By Michelle Angkasa, Sustainability Office. This article is one of a series celebrating Open Education Week. It is brought to you by the Open Scholarship Committee.
March 6–10 marks both Open Education Week and SDG Week at the University of Waterloo.
Open Education Week, launched by Open Education Global, highlights success stories of open education. This is one of the pillars of open scholarship that comprises of digital tools, resources, and practices. These aim to advance equity and accessibility by improving the effectiveness and reach of education.
SDG Week is a national campaign led by UBC, SDSN Canada, and Colleges and Institutes Canada. During this week, universities and colleges around the country organize workshops, panels, and other events to promote awareness of and engagement with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Common to both initiatives is the goal of democratizing knowledge: making education easily accessible to everyone to achieve equity. In particular, SDG 4 (Quality Education) and SDG 10 (Reduced Inequalities) link directly to the goals of Open Education Week. Global shifts caused by the pandemic, climate change, and advancing technology fundamentally change the way we learn and interact with the world. To meet the challenges of today, accessible education on societal issues is paramount.
Integrating sustainability into teaching and learning at UWaterloo
Here at the Sustainability Office, we recognize that open education and the SDGs are related to our work with sustainability on campus. To face the climate crisis, we need everyone to get involved. At the campus level, this means bridging disciplines so everyone, regardless of their academic background, can contribute to solutions. At the community level, accessible knowledge empowers people to make personal lifestyle changes and advocate for system-wide change.
At the University of Waterloo, there are nearly 700 courses with likely connections to the SDGs and more than 360 faculty members conducting research on the same. Waterloo's inaugural Sustainable Development Goals Report, released in April 2022, provides more information about Waterloo's progress and directions.
More recently, the Centre for Teaching Excellence has been working to integrate sustainability into courses through hosting a design cafe and an Assessment Showcase for instructors.
The student-led Sustainability Literacy Initiative is another group pushing for sustainability to be embedded into the curriculum more broadly.
As co-chair Ceileigh McAllister explains, education for all undergraduate students would help ensure that our graduates remain competitive and impactful members of the workforce. The far-reaching implications of environmental and social challenges require that sustainability transforms from a disciplinary study to a value system or ideology that underpins decision-making and knowledge across fields. Learn more about the group’s proposed Sustainability Literacy requirement.
Resources: podcasts, books, workshops, and more
During Open Education and SDG Week, we encourage you to explore different types of sustainability education.
The Sustainability Office offers the Sustainability Certificate, an introductory course on sustainability topics and campus efforts. The free course can be taken individually on LEARN or as a department.
You can also peruse the many free websites that offer mass open online courses (MOOCs), such as Coursera, EdX, or LinkedIn Learning (which is free for UW students and employees). Take a course on a topic of your interest: climate science, ESG investing, clean energy, sustainable fashion, regenerative agriculture, etc.
There is also a wealth of high quality online media tackling climate topics. Check out Our Changing Climate on YouTube or the How to Save a Planet podcast. If you like to read, “All We Can Save” and “How to Be a Climate Optimist” offer hopeful perspectives on the environment. The University of Waterloo Climate Institute’s Illuminate simulation game is a great way to test climate solutions.
If you’re looking to begin or develop your environmental advocacy, organizations such as the Climate Justice HUB, Fossil Free University, African Climate Alliance, Youth Climate Lab, and Generation Green offer free, online workshops.
Image: OE Week 2023 [graphic]. https://oeweek.oeglobal.org/pages/promote/. Used under CC BY 4.0.