the intended outcome of learning/area of assessment would be.  

 

Conclusions: 

How your students think matters. How they engage in critical conversations matters. What they value matters. How we educate engineers matters.  

These may feel like daunting shifts to make but developing people to navigate our future is important for them, and us. Sustainability competencies are actually about competencies that are useful – the label ‘sustainability’ may or may not help but it’s the underlying concepts that matters most. The interventions that we make to instil these competencies in the learning journeys of future engineers are required – so degrees can be continuously improved and will be valuable over the long term. Making assessment mirror real practice helps with life-long learning. That’s useful in general, not just about sustainability. This is a major opportunity to attract more people into engineering, keep them and enable them to be part of addressing urgent 21st century challenges. 

  

Sustainability is more than a word or concept, it is actually a culture, and if we aim to see it mirrored in the near future, what better way exists than that of planting it in the young hearts of today knowing they are the leaders of the tomorrow we are not guaranteed of? It is possible.” 

2021 South African university student (after participating in the Engineering for People Design Challenge during their degree course) 

 

Useful resources: 

There are some excellent resources out there that help us understand and articulate what sustainability competencies and learning outcomes look like, and how to embed them into teaching, learning and assessment. Some of them were used in the example above. Here are some resources that we have found useful in translating the competencies in the Compass into learning outcomes in our educational offerings: 

 

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Author: Dr Gill Lacey, SFEA, MIEEE (Teesside University). 

Topic: Calculating effects of implementing energy-saving standards. 

Tool type: Teaching. 

Relevant disciplines: Energy; Civil engineering; Construction; Mechanical engineering. 

Keywords: Built environment; Housing; Energy efficiency; Decarbonisation; AHEP; Sustainability; Higher education; Pedagogy. 

Sustainability competency: Systems thinking; Critical thinking; Integrated problem-solving.

AHEP mapping: This resource addresses several of the themes from the UK’s Accreditation of Higher Education Programmes fourth edition (AHEP4): The Engineer and Society (acknowledging that engineering activity can have a significant societal impact) and the following specific themes from Engineering Practice (the practical application of engineering concepts, tools and professional skills). To map this resource to AHEP outcomes specific to a programme under these themes, access AHEP 4 here and navigate to pages 30-31 and 35-37.  

Related SDGs: SDG 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities); SDG 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production); SDG 13 (Climate Action). 

Reimagined Degree Map Intervention: Active pedagogies and mindsets; More real-world complexity.

Educational level: Beginner / intermediate. Learners are required to have basic (level 2) science knowledge, and ability to populate a mathematical formula and use units correctly. 

 

Learning and teaching notes: 

This activity allows students to consider the dilemmas around providing housing that is cheap to heat as well as cheap to buy or rent. It starts with researching these issues using contemporary news and policy, continues with an in-depth study of insulation, together with calculations of U values, heat energy and indicative costs.

Learners have the opportunity to: 

Teachers have the opportunity to: 

 

Supporting resources:  

To prepare for these activities, teachers may want to explain, or assign students to pre-read articles relating to heating a house with respect to: 

 

Introduction to the activity (teacher): 

Provide the stimulus to motivate the students by considering the dilemma: How do we provide affordable housing whilst minimising heating requirement? There are not enough homes in the UK for everyone who needs one. Some of the houses we do have are expensive to run, poorly maintained and cost a fortune in rent. How do we get the housing builders to provide enough affordable, cheap to run housing for the population? 

One possible solution is adopting Passivhaus standards. The Passivhaus is a building that conforms to a standard around heating requirements that ensures the insulation (U value) of the building material, including doors, windows and floors, prevents heat leaving the building so that a minimum heating requirement is needed. If all houses conformed to Passivhaus standards, the running costs for the householder would be reduced. 

 

Teaching schedule: 

Provide stimulus by highlighting the housing crisis in the UK:  

Students can then research and find the answers to the following questions using the following links, or other websites: 

 

Housing crisis in the UK: 

 

Students can work in groups to work on the extent of the problem from the bullet points provided. This activity can be used to develop design skills (Define the problem) 

 

1. Get the engineering knowledge about preventing heat leaving a house:

If you can prevent heat leaving, you won’t need to add any more, it will stay at the same temperature. Related engineering concepts are:   

 

2. Task:

a. Start with a standard footprint of a three-bed semi, from local estate agents. Make some assumptions about inside and outside temperatures, height of ceilings and any other values that may be needed.

b. Use the U value table to calculate the heat loss for this house (in Watts). The excel table has been pre-populated or you can do this as a group

  1. With uninsulated materials (single glazing, empty cavity wall, no loft insulation. 
  2. With standard insulation (double glazing, loft insulation, cavity wall insulation. 
  3. If Passivhaus standards were used to build the house. 

 c. Costs

  1. Find the typical cost for heating per kWh
  2. Compare the costs for replacing the heat lost.

 d. Final synoptic activity

  1. Passivhaus costs a lot more than standard new build. How do housebuilders afford it?
  2. Provide examples of the cost of building a Passivhaus standard building materials and reduced heating bills.
  3. Suggest some ‘carrots’ and ‘sticks’ that could be used to make sure housing in the UK is affordable to rent/buy and run.

 

3. Assessment:

The spreadsheet can be assessed, and the students could write a report giving facts and figures comparing different levels of insulation and the effects on running costs. 

 

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Author: Ramiro Jordan (University of New Mexico). 

Topic: Communicating river system sustainability.  

Tool type: Teaching. 

Relevant Disciplines: Civil; Mechanical. 

Keywords: Water and sanitation; Infrastructure; Community sustainability; Health; Government policy; Social responsibility; AHEP; Higher education; Sustainability; Project brief; Water quality control.
 
Sustainability competency: Systems thinking; Anticipatory; Collaboration; Integrated problem-solving; Strategic.

AHEP mapping: This resource addresses two of the themes from the UK’s Accreditation of Higher Education Programmes fourth edition (AHEP4): The Engineer and Society (acknowledging that engineering activity can have a significant societal impact) and Engineering Practice (the practical application of engineering concepts, tools and professional skills). To map this resource to AHEP outcomes specific to a programme under these themes, access AHEP 4 hereand navigate to pages 30-31 and 35-37.  

Related SDGs: SDG 3 (Good health and well-being); SDG 4 (Quality education); SDG 6 (Clean water and sanitation); SDG 8 (Decent work and economic growth). 
 
Reimagined Degree Map Intervention: Active pedagogies and mindsets; More real-world complexity.

Educational level: Intermediate. 

 

Learning and teaching notes:  

This is an example project that could be adapted for use in a variety of contexts. It asks students to devise a “sustainability dashboard” that can not only track indicators of river system sustainability through technical means, but also communicate the resulting data to the public for the purpose of policy decisions. Teachers should ideally select a local river system to focus on for this project, and assign background reading accordingly. 

Learners have the opportunity to: 

Teachers have the opportunity to: 

 

Supporting resources: 

 

Introduction: 

Two vital and unique resources for the planet are water and air. Any alterations in their composition can have detrimental effects on humans and living organisms. Water uses across New Mexico are unsustainable. Reduced precipitation and streamflows cause increased groundwater use and recharge.  Serious omissions in state water policy provide no protection against complete depletion of groundwater reserves.   

The water governance status quo in New Mexico will result in many areas of New Mexico running out of water, some sooner, some later, and some already have. Because Water is Life, water insecurity will cause economic insecurity and eventual collapse.   

Water resources, both surface and groundwater, and total water use, determine the amount of water use that can be sustained, and then reduce total water use if New Mexico is to have water security.  The public must therefore recognise that action is required. Availability of compiled, accessible data will lead to and promote our critical need to work toward equitable adaptation and attain sustainable resiliency of the Middle Rio Grande’s common water supply and air quality. 

A data dashboard is needed to provide on-line access to historical, modern, and current perspectives on water, air quality, health, and economic information.  A dashboard is needed to help inform the public about why everyone and all concerned citizens, institutions and levels of government must do their part! 

 

Project brief:  

The Middle Rio Grande region of New Mexico has particular sustainability and resilience requirements and enforceable legal obligations (Rio Grande Compact) to reduce water depletions of the Rio Grande and tributary groundwater to sustainable levels.  However, there is a lack of accessible depictions of the Middle Rio Grande’s water supply and demand mismatch. Nothing publicly accessible illustrates the surface water and groundwater resources, water uses, and current water depletions that cannot be sustained even if water supplies were not declining.  Therefore, there is a corresponding lack of public visibility of New Mexico’s water crisis, both in the Middle Valley and across New Mexico. Local water institutions and governments are siloed and have self-serving missions and do not recognise the limits of the Middle Valley’s water resources.   

A water data dashboard is needed to provide online open access to historical, modern, and current perspectives on water inflows, outflows, and the change in stored surface and groundwater.  This dashboard should inform the public about why everyone and all water institutions and levels of government must do their part! 

 

Given:  

 

Objectives:   

 

Acknowledgements: The 2023 Peace Engineering summer cohort of Argentine Fulbright Scholars who analysed the Middle Rio Grande Case Study concluded that water in the Middle Rio Grande is a community problem that requires a community driven solution.   

 

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Authors: Professor Emanuela Tilley, (UCL); Associate Professor Kate Roach (UCL); Associate Professor Fiona Truscott (UCL). 

Topic: Sustainability must-haves in engineering project briefs. 

Type: Guidance. 

Relevant disciplines: Any. 

Keywords: PBL; Assessment; Project brief; Learning outcomes; Pedagogy; Communication; Future generations; Decision-making; Design; Ethics; Sustainability; AHEP; Higher education.
 
Sustainability competency: Integrated problem-solving; Collaboration.

AHEP mapping: This resource addresses two of the themes from the UK’s Accreditation of Higher Education Programmes fourth edition (AHEP4): The Engineer and Society (acknowledging that engineering activity can have a significant societal impact) and Engineering Practice (the practical application of engineering concepts, tools and professional skills). To map this resource to AHEP outcomes specific to a programme under these themes, access AHEP 4 here and navigate to pages 30-31 and 35-37.  

Related SDGs: All. 
 
Reimagined Degree Map Intervention: Adapt learning outcomes; Active pedagogies and mindsets; More real-world complexity; Cross-disciplinarity; Authentic assessment.

 

Supporting resources: 

 

Premise: 

Projects, and thus project-based learning, offer valuable opportunities for integrating sustainability education into engineering curricula by promoting active, experiential learning through critical and creative thinking within problem-solving endeavours and addressing complex real-world challenges. Engaging in projects can have a lasting impact on students’ understanding and retention of knowledge. By working on projects related to sustainability, students are likely to internalise key concepts and develop a commitment to incorporating sustainable practices into their future engineering endeavours. 

 

Building a brief:

Project briefs are a powerful tool for integrating sustainability into engineering education through project-based learning. They set the tone, define the scope, and provide the parameters for students to consider sustainability in their engineering projects, ensuring that future engineers develop the knowledge, skills, and mindset needed to address the complex challenges of sustainability. 

To ensure sustainability has a central and/or clear role within an engineering project, consider the following as you develop the brief: 

1. Sustainability as part of goals, objectives, and requirements. By explicitly including sustainability objectives in the project brief, educators communicate the importance of considering environmental, social, and economic factors in the engineering design and implementation process. This sets the stage for students to integrate sustainability principles into their project work. 

 

2. Context: Briefs should always include the context of the project so that students understand the importance of place and people to an engineered solution. Below are aspects of the context to consider and provide:

 

3. Stakeholders: Sustainability is intertwined with the interests and needs of various stakeholders. Project briefs can include considerations for stakeholder engagement, prompting students to identify and address the concerns of different groups affected by the project. This reinforces the importance of community involvement and social responsibility in engineering projects. Below are aspects of the stakeholders to consider and provide: 

 

4. Ethical decision-making: Including ethical considerations related to sustainability in the project brief guides students in making ethical decisions throughout the project lifecycle. The Ethics Toolkit can provide guidance in how to embed ethical considerations such as: 

 

5. Knowns and unknowns: Considering both knowns and unknowns is essential for defining the project scope. Knowing what is already understood and what remains uncertain allows students to set realistic and achievable project goals. Below are aspects of considering the knowns and unknowns aspects of a project brief to consider and provide:

 

6. Engineering design process and skills development: The Project Brief should support how the educator wants to guide students through the engineering design cycle, equipping them with the skills, knowledge, and mindset needed for successful problem-solving. Below are aspects of the engineering design process and skills development to consider and provide: 

a. Research – investigate,  

b. Creative thinking – divergent and convergent thinking in different parts of the process of engineering design,

c. Critical thinking – innovation model analysis or other critical thinking tools,

d. Decision making – steps taken to move the project forward, justifying the decision making via evidence,

e. Communication, collaboration, negotiation, presentation,  

f. Anticipatory thinking – responsible innovation model AREA, asking in the concept stages (which ideas could go wrong because of a double use, or perhaps thinking of what could go wrong?),

g. Systems thinking.  

 

7. Solution and impact: Students will need to demonstrate that they have met the brief and can demonstrate that they understand the impact of their chosen solution. Here it would need to be clear what the students need to produce and how long it is expected to take them. Other considerations when designing the project brief to include are: 

 

 

Important considerations for embedding sustainability into projects: 

1. Competences or content? 

 

 2. Was any content added or adapted? 

– What form of content, seminars, readings, lectures, tutorials, student activity 

 

3. Competencies  

UNESCO has identified eight competencies that encompass the behaviours, attitudes, values and knowledge which facilitate safeguarding the future. These together with the SDGs provide a way of identifying activities and learning that can be embedded in different disciplinary curricula and courses.  For more information on assessing competences, see this guidance article.  

 

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Author: Jing Zhao (University of West of England). 

Topic: Investigating the decarbonisation transition. 

Type: Teaching. 

Relevant disciplines: Civil; Structural; Chemical; Mechanical; Electrical; Computing. 

Keywords: Decarbonisation, Housing, Built environment; Net zero, Carbon emissions; Energy efficiency; Sustainable energy; Local community; Curriculum; Higher education; Sustainability; Assessment. 
 
Sustainability competency: Systems thinking; Anticipatory; Collaboration; Self-awareness; Normative.

AHEP mapping: This resource addresses two of the themes from the UK’s Accreditation of Higher Education Programmes fourth edition (AHEP4): The Engineer and Society (acknowledging that engineering activity can have a significant societal impact) and Engineering Practice (the practical application of engineering concepts, tools and professional skills). To map this resource to AHEP outcomes specific to a programme under these themes, access AHEP 4 here and navigate to pages 30-31 and 35-37.  

Related SDGs: SDG 4 (Quality education); SDG 7 (Affordable and clean energy); SDG 9 (Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure); SDG 11 (Sustainable cities and communities). 
 
Reimagined Degree Map Intervention: More real-world complexity; Active pedagogies and mindsets; Authentic assessment.

Educational level: Beginner. 

 

Learning and teaching notes: 

The purpose of this exercise is to encourage students to think in a socio-technical perspective of delivering extreme low carbon housing (e.g. Passivhaus), in order to support the occupants in adapting to new technologies and low-carbon lifestyle, shifting the paradigm from building isolated energy efficient homes to forming low-carbon communities.  

Learners have the opportunity to: 

Teachers have the opportunity to: 

 

Supporting resources: 

  

Terminology: 

Before beginning the activity, teachers and learners will want to become familiar with the following concepts. 

 

Activity overview:  

Students will role-play the post occupancy stage of inhabiting a Passivhaus home by playing different characters with different priorities (and personalities). Students will need to learn what new technologies and features are included in Passivhaus and what difficulties/problems the residents might encounter, and at the same time familiarise themselves with contemporary research on energy behaviour, performance gap, rebound effect, as well as broader issues in decarbonisation transition such as social justice and low carbon community building. Through two community meetings, the community manager needs to resolve the residents’ issues, support the residents in learning and adapting their behaviours, and devising an engagement plan to allow the residents to form a self-governed low-carbon community. 

 

Step one: Preparation prior to class: 

Provide a list of reading materials on ‘performance gap’, ‘rebound effect’, ‘adaptive comfort’, energy behaviour, usability and control literature, as well as on Passivhaus and examples of low-carbon features and technologies involved to get a sense of what difficulties residents might encounter.  

To prepare for the role-play activity, assign students in advance to take on different roles (randomly or purposefully), or let them self-assign based on their interests. They should try to get a sense of their character’s values, lifestyle, priorities, abilities. Where no information is available, students can imagine the experiences and perspectives of the residents. Students assigned to be community managers or building associations will prepare for the role-play by learning about the Passivhaus system and prepare ways to support occupants’ learning and behaviour adaptation. The goal is to come up with an engagement plan, facilitate the residents to form their own community knowledge base and peer support. (Considering 1. Who are you engaging (types of residents and their characteristics); 2. How are you engaging (level of engagement, types of communication; 3. When are you engaging (frequency of engagement) 

 

Step two: In class, starting by giving prompts for discussions: 

Below are several prompts for discussion questions and activities that can be used. Each prompt could take up as little or as much time as the educator wishes, depending on where they want the focus of the discussion to be. 

 

  1. Discuss what support the residents might need in post occupancy stage? Who should provide (/pay for) the support? For how long? Any examples or best practice that they might know? Does support needs to be tailored to specific groups of people? (see extra prompts at the end for potential difficulties)
  2. Discuss what the risks are involved in residents not being sufficiently supported to adapt their behaviour when living in a low-carbon house or Passivhaus? (reflect on literature)
  3. Discuss what are the barriers to domestic behaviour change? What are the barriers to support the residents in changing behaviour and to build low-carbon community? 

 

Step three: Class 1 Role Play  

Prior to the Role Play, consider the following prompts: 

Consider the variety of residents and scenarios:

Their varying demographics, physical and mental abilities, lifestyle and priorities. The following characters are examples. Students can make up their own characters. Students can choose scenarios of  

1) social housing or; 

2) private owner-occupier  

Social housing tenants will likely have a more stretched budget, higher unemployment rate and a bigger proportion of disabled or inactive population. They will have different priorities, knowledge and occupancy patterns than private owner-occupier, and will be further disadvantaged during decarbonisation transition (Zhao, 2023). They will need different strategies and motivations to be engaged. The characters of residents could be chosen from a variety of sources (e.g. RIBA Brief generator), or based on students’ own experiences. Each character needs to introduce themselves in a succinct manner. 

 

Other stakeholders involved include: 

They are role-specific characters that don’t necessarily need a backstory. They are there to listen, take notes, give advice and come up with an engagement plan. 

 

Consider the post occupancy in different stages: 

  1. Prior to move-in 
  2. Move-in day 
  3. The initial month 
  4. Change of season  
  5. Quarterly energy audit meeting 

 

Consider the difficulties the residents might encounter: 

 

Consider the different engagement levels of the residents: 

 

The role-play consists of two community meetings over two classes. The first meeting is held at two weeks after move-in date. The second meeting at 6 months of occupancy. The meeting should include a variety of residents on one side, and the ‘chair’ of the meeting on the other. (Consider the accessibility and inclusivity of the meetings as when and where those will be held). In the first meeting, residents will get to know each other, ask questions about house-related problems occurred in the first two weeks, voice concerns. Community managers/council members will chair the meeting, take notes and make plans for support. The teacher should act as a moderator to guide students through the session. First the teacher will briefly highlight the issue up for discussion, then pass it to the ‘chair’ of the meeting. The ‘chair’ of the meeting will open the meeting with the purpose of the meeting – to support the residents and facilitate a self-governed low carbon community. They then ask the residents to feedback on their experience and difficulties. At the end of the first meeting, the group of students will need to co-design an engagement plan, including setting agendas for the second meeting in a 6-month interval (but in reality will happen in the second class) and share the plan with the residents and the class. The teacher and class will comment on the plan. The group will revise the plan after class so it’s ready for the second meeting. 

 

Step four: Homework tasks: Revising the plan 

The students will use the time before the second class to revise the plan and prepare for challenges, problems occurred over the 6-months period. 

Optional wild cards could be used as unpredictable events occur between the first and second meeting. Such events include: 

 

Step five: Class 2 Role play 

The second meeting in the second class will either be chaired by community managers/council members, or be chaired by a few residents, monitored by community managers/council members. The second meeting begins the same way. The students playing residents should research/imagine problems occurred during the 6 months period (refer to literature), and what elements of the engagement plan devised at the end of the first meeting worked and what hasn’t worked. The ‘chair’ of the meeting will take notes, ask questions or try to steer the conversations. At the end of the second meeting, the ‘chair’ of the meeting will reflect on the support and engagement plan, revise it and make a longer-term plan for the community to self-govern and grow. At the end of this class, the whole class could then engage in a discussion about the outcome of the meetings. Teachers could focus on an analysis of how the process went, a discussion about broader themes of social justice, community building, comfort, lifestyle and value system. Challenge students to consider their personal biases and position at the outset and reflect on those positions and biases at the end of the meeting. 

 

 

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. 

Any views, thoughts, and opinions expressed herein are solely that of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, policies, or position of the Engineering Professors’ Council or the Toolkit sponsors and supporters. 
 
 
To view a plain text version of this resource, click here to download the PDF.

Author: Aditya Johri (George Mason University). 

Topic: Sustainability implications in mobility and technology development.   

Type: Teaching. 

Relevant disciplines: Electrical, Robotics, Civil, Mechanical, Computing. 

Keywords: Design; Accessibility; Technology Policy; Electric Vehicles; Mobility, Circularity; AHEP; Sustainability; Higher education.
 
Sustainability competency: Normative; Self-awareness; Strategic; Critical thinking.

AHEP mapping: This resource addresses two of the themes from the UK’s Accreditation of Higher Education Programmes fourth edition (AHEP4): The Engineer and Society (acknowledging that engineering activity can have a significant societal impact) and Engineering Practice (the practical application of engineering concepts, tools and professional skills). To map this resource to AHEP outcomes specific to a programme under these themes, access AHEP 4 here and navigate to pages 30-31 and 35-37.  

Related SDGs: SDG 4 (Quality education); SDG 9 (Industry, innovation, and infrastructure), SDG 12 (Responsible consumption and production); SDG 13 (Climate action).   
 
Reimagined Degree Map Intervention: Active pedagogies and mindset development.

Educational aim: The objective of this activity is to provide students with an understanding of the complexity of technology development and different considerations that need to be made by stakeholders in the design and implementation of a technology. The activity is set up as a role-play where students are assigned different roles as members of an expert panel providing feedback on the use of E-Scooters on a college campus. 

Educational level: Beginner. 

 

Learning and teaching notes: 

Learners have the opportunity to: 

Teachers have the opportunity to: 

 

Supporting resources: 

Several different ethical frameworks, codes, or guidelines can be provided to students to prepare for the discussion or to reflect upon during their discussion depending on the students’ disciplinary composition. Here are a few examples:  

 

Background readings and resources: 

One of the goals of this exercise is to motivate students to undertake their own research on the topic to prepare for the activity. But it is important to provide them with preliminary material to start their own research. Here are a few useful resources for this case:  

Readings: 

 

Videos: 

 

Role-play instructions: 

  1. Each student is assigned a role a week before the discussion.
  2. Students assigned to the role of Eva Walker serve as the moderator and lead the conversation based on the script below.
  3. The script provided below is there to guide the discussion, but you should leave room for the conversation to flow naturally and allow everyone to contribute.

One way to ensure students are prepared for the discussion is to assign a few questions from the script as a pre-discussion assignment (short answers). Similarly, to ensure students reflect on the discussion, they can be assigned the last question from the script as a post-discussion exercise. They can also be asked specifically about frameworks and concepts related to sustainability.  

 

Role-play scenario narrative and description of roles: 

Eva Walker recently started reporting about on-campus traffic issues for the student newspaper. She would have preferred to do more human-interest stories, but as a new member of the staff who had just moved from intern to full-time, she was happy to get whatever opportunity she could. Eva was studying both journalism and creative writing, and this was her dream on-campus job. She also realised that, even though many stories at first didn’t appear to her as though she would be interested in them, as she dug deeper she eventually found an angle with which she could strongly relate.  

One weekday morning, Eva was working on yet another story on parking woes when Amina Ali, one of the editorial staff members, texted her to say that there had been an accident on campus; she just passed it at the intersection of the library and the recreation building, and it might be worth covering. Eva was at the library, and within no time, reached the spot of the accident.  

When Eva arrived, a police vehicle, an ambulance, and a fire engine were all present at the scene, and near the accident site, an e-scooter lay smashed into a tree. It looked like the rider was sitting in the ambulance and was being treated by the medical staff. A little further away, Eva noticed the police speaking to a young woman in a wheelchair. Although Eva’s first instinct was to try to talk to the police or the medical staff to ascertain what had happened, she realised this probably wasn’t the best moment and she would have to wait until later for the official version of the event.  

She looked around and saw a group of four students leaning against a wall with drinks in their hands. A couple of them were vaping. Eva thought that they looked like they had been here for a while, and she walked over to ask them what had happened. From the account they gave her, it appeared as if the e-scooter rider was coming around the bend at some speed, saw the woman in the wheelchair a little too late to ride past her, and, to avoid hitting her, leapt off his e-scooter and let the vehicle hit the tree. Things happened very quickly and no one was exactly sure about the sequence of events, but this was the rough story she got.  

Later, she called the police department on campus and was able to speak with one of the officers to get an official account. The story was very similar to what she already knew. She did find out that nobody was seriously hurt and that the only injuries were to the e-scooter rider and were taken care of at the scene by the medical staff. When she asked about who was to blame or if any legal action was expected, she was told that there were no laws around the use of helmets or speeding for e-scooters yet and that she should reach out later for more information. Eva wrote up what she had so far, sent it over to the editorial staff, and considered her work done.  

But as she was walking back to her halls of residence that evening, her attention was drawn to the large number of e-scooters parked near the library. As she crossed the central campus, she noticed even more e-scooters lying about the intersections, and there was a litter of them around the residence hall. She wondered why she hadn’t noticed them before. Her attention was drawn today, she thought, because of the accident and also because she saw a good Samaritan remove an e-scooter from the sidewalk, as it was blocking the path of one of the self-driving food delivery robots. It’s a sign, Eva thought, this is what she needs to look for more in her next article, the use of e-scooters on campus.  

Eva recognised that, to write a balanced and informative article, as she had been taught to do, she would have to look at many different aspects of the use of e-scooters as well as look broadly at mobility on campus and the use of battery powered vehicles. She had also recently seen e-bikes on campus and, in addition to the food delivery robots, service robots in one of the buildings that she assumed was either delivering paperwork or mail. The accident had also made her realise that, when it came to mobility, accessibility was something that never crossed her mind but that she now understood was an important consideration. She hoped to learn more about it as her research progressed.  

As background research for the article, Eva started reading up on articles and studies published about e-scooters, e-bikes, and urban mobility and came across a range of concerns that had been raised beyond accessibility. First, there were reports that e-scooters are not as environmentally friendly as many service providers had made them out to be. This is related to the production of the battery as well as the short lifespan of the vehicles, and as of yet, there has been no procedure implemented to reuse them (Pyzyk, 2019). Second, there were reports of littering, where e-scooters are often left on sidewalks and other places where they restrict movement of other vehicles, pedestrians, and in particular, those in wheelchairs (Iannelli, 2021). Finally, it was also clear from the reports that accidents and injuries have increased due to e-scooters, especially since many riders do not wear safety gear and are often careless, even inebriated, as there were little to no regulations (2021). When she approached her editor with an outline for an article, she was advised to do some more reporting by talking with people who could shed more light on the issue.  

After some research, Eva shortlisted the following experts across fields related to e-scooters for an interview, and once she spoke with them, she realised that it would help her if she could get them to have a dialogue and respond to some of the questions that were raised by other experts. Therefore, she decided to conduct a focus group with them so that she achieved her goal of a balanced article and did not misrepresent any expert’s point of view.  

 

Experts/roles for discussion: 

1. Bryan Avery is co-founder and chief technology officer (CTO) of RideBy, an e-scooter company. RideBy is one of the options available on campus. Born in a small town, Bryan used to ride his bicycle everywhere while growing up, and for him, founding and leading an e-scooter company provided a chance to merge his interests in personal transportation and new forms of energy. He was a chemical engineer by training, and at a time when most of his friends ended up working for big oil companies, Bryan decided to work on alternative fuels and found himself developing expertise and experience with batteries. For most of the software- and mobile device-related development, RideBy outsourced the work and utilised ready-to-configure systems that were available. By only keeping the core device and battery functionality in-house, they could focus on delivering a much stronger product. Overall, he is quite happy with the success of RideBy so far and can’t help but extol the difference it can make for the environment.  

 

2. Abiola Abrams is a professor of transportation engineering and an expert on mobility systems. Her work combines systems engineering, computer science, and data analytics. Her recent research is on urban mobility and micro-mobility services, particularly e-bikes. In her research, Dr. Abrams has looked at a host of topics related to e-bikes, many of which are also applicable to e-scooters, including the optimisation of hubs for availability, common path patterns of users, subscription use models, and the e-waste and end of lifecycle for these vehicles. Increasingly, she has become concerned about the abuse of some of these services, especially in cities that attract a lot of tourists, and about the rough use of the vehicles, so much so that many do not even last for a month. In a new project, she is investigating the effect of e-vehicles on the environment and has found that there is mixed evidence for how much difference battery-operated vehicles will actually make for climate change compared to vehicles that use fossil fuels.  

 

3. Marco Rodrigues works as transportation director for the local county government where the university is based. As part of a recent bilateral international exchange, he got the opportunity to spend time in different cities in Germany to learn about local transportation. He realised very quickly that local transportation was very different in Germany; residents had a range of public, shared options that were missing in the United States. However, he also realised that e-mobility services were being considered across both countries. He investigated this further and found that Germany waited until it could pass some regulations before allowing e-mobility operators to offer services; helmets were mandatory on e-scooters and e-bikes, and riders had to purchase a nominal insurance policy. He also learned that there were strict rules around the sharing of data generated by the vehicles as well as the apps used by riders.  

 

4. Judy Whitehouse is director of infrastructure and sustainability on campus and responsible for planning the long-term development of the campus from a space perspective, but also increasingly from a sustainability dimension. As the number of students has increased, so has the need for more infrastructure, including classrooms and halls of residence. This has also resulted in greater distances to be traveled on campus. Judy regards e-mobility options as a necessary component of campus life and has been a strong supporter for them. Lately, she has been called into meetings with safety and emergency management people discussing the issue of increased accidents on campus and the littering of e-vehicles across the campus. Not only is it bad for living on campus, but it is also bad for optics. A recent photo featured in the campus newspaper was a stark reminder of just how bad it can look. She is further divided on the use of e-scooters due to misgivings about the sustainability of battery use, as new research suggests that manufacturing batteries and disposing them are extremely harmful for the environment.  

 

5. Aaron Schneider heads Campus Mobility, a student interest group focused on autonomous vehicles development and use. The group members come from different degree programmes and are interested in both the technical dimensions of mobile solutions and the policy issues surrounding their implementation. Aaron himself is a computer science student with interests in data science, and with some of his fellow members from the policy school, he has been analysing a range of mobility-related datasets that are publicly available online. Of these, the data on accidents is quite glaring, as the number of accidents in which e-scooters are involved has gone up significantly. Aaron and his friends were intrigued by their findings and approached some of the companies to see if they would share data, but they were disappointed when they could not get access. Although the companies said it was due to privacy reasons, Aaron was not too convinced by that argument. He was also denied access to any internal reports about usage patterns of accidents. Ideally, he would have liked to know what algorithms were used for optimising delivery and access, but he knew he was not going to get that information.  

  

6. Sarah Johnson is the head of accessibility services on campus and is responsible for both technology- and infrastructure-related support for students, faculty, and staff. The growth of the physical campus and the range of technological offerings has significantly increased the workload for her office, and they are really strained in terms of people and expertise. The emphasis from the university leadership is largely on web and IT accessibility, as teaching and other services are shifting quickly online, but Sarah realises that there is still an acute need to provide physical and mobility support to many members of the community. Although all the new buildings are up to code in terms of accessibility, there is still work to be done both for the older buildings and especially for mobility. Campus beautification does not always go along with access. She is also worried about access to devices, as taking part in any campus activity requires not just a computer, but also access to mobile devices that are out of reach economically for many and not easy to use.  

 

Role-play script: 

To help get the dialogues started and based on her prior conversation with the group, Eva has prepared some initial questions:  

  1. What role are you playing and, from your perspective, what do you see as the biggest pros of using e-vehicles, especially e-scooters on campus?
  2. From your perspective, what do you see as the biggest downside of using e-vehicles, especially e-scooters on campus?
  3. Can you confidently say that e-scooters are an environmentally friendly option?
  4. What current accessibility accommodations would be impacted by the use of e-vehicles, and what new, potential accessibility accommodations might arise from increased use of e-vehicles?
  5. Would we be better off waiting for more regulations to come before deploying these vehicles on campus and, if so, what should those regulations look like?
  6. Should we use automatic regulation of speed on the vehicle based on where it is and/or inform authorities if it is violated?
  7. Can we control where it can go or penalise if not put back?
  8. What guidelines do you recommend for e-scooter usage on campus?  

 

Authorship and project information and acknowledgements: The scenarios and roles were conceptualised and written by Aditya Johri. Feedback was provided by Ashish Hingle, Huzefa Rangwala, and Alex Monea, who also collaborated on initial implementation and empirical research. This work is partly supported by U.S. National Science Foundation Awards# 1937950, 2335636, 1954556; USDA/NIFA Award# 2021-67021-35329. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the funding agencies. The research study associated with the project was approved by the Institutional Review Board at George Mason University. 

 

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. 

Any views, thoughts, and opinions expressed herein are solely that of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, policies, or position of the Engineering Professors’ Council or the Toolkit sponsors and supporters. 
 
 
To view a plain text version of this resource, click here to download the PDF.

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