Scaling support for teaching sustainability : reflections, barriers, and opportunities Dale, Alexander T.; House, Richard A.; Brownell, Sarah A.; Best, Robert E.; Hess, Justin L.
While many schools have created local coursework or programs to integrate multiple disciplines and real-world experience, scaling these opportunities to reach a critical mass of students is often difficult due to technical and economic constraints. In contrast, efforts that connect multiple institutions to multidisciplinary resources may enable success by mitigating costs through replication and resource sharing. As an example, since 2012, Engineers for a Sustainable World (ESW) has been operating the Wicked Problems in Sustainability Initiative (WPSI), which connects project-based courses across multiple institutions and provides shared resources to enable faculty to expose students to real, complex topics such as providing sustainable housing or managing the roots of air pollution. After two years of successful operations at three schools, the authors are interested in scaling the asynchronous program to enable many more students to participate. However, numerous institutional and practical barriers are visible, such as the need for local champions, course time requirements, online tools, and long-term financial support. In preparation for the third annual cycle of WPSI, current faculty and staff reflected on the program’s value, limitations, and potential to scale. This work presents reflections on successes from the first two cycles, and discusses the feasible reach of the program. In this paper, we consider how to address various systemic barriers, alongside changes proposed changes for the program going forward to maximize its impact, particularly on students who have not self-selected to enroll in courses on sustainability.
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