Engaging Students in Sustainability Learning: Comparing Reading-related Activities in Online and In-person Courses

Mark Roseland

Grant program: Teaching and Learning Development Grant (TLDG)

Grant recipient: Mark Roseland, Centre for Sustainable Community Development, School of Resource and Environmental Management

Project team: Maria Spiliotopoulou, research assistant

Timeframe: January to June 2017

Funding: $6000

Course addressed: SCD 301 – Sustainable Community Development Theory and Practice

Maria Spiliotopoulou

Final report: View Mark Roseland and Maria Spiliotopoulou's final report (PDF)

Description: In our previous two TLDG projects, we explored the potential of some methods to increase student engagement in sustainability reading and learning. We discovered that students appreciate a variety of educational resources in their courses, i.e. a mix of academic readings and interactive, openly accessible material, and that they can be more motivated in preparing their readings if the latter are directly linked to pre-class or in-class activities. Most students reported that particularly pre-class activities increased their learning and engagement with the readings and that they are more motivated to learn course concepts and participate in discussions if the material is combined with hands-on activities.

For Spring 2017, we want to adjust the activities we used in the fall 2016 offering of SCD 301 to the CODE version of the same course, assess student performance and perceptions of learning, and compare results with fall 2016. This project falls under the TLDG category "Evaluating an existing instructional approach or method" by comparing between in-person and online offerings of the same course.

Questions addressed:

  • Do students believe the online activities encourage deep or engaged reading?
  • Do students believe that the online activities help them understand the concepts included in the readings?
  • Do students enjoy or appreciate the online activities?
  • How engaged are students in the online activity?
  • Do the online activities lead to better student understanding of the readings?
  • How do student perceptions in this course compare to the in-classroom offering of fall 2016?

Knowledge sharing: We will discuss this project within the Centre for Sustainable Community Development, the School of Resource and Environmental Management, and the Faculty of Environment in the near future during research group meetings and other occasions, such as departmental workshops. Given the opportunity, we will discuss our experience with colleagues in CODE as well as in other SFU departments and programs, for example during the 2017 Teaching and Learning Conference, and also with colleagues beyond SFU in events such as the BC Campus Festival of Learning.