Challenging students in teaching sustainable engineering - initiatives in the technology, sustainability and society course at USQ

Thorpe, David S. and Craig, Ian (2019) Challenging students in teaching sustainable engineering - initiatives in the technology, sustainability and society course at USQ. In: 30th Annual Conference for the Australasian Association for Engineering Education (AAEE 2019): Educators Becoming Agents of Change: Innovate, Integrate, Motivate, 8-11 Dec 2019, Brisbane, Australia.


The Technology, Sustainability and Society course at the University of Southern Queensland teaches engineering and built environment students the knowledge and skills required to meet the sustainability requirements of the Code of Ethics of Engineers Australia (Engineers Australia 2017a). It also addresses engineering competencies in areas like social, cultural, environmental, commercial, legal and political contexts (Engineers Australia 2013). The topics taught in this course (which include the history of technology, sustainability, politics, economics, models of society, cultural impacts, law and management) have accordingly been designed to address the main aspects of sustainable engineering practice and management.

This course is taught to learners in engineering, spatial science and construction undertaking a full degree program, in each of the three teaching semesters of the University. Its learners are normally at Level 1 or Level 2 in their study program. As over 70 per cent of these learners would typically study online, material in this course is delivered in a blended learning format that uses an online Study Desk designed to allow learner interaction with their teaching staff and each other, and to enable them to better understand and apply the principles that they have learnt through engagement with the course material. In order to further develop such engagement, several initiatives have been undertaken that are designed to better engage them in studying this course.

While this course has been taught for several years, its acceptance by learners, as measured by student feedback at the end of each teaching semester, has varied. In particular, the importance of its subject matter has not been fully understood by many learners, a number of whom have not seen a clear relationship between their future professional work and a strong focus on sustainable management principles, which may not have an immediate technical application. There has also historically been a mixed degree of engagement by learners with the course and its content, resulting in concerns that a number of learning outcomes were not being achieved. It has therefore been considered important to address these matters, as an understanding of the principles taught in the course at an early stage in the engineering study program provides opportunities for learners to understand their application to practice as they progress with their studies.

Therefore, because of this mixed acceptance of this course by learners, and the desirability to better engage them, considerable effort has been invested over time to improve the content of this course; make it as relevant as possible to engineering and built environment practice; maintain currency with technological developments and the changing environmental, social and political landscape; and encourage the understanding by learners in the course of an increasing worldwide focus on sustainability,

The objective of this paper is to discuss recent developments in this course aimed at improving learner engagement with it, and the way in which these developments have challenged learners and aided their engagement with it.

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Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Commonwealth Reporting Category E) (Paper)
Refereed: Yes
Item Status: Live Archive
Additional Information: Copyright © 2019 AAEE. Paper #97.
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Historic - Faculty of Health, Engineering and Sciences - School of Civil Engineering and Surveying (1 Jul 2013 - 31 Dec 2021)
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Current - Institute for Advanced Engineering and Space Sciences - Centre for Future Materials (1 Jan 2017 -)
Date Deposited: 17 Jan 2022 23:30
Last Modified: 19 Jan 2022 00:49
Uncontrolled Keywords: engineering, education, technology, society, course improvement
Fields of Research (2008): 13 Education > 1399 Other Education > 139999 Education not elsewhere classified
10 Technology > 1099 Other Technology > 109999 Technology not elsewhere classified
09 Engineering > 0999 Other Engineering > 099999 Engineering not elsewhere classified
Fields of Research (2020): 39 EDUCATION > 3999 Other Education > 399999 Other education not elsewhere classified
40 ENGINEERING > 4099 Other engineering > 409999 Other engineering not elsewhere classified
41 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 4101 Climate change impacts and adaptation > 410199 Climate change impacts and adaptation not elsewhere classified
Socio-Economic Objectives (2008): C Society > 93 Education and Training > 9302 Teaching and Instruction > 930299 Teaching and Instruction not elsewhere classified
D Environment > 96 Environment > 9699 Other Environment > 969999 Environment not elsewhere classified
Socio-Economic Objectives (2020): 19 ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY, CLIMATE CHANGE AND NATURAL HAZARDS > 1999 Other environmental policy, climate change and natural hazards > 199999 Other environmental policy, climate change and natural hazards not elsewhere classified
13 CULTURE AND SOCIETY > 1399 Other culture and society > 139999 Other culture and society not elsewhere classified
17 ENERGY > 1701 Energy efficiency > 170199 Energy efficiency not elsewhere classified

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