How Schools are using WikiRate to Engage Students in Sustainability

 Late last year the University of Wollongong released a report exploring the multiple ways the WikiRate Student Engagement Project was being implemented in higher education institutions in diverse classrooms around the world. WikiRate is an open database and research tool that allows anyone to collaboratively research and analyse data on socio-environmental impacts of companies. It is a part of the PRME Student Engagement Platform as the team at WikiRate has set research scopes that align with learning objectives and curriculum of a course. Several universities around the world run projects with their students to create new open data sets on companies’ sustainability – environmental, social and governance (ESG) performance.

The report features seven international case studies from professors/educators who have implemented WikiRate in their subjects/units. “Common across all of the case studies is how the embedment of WikiRate has enabled the facilitation of experiential learning as students participate in real-world, practical experiences, researching, inputting and analysing organisational data” according to Stephanie Perkiss, Bonnie Dean and Belinda Gibbons, the lead authors of the report.

At Glasgow Caledonian University the WikiRate Student Engagement Project is embedded in a final year module for Sustainability, Corporate Responsibility and Ethics. The activity is embedded in an assignment that requires students to critically evaluate corporate self-reporting on sustainability, using the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI). The activity is weighted 70% of total marks for the course.

At Universidad EAFIT in Colombia, one of the early adopters of the WikRate Student Engagement Project, WikiRate has been integrated into a mandatory second year courses on Ethics and Corporate Social Responsibility at the undergraduate level. It makes up 25% of the total grade. Student groups are required to investigate the reports of a Colombian organisation around a specific Sustainable Development Goal (SDG), enter this into the platform and use this evidence to respond to a series of questions.

At Royal Holloway, University of London in the United Kingdom, the WikiRate Student Engagement Project is part of the MSc International Management in a course named Project Work for Managers: Sustainability and Societies. Within the course, the WikiRate activity is a formative exercise for students to apply Socially Responsible Investment (SRI) theory in practice.

At the Universidad ICESI in Colombia, the WikiRate Student Engagement Project was introduced into a Corporate Social Responsibility course within the Business school. This is an elective course taken in the third, fourth or fifth year. The project is developed throughout the semester and represents 20% of the total final grade. It aims to introduce students to a collaborative research environment where they can contribute to the collection and analysis of data on companies’ performance as it relates to the SDGs. Students focus on Colombian companies.

At IMC University of Applied Sciences Krems in Austria, the WikiRate Student Engagement Project forms part of the Case Studies in Business and Sustainability subject, a third year undergraduate subject in the Bachelor of Business Administration. The WikiRate activity was chosen as a way to facilitate “mini-case studies” covering Austrian UN Global Compact member companies to help the students connect to the business practice and support their theoretical understanding of transparency and reporting.

At the Ewha Womans University in South Korea, the WikiRate Student Engagement Project is embedded into the post-graduate subject “Special Topics in International Business”. Students work in teams of three or four to input data onto the WikiRate platform for a specific industry with respect to a specific SDG. They also need to present their findings at a student conference on Sustainability and Social Responsibility.

Finally at the University of Wollongong in Australia, the WikiRate Student Engagement Project is embedded into a large first year accounting subject for students studying a Bachelor of Commerce. Students contribute to the platform, as well as complete an in-class written test with reflective questions. Each student is allocated a UN Global Compact signatory company to research relating to specific SDGs.

For schools interested in using the platform in their class, Theresa Heithaus, program manager of the Student Engagement Platform at WikiRate, has the following suggestions “The WikiRate site is a collectively developed public resource to encourage learning and engagement with corporate sustainability. We believe company stakeholders (which include each one of us) should have the tools to show companies that we support an open dialogue on sustainable business practices to improve corporate impacts.

Students who conduct research and analysis on WikiRate learn how difficult it is to find good, comparable public data to make assessments. They engage with challenging topics, critically assess current corporate reporting practices and develop real skills to influence corporate behaviour from the classroom, and in leadership roles beyond.

We are really impressed with the variety of ways the wikirate.org research tool has been used in classrooms around the world, and encourage new approaches which bring public research and analysis into the curriculum. In 2019, WikiRate will be expanding research which contributes to our collective knowledge of how companies contribute to the SDGs, with a focus on climate change, modern slavery and supply chain transparency. The team is eager to support further projects on the WikiRate platform which empower universities and students to integrate sustainability into their course objectives”.

For more information on how the Platform works click here. For more details on the examples listed read the report WikiRate Student Engagement Report: International Case Studies or contact WikiRate at info@wikirate.org.

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