Teaching Environmental Management Competencies Online: Towards “Authentic” Collaboration?

  • 1 The Open University, Engineering and Innovation, The Open University, , Milton Keynes, UK

Abstract

Environmental Management (EM) is taught in many Higher Education Institutions in the UK. Most this provision is studied full-time on campuses by younger adults preparing themselves for subsequent employment, but not necessarily as environmental managers, and this experience can be very different from the complexities of real-life situations. This formal academic teaching or initial professional development in EM is supported and enhanced by training and continuing professional development from the major EM Institutes in the UK orientated to a set of technical and transferable skills or competencies expected of professional practitioners. In both cases there can be a tendency to focus on the more tractable, technical aspects of EM which are important, but may prove insufficient for EM in practice. What is also necessary, although often excluded, is an appreciation of, and capacity to deal with, the messiness and unpredictability of real world EM situations involving many different actors and stakeholders with multiple perspectives and operating to various agendas. Building on the work of Reeves, Herrington, and Oliver (2002), we argue that EM modules need to include the opportunity to work towards the practice of authentic activities with group collaboration as a key pursuit. This paper reports on a qualitative study of our experiences with a selected sample taken from two on-line undergraduate EM modules for second and third year students (referred to respectively as Modules A and B) at the Open University, UK where online collaboration was a key component. Our tentative findings indicate that on-line collaboration is difficult to ensure as a uniform experience and that lack of uniformity reduces its value as an authentic experience. Whilst it can provide useful additional skills for EM practitioners the experience is uneven in the student body and often requires more time and support to engage with than originally planned.

If the inline PDF is not rendering correctly, you can download the PDF file here.

  • 1. Baran, E., & Correia, A. (2009). Student-led Facilitation Strategies in Online Discussions. Distance Education, 30(3), 339-361.

  • 2. Bargal, D. (2008). Action Research: A Paradigm for Achieving Social Change. Small Group Research, 39(1), 17-27.

  • 3. Bell, S. (2011). From Sustainable Community to Big Society: Ten Years Learning with the Imagine Approach. International Research in Geographical and Environmental Education, 20(3), 247-267.

  • 4. Bell, S., Correa Peña, A., & Prem, M. (2013). Imagine coastal sustainability. Ocean & Coastal Management, 83, 39-51. Retrieved November 12, 2014, from http://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S0964569113000483

  • 5. Bell, S., & Lane, A. (1998). From teaching to learning: technological potential and sustainable, supported open learning. Systemic Practice and Action Research, 11(6), 629-650.

  • 6. Bell, S., & Morse, S. (2003). Measuring Sustainability: Learning from Doing. London: Earthscan.

  • 7. Berardi, A. (2011). The Challenges of Transformational Learning at a Distance: a year in the life of an Open University learning unit on the environment. LATHE, 5, 135-142.

  • 8. Berardo, R., Heikkila, T., & Gerlak, A. K. (2014). Interorganizational Engagement in Collaborative Environmental Management: Evidence from the South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Task Force. Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, 24(3), 697-719. Retrieved from http://jpart.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/doi/10.1093/jopart/muu003

  • 9. Blackmore, C., Reynolds, M., Ison, R., & Lane, A. (2015). Embedding sustainability through systems thinking in practice: some experiences from the Open University. In L. Wyness, (Ed.), Education for Sustainable Development Pedagogy: Criticality, Creativity, and Collaboration (PedRIO occasional papers (8), pp.32-35). Plymouth University: Pedagogic Research Institute and Observatory (PedRIO).

  • 10. Brindley, J., Blaschke, L., & Walti, C. (2009). Creating effective collaborative learning groups in an online environment. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 10(3), 1-18.

  • 11. Caird, S., & Lane, A. (2015). Conceptualising the role of Information and Communication Technologies in the design of higher education teaching models used in the UK. British Journal of Educational Technology, 46(1), 58-70.

  • 12. Cameron, B. A., Morgan, K., Williams, K. C., & Kostelecky, K. L. (2009). Group Projects: Student Perceptions of the Relationship between Social Tasks and a Sense of Community in Online Group Work. American Journal of Distance Education, 23(1), 20-33. Retrieved from http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/08923640802664466

  • 13. Capdeferro, N., & Romero, M. (2012). Are online learners frustrated with collaborative learning experiences? International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 13(2), 26-44.

  • 14. Chambers, R. (2002). Participatory Workshops: A sourcebook of 21 sets of ideas and activities. London: Earthscan.

  • 15. Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management - CIWEM (n.d.). Membership. Retrieved from http://www.ciwem.org/membership/

  • 16. CIEEM (n.d.). Competency Framework. Retrieved from http://www.cieem.net/competencyframework

  • 17. Checkland, P. (1999). Systems Thinking, Systems Practice (2nd ed.). London: Wiley.

  • 18. ENDS report, The (2010). Environmental Careers Guide. London. Retrieved from http://www.endsreport.com/reports/ecg

  • 19. European Environment Agency (2013). Number of organisations with registered environmental management systems according to EMAS and ISO 14001. Retrieved from http://www.eea.europa.eu/data-and-maps/indicators/number-of-organisations-withregistered/assessment

  • 20. Fazey, L., Fazey, J. A., Fischer, J., Sherren, K., Warren, J., Noss R. F., & Dovers, S. (2007). Adaptive Capacity and Learning to Learn as Leverage for Social-Ecological Resilience. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, 5(7), 375-380. doi:

    • Crossref
    • Export Citation
  • 21. Ganoulis, J., Skoulikaris, H., & Monget, J. M. (2008). Involving stakeholders in transboundary water resource management: The Mesta/Nestos ‘HELP’ basin. Water S.S., 34(4), 461-467. Retrieved from https://www.scopus.com/record/display.uri?eid=2-s2.0-67649355071&origin=inward&txGid=426BF51B75CF30CBC4B61D127E1C1F2F.wsnAw8kcdt7IPYLO0V48gA%3a1

  • 22. Gersick, C. (1991). Revolutionary Change Theories: a multilevel exploration of the punctuated equilibrium paradigm. Academy of management Review, 16(1), 10-36.

  • 23. Gundill, G., Cummings G. S., Biggs, D., & Fabricius, C. (2012). Soft Systems Thinking and Social Learning for Adaptive Management. Conservation Biology, 26(1), 13-20.

  • 24. Hwang, W. Y., Kongcharoen, C., & Ghinea, G. (2014). To enhance collaborative learning and practice network knowledge with a virtualization laboratory and online synchronous discussion. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 15(4), 113-137.

  • 25. IEMA (n.d.). Skills Map. Retrieved from https://www.iema.net/skills-map

  • 26. Ison, R. (2010). Systems Practice: How to Act in a Climate Change World. London: Springer.

  • 27. Ison, R., & Blackmore, C. (2014). Designing and Developing a Reflexive Learning System for Managing Systemic Change. Systems, 2, 119-136.

  • 28. Jahng, N. (2012). An investigation of collaboration processes in an online course: How do small groups develop over time? International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 13(4), 1-18.

  • 29. Janssen, J., Erkens, G., Kirschner, P. A., & Kanselaar, G. (2012).Task-related and social regulation during online collaborative learning. Metacognition and Learning, 7(1), 25-43. Retrieved from http://link.springer.com/10.1007/s11409-010-9061-5

  • 30. Karlsson, R., Nasir, J., Bergeå, O., & Jonsson, T. (2000). Systems thinking for Sustainable Resource Management in Environmental Management Education. Proceedings of 1st International Conference on Systems Thinking in Management, Geelong, November 8-10, 2000, 282-287. Retrieved from http://ceur-ws.org/Vol-72/043%20Karlsson%20environment.pdf

  • 31. Kolb, D. (1984). Experiential Learning: experience as the source of learning and development. London: Prentice-Hall.

  • 32. Lane, A. B. (1999). Teaching Systems at the Open University: reconceptualising the curriculum by creating meaningful conversations. In A. M. Castell, A. J. Gregory, G. A. Hindle, M. E. James, & G. Ragsdell (Eds.), Synergy Matters: Working with Systems in the 21st Century (pp.499-504). New York: Kluwer Academic/Plenum.

  • 33. Lane, A. (2013). A review of diagramming in systems practice and how technologies have supported the teaching and learning of diagramming for systems thinking in practice. Systemic Practice and Action Research, 26(4), 319-329.

  • 34. Lane, A. (2017, in press). The impact of technology on the teaching and assessment of ‘systems’ diagrams in two online environmental management modules. Milton Keynes: Open University.

  • 35. Medeiros Vieira, L. M., Ferasso, & M. da Silva Schröeder, C. (2014). Connecting Multiple Intelligences through Open and Distance Learning: Going Towards a Collective Intelligence? European Journal of Open, Distance and e-Learning, 17(1), 108-117. Retrieved from http://www.eurodl.org/materials/briefs/2014/Medeiros-Vieira_et_al.pdf

  • 36. Moggridge, A., & Reason, P. (1996). Human Inquiry: Steps towards Emancipatory Practice. Systems Practice, 9(2), 159-175.

  • 37. Muuro, M. E., Wagacha, E. P., Oboko, R., & Kihoro, J. (2014). Students’ Perceived Challenges in an Online Collaborative Learning Environment: A Case of Higher Learning Institutions in Nairobi, Kenya. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 15(6), 132-161. Retrieved from http://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ1048242

  • 38. Newig, J., & Fritsch, O. (2009). Environmental governance: participatory, multi-level - and effective? Environmental Policy and Governance, 19(3), 197-214. doi:

    • Crossref
    • Export Citation
  • 39. O’Faircheallaigh, C. (2010). Public participation and environmental impact assessment: Purposes, implications, and lessons for public policy making. Environmental Impact Assessment Review, 30(1), 19-27. Retrieved July 28, 2014, from http://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S0195925509000845

  • 40. Peters, V. L., & Hewitt, J. (2010). An investigation of student practices in asynchronous computer conferencing courses. Computers and Education, 54, 951-961.

  • 41. Powell, N., & Osbeck, M. (2010). Approaches for understanding and embedding stakeholder realities in mangrove rehabilitation processes in Southeast Asia: Lessons learnt from Mahakam Delta, East Kalimantan. Sustainable Development, 18(5), 260-270.

  • 42. Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education, The (2014). Subject Benchmark Statement. Earth Sciences, Environmental Sciences and Environmental Studies. Retrieved from http://www.qaa.ac.uk/en/Publications/Documents/SBS-earth-sciences-14.pdf

  • 43. Reason, P. (Ed.) (1994). Participation in Human Inquiry. London: Sage.

  • 44. Reeves, T., Herrington, J., & Oliver, R. (2002). Authentic Activities and Online Learning. Quality Conversations: Proceedings of the 25th HERDSA Annual Conference, 7-10 July 2002, Perth, Western Australia, 562-567.

  • 45. Reynolds, M., & Holwell, S. (Eds.) (2010). Systems Approaches to Managing Change: A Practical Guide. London: Springer.

  • 46. Rose, M. A. (2004). Comparing productive online dialogue in two group styles: Cooperative and collaborative. American Journal of Distance Education, 18(2), 73-88. Retrieved from http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1207/s15389286ajde1802_2

  • 47. Roy, R., Potter, S., Yarrow, K., & Smith, M. (2005). Towards Sustainable Higher Education: Environmental impacts of campus-based and distance higher education systems. Final Report. Milton Keynes: The Open University.

  • 48. Seiffert, M. E. B., & Loch, C. (2005). Systemic thinking in environmental management: support for sustainable development. Journal of cleaner Production, 13(12), 1197-1202.

  • 49. Slade, S., & Mullett, E. (2010). Retention and progression of online global students: a pilot approach. Paper presented at the 9th European Conference on e-Learning (ECEL 2010), 4-5 November 2010, Instituto Superior de Engenharia do Porto. Porto, Portugal.

  • 50. Swain, H. (2015, October 20). This change will be the end of the Open University as we know it. [Blog post] The Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/education/2015/oct/20/open-university-strike-ou-regionalcentres- moocs

  • 51. Tuckman, B. W. (1965). Development Sequence in Small Groups. Psychological Bulletin, 63(6), 384-399.

  • 52. Tuckman, B. W., & Jensen, M. A. (1977). Stages of Small Group Development Revisited. Group Organisational Studies, 2(4), 419-427.

  • 53. Veletsianos, G., & Navarrete, C. C. (2015). Online Social Networks as Formal Learning Environments : Learner Experiences and Activities. The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 13(1), 1-13.

  • 54. Weinbren, D. (2015). The Open University; A History. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press.

  • 55. Xu, J., Du, J., & Fan, X. (2015). Students’ Groupwork Management in Online Collaborative Learning Environments. Educational Technology & Society, 18(2), 195-205.

  • 56. Yin, R. K. (2016). Qualitative Research from Start to Finish. New York: The Guiford Press.

  • 57. Zhu, C. (2012). Student Satisfaction, Performance, and Knowledge Construction in Online Collaborative Learning. Educational Technology & Society, 15(1), 127-136. Retrieved from http://www.ifets.info/journals/15_1/12.pdf

OPEN ACCESS

Journal + Issues

Search