Technology in the Classroom – How Schools are Using it to Teach Sustainability


University of Wollongong IDLE

Technology can be a major distraction for students in the classroom. In fact Penn State and California State University have even developed an app called Pocket Points that rewards students for ignoring their iPhone during class, with discounts and deals from local businesses. Of course technology can also be an important tool to strengthen the curriculum, bring interdisciplinary groups of students together, and engage with the wider community. In this post we look at how Universities are using technology as part of their approach to embed sustainability and responsible management into the curriculum.
Using technology to increase discussions and sharing

Lomonosov Moscow State University Business School in Russia has an agreement with a Social Innovation Lab called Cloudwatcher, a non-profit Moscow based organisation dealing with the new technologies that promote social projects and social entrepreneurship in Russia. Students help find sponsors and volunteer support for different projects through an internet platform created for those who are seeking for support or offer it. Portsmouth Business School in the UK has put in place a number of Technology-Enhanced Active Learning (TEAL) rooms. The layout of these rooms give access to multiple technologies that allow students to share multiple viewpoints and angles giving them a greater ‘systems’ perspective for what they are doing and learning. The eZone at University of Kwazulu Natal in South Africa was developed for students and academics to have a platform to write informative and practical articles that develop entrepreneurial and intrapreneurial thinking, and build collaboration between students, communities, and academics.
University of Curtin in Australia is committed to engaging one million active learners by 2017. One of their approaches is an innovative “Balance of the Planet” challenge, a collaboration with UNESCO Bangkok, which works to engage self-forming, collaborative, international, problem-solving teams across the Asia-Pacific region, to create solutions to addressing sustainable development goals through a digital media learning laboratory. The challenge will be open to anyone aged 18 and above. The criteria for judging solutions ideas will be open, transparent and available to all. Voting and comments on solution ideas will be open and transparent.

Using technology as a basis for research in the community
The Centre for Digital Business at the University of Salsberg in the UK, has an internationally-recognised profile of research in digital technologies. The Centre together with Tameside Council and the Sustainable Housing & Urban Studies Unit (SHUSU), developed an innovative engagement strategy and digital toolkit to support home owners to return their empty properties to use as much-needed affordable housing. This Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) was awarded an outstanding rating—the highest possible—by an independent panel of assessors from Innovate UK.

Using technology to strengthen learning opportunities
Copenhagen Business School (CBS), in Denmark, uses technology as an integral part of bringing sustainability into the curriculum. In their fourth semester, students work to facilitate a sustainable and energy efficient lifestyle with the use of informa¬tion technology, including big data and the Internet of Things. The Smart City online module enables students to apply new ideas in using tech¬nology to better bridge the gap between humans and their energy consumption. This includes exploration of how citizens, governments and corporations can take ideas from research to market. CBS also offers a MOOC on Social Entrepreneurship. In excess of 26,000 people from more than 180 countries signed up for this 12-week online course on how to create societal impact through social entrpreneurship. Students were introduced to examples and guided through the process of identifying an opportunity to address social problems, in addition to how to outline their ideas in a business plan. At the end of the course business plans were submitted by 270 participants and five of those plans made it to the finals.
University of Wollongong’s (Australia) interactive and dynamic learning environment (IDLE) computer simulation, designed and developed by the Faculty of Business in 2014, received first place in local iAwards for innovation technology. IDLE is a total enterprise simulation that incorporates social responsibility and sustainability decisions. The Stockholm School of Economics in Sweden is collaborating with the Financial Times, Technische Universität München in Germany, Foreign Trade University in Vietnam, African School of Economics in Benin, and the Darden School of Business in the USA to use technology to discuss important sustainability topics on an international level. The collaboration involves using current news articles published in the Financial Times, and discussing them in real-time with students from the different schools on the SSE MBA Island in the virtual life platform Second Life.

Using technology to help not for profits and small businesses
Justine Rapp, Assistant Professor of Marketing at the University of San Diego School of Business Administration, won the 2014 Innovation in Experiential Education Award for two experiential learning projects she developed for her Digital Marketing and Social Media course. The first project, called “Google Pay-Per Click Campaigns,” involves students working with two non-profit organisations, USD Electronic Recycling Centre and Skinny Gene Project. Students need to develop an advertising campaign for these groups that are run on Google. The project is split into two parts. For part one, student groups create three different advertisements which run concurrently on Google. After 6 weeks students reconvene and look at the data and readjust the advertisements accordingly. Newly revised ads are then run on Google for another 6 weeks. On the last day of class, everyone comes together to look at the data, and compare successful and unsuccessful measures.
The second project she does in class is a website development project for small businesses in the San Diego area. Each client gets three websites, developed by the students, to choose from at the conclusion of the semester. The project helps support a number of small business owners locally each year who often struggle to build their first professional website and hire a marketing team, whether due to finances, time or logistics, and also helps to support students in launching their marketing careers with some hands-on experience.
Jonkoping International Business School in Sweden established a collaboration to engage students in the practice of crowd-funding, by means of a competition on ecological sustainability. Makers and Bankers is the first financial social platform for crowd-funding with no commission and a 0% interest rate based in Jonkoping. The company was founded by five graduates of the School. Students in the undergraduate course “New Venture Development” participate in the competition, and design social and sustainable venture projects.

Management Education Engaging High School Students in Sustainable Business

IYD_20152 copyAugust 12th was International Youth Day, a day focused on the engagement and participation of youth in sustainable development. This year’s theme was Youth Civic Engagement, to promote young people’s effective and inclusive civic engagement at all levels.

Business schools around the world are putting in a range of programmes and initiatives to educate and prepare their students to be part of a more sustainable future. However, they are also increasingly actively engaging with local high schools students, providing them with a range of opportunities to do the same. In celebration of International Youth Day here we look at some examples from around the world.

The University of Guelph College of Business and Economics (Canada) works in partnership with a local enterprise organisation, and a group of 46 students working in teams, to co-create a design solution to support youth (ages 18-25) engagement within the community. Topic areas include mental health, skill development, entrepreneurship, education, employment, voting and volunteerism. The teams have 90 minutes to craft a solution, prepare an elevator pitch, and present their pitch to the group. In 2014 the winning team was “Smash the Stigma,” a blog used to inspire conversation, raise awareness, and ultimately change the identity of mental illness by encouraging youth to go online and share their story.

Faculty, students and staff at the University of Porto (Portugal) are involved in the “Universidade Junior Project” (Junior University Project), organising a series of activities related to economics, management, and sustainability for more than 400 youth. The school also promotes a yearly contest focused on management for high school students.

Fairleigh Dickinson University (USA) engages several local high schools and their teachers in two yearly conferences focused on renewable energy and social entrepreneurship. In April 2015, STEM high school students were immersed in a real-world planning experience in which mixed-school teams designed a solar PV system for their schools. During the sustainability conference, students were given the challenge of creating a business idea that is judged by a panel. Students with the most innovative ideas were awarded scholarships, certificates and cash prizes. The school has also partnered with the University’s School of Education to provide training and support to primary, middle, and secondary school teachers and administrators on how to develop and implement problem-based interdisciplinary units focused on local and global sustainability issues that benefit their communities.

Staff and students at Nottingham Business School (UK) have joined forces with three Nottingham-based companies—Capital One, Eversheds and Ikano—to deliver a financial literacy programme called “Cheese Matters!” to children at the city’s secondary schools. The collaboration with Nottingham Business School in 2013 has contributed an expanded pool of volunteers to deliver the programme, and offered students opportunities to network with local businesses that foster cultures of socially responsible business.

IEDC (Slovenia) co-founded Challenge:Future, a global student competition that has engaged nearly 15,000 students, 18 to 30 years old, from ninety countries, to address global sustainability challenges through open collaboration. With six sustainability challenges explored—communication, transportation, media, health, youth in society, and prosperity—Challenge:Future has ignited unprecedented interest across universities and continents, and created a vibrant online youth community dedicated to advancement of the vision of sustainable development.

MoneyThink is a national non-profit organisation that equips urban high school students with personal finance skills. This is accomplished through the help of college students who mentor at local high schools. A chapter was founded at the University of Notre Dame (USA) in 2014, and so far it has grown to include over forty mentors, impacting over 100 high school students in the South Bend Community.

University of Waikato (New Zealand) organised the Annual Sustainable Enterprise & Ethics (SEE) Awards, which aim to give high school students the opportunity to learn about responsible management and business ethics through analysing the impact of New Zealand businesses on the wider community. Teams of 3-5 students are required to prepare a case study on a business around their community. Students have access to an online web portal where they can acquire a broader understanding of these fundamental concepts through online seminars and materials. The winning school receives a cash prize of $500.

Wayne State University (USA) is an active partners in the Teen Entrepreneurship Program. Selected high school students from around the area are given an intensive one-week on-campus training experience in entrepreneurship. The programme, also known as “Green Teens” centres around having the students (working in small groups) develop various “green” business-based projects.

University of New South Wales’ (Australia) Indigenous Winter School Program is for Indigenous high school students from across Australia, in grades 10-12, who choose a faculty to spend three days with as part of a week-long residential programme. Out of a maximum group of fifteen students per faculty, the Australian School of Business (ASB) hosted 14 students.

Last but not least, Koc University (Turkey) provides a range of scholarships yearly which target successful students from underdeveloped cities in Turkey. So far 118 students have been supported.

The International Year of Small Island Developing States

SIDSSmall Island Development States (SIDS) were first recognised as a distinct group of countries at the United Nations at the UN Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. There are currently 39 SIDS spread out across the Caribbean, the Pacific, Indian Ocean and South China Sea, which are home to over 63.2 million people. They are a very diverse group making up countries such as Comores with a GDP per capita of $830, to Singapore where it is $51,000.

The SIDS have their own peculiar vulnerabilities and characteristics, so that the difficulties they face in the pursuit of sustainable development are particularly severe and complex. Their unique characteristics can also present benefits and make ideal locations for pilot projects in renewable energy. For example, the island of Tokelau recently began producing 100% of its energy from solar sources.

2014 is the International Year of Small Island States, an opportunity to appreciate the extraordinary resilience and rich cultural heritage of the people of SIDS. To celebrate this, we feature three schools making a difference in the field of responsible business, in their respective SIDS countries: Trinidad and Tobago, Singapore and the Dominican Republic.

Trinidad and Tobago: Arthur Lok Jack Graduate School of Business

The Sustainable Renewable Energy Business Incubator Initiative at Arthur Lok Jack Graduate School of Business aims to grow and nurture companies operating within the emerging sustainable energy sector in Trinidad and Tobago, through the provision of business support, facilitation of access to markets and access to finance, as well as technology transfer and joint ventures. The incubator has hosted a range of companies including photovoltaic panels for solar generated energy, recycling and proper tire disposal for generation of supplemental fuel substitute, and power generation using tidal power.

The school continues to partner with the Energy Chamber in promoting responsible business on the island, through the annual CSR Leadership Awards intended to recognise companies of all sizes that demonstrate a deep and genuine commitment to sustainability. It also organises the Social Enterprise Hive, an annual event that highlights Social Enterprise within the community. Participants in this programme learn how to develop and maintain ethical practices by using role models from the community to connect what socially responsible practices look and feel like.

Singapore: Lee Kong Chian School of Business – Singapore Management University

The Lien Centre for Social Innovation at Singapore Management University was established in 2006 with the vision of being a thought leader and catalyst for positive social change in Singapore and beyond. The Centre connects with the community through its publications, its education programmes, open forums, and competitions. One of these programmes is iLeap, a professional education course for non-profit leaders, run annually since 2010 and consisting of 14 modules over 14 weeks. The course is designed to enhance the strategic leadership, governance, and operational management capabilities of non-profit executives, in collaboration with select community partners.

In 2013, the university launched a values-based education programme called SMU LifeLessons, that is implemented through co-curricular activities. Undergraduate students participate in the programme throughout their years at the university. Various topics—such as personal values along with business values, purpose, mission, conflict management, and developing a world view—are covered across different years using instructional methods that include case studies, journaling, and group discussions.

Dominican Republic: Barna Business School

Barna Business School launched the first Chair of Sustainability in the Caribbean region as part of the VICINI Center for Research on Sustainability, which aims to foster joint interests and to produce cutting-edge research, case studies and best practices that help organisations gain competitive advantage and be active agents in their quest to develop. Faculty at the business school are assessed against a learning outcome specifically related to Sustainability, and are developing a range of new case studies around the topic of sustainability and the local context.

Barna has also developed a think tank made up of the individuals responsible for sustainability at some of the leading companies in the Dominican Republic, who meet regularly to discuss to share their experiences. A Sustainability Club has also been put in place to engage alumni in these topics.


The International Year of Small Island Development States coincides with the 2014 Conference on Small Island Developing States in Apia, Samoa from 1 to 4 September. For more visit

Promoting Diversity in Business Schools – Montpellier Business School


Montpellier Business School has been granted the diversity designation, which the French government (AFNOR) awards to institutions that fight against discrimination, and educate all students regardless of their origins or social situations. I recently had the chance to speak with Caroline Cazi, Director of Human Resources, Diversity and Sustainability at Montpellier Business School about their approach.

Describe the school’s approach to diversity.

Montpellier Business School considers diversity under the scope of French legislation against discrimination. This includes gender, age, disability, origins, marital status, sexual orientation, customs, genetic characteristics, membership (true or supposed) to an ethnic group a nation, race, physical appearance, health, state of pregnancy, patronymic, political beliefs, religious beliefs, and labor-union activities.Our specific focus is around social and economic status, disabilities, and gender.

Today, firms and organisations need to recruit different skill sets and different profiles. Adding diversity leads to creativity, innovation, and increased performance. We encounter talented and motivated young adults that cannot afford the MBA, or disabled students who do not apply because they or their families don’t think they will be able to manage. It is important that we provide not just a space, but also support, for a range of different kinds of students to join the programme.

What are some of the programmes you have put in place for students?

We have a number of programmes aimed at high school students aged 13 to 17, introducing them to the business school and the opportunities we at Montpellier Business School can provide. For accepted students we provide financial aid (scholarships, apprenticeships, jobs in the administrative services, loans of honor, tutoring by partners’ managers), social aid programmes (provided by a psychologist, a social worker, a staff trained to help the handicap students), as well as academic support (remedial courses, e-learning assistance). There is also the possibility for students to follow the programme as an apprentice (3 weeks in company/1 week in the course) with the tuition paid for by the company and a salary given to the student. Last year we had 630 students in this programme up from 129 in 2007/2008. We have also set up a network of counselors to help students adapt their curriculum to their needs whether they be disabled students or young parents.

How is diversity approached on campus?

Diversity comes into every process in Montpellier Business School: human resources processes, research, teaching, relations with providers and firms, etc.In research, we have for example a team working on the link between diversity policies and global performance. A significant part of Montpellier Business School’s contribution to research in management is based on questions around diversity and global responsibility.

The curriculum includes content on not only the legislation against discrimination, but also the importance of recruiting and managing diversity in every organisation, and why it is important.

Our human resources processes have been audited by the French state through the AFNOR process (the French organisation for ISO). Recruitment, promotions, access to training, wages, and salaries are managed through clear and objective processes that do not allow discrimination.

What advice would you have for other schools thinking of putting something similar into place?

First, to ensure they have a clear diversity policy that is communicated to all their stakeholders, and second, that professors and administrative staff are able to communicate to beneficiaries. It is also important to have financial support to help students and to have enough staff to be able to provide support. A huge challenge for us has been to raise money to allow us to provide the services to increase diversity on campus. For this reason we created a Foundation.

The increasing involvement of our staff and our students through different actions linked with diversity and social equity is one of our successes. We have also been recognised by international and national accrediting bodies for our academic quality, and our commitment.

What’s next?

Our next step is to continue to improve our work in this area.  In May 2013 we combined HR, Diversity, and CSR into one department because of the importance that we place on all three topics in the business school. We also started a Foundation on campus that grants scholarships each year. Our next steps are to find new funds, to work with more high schools in our region, and to help support more students. We also plan to improve our communications and opportunities for disabled students, includingimproving distance learning solutions.

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