Using Online Games to Teach Sustainability – Part 1

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Lately, I have been seeing quite a bit about games and how games can be used to not only help educate individuals about sustainability issues, but also help solve the challenges it poses. Games provide of the opportunity for friendly competition, lower the barriers to participation and can spur innovation. This three part series will look at a range of games, most available for free online.

Using gamers to collectively explore options: Fold it is a web platform that involves gamers in contributing to important scientific research. Individuals can compete to design new proteins that could be used to prevent or treat diseases like HIV. Planet Hunters allows individuals to look through the massive quantity of images coming back from NASA’s Kepler spacecraft to help look for planets amongst the stars.

Using games to encourage green behaviour: A growing number of sites such Recylebank reward individuals for everyday green behaviours, like recycling, with deals and discounts in the US.

Using games to educate about sustainability: Oceanopolis is a Facebook game based on designed to educate users on sustainable living, in which users protect their island paradise from being buried under recyclable rubbish. Sweatshop is a game that educates users about the realities that many workers around the world contend with each day. Players act as the factory manager and are responsible for hiring workers while ensuring that prices stay down and product numbers stay high.

Using games to show gamers the challenges that businesses face: Karma Tycoon offers gamers the chance to run their own NGO. Oiligarchy puts gamers in the seat of CEO of the world biggest oil company, confronting them with real challenges like corruption.

Using games to come up with creative solutions to the world’s problems: Evoke is a ten week crash course in changing the world. The goal of this social network game is to help empower people all over the world to come up with creative solutions to our most urgent social problems. The game was developed by the World Bank Institute and is appropriate for all ages.

Using games to raise awareness about particular issues: The Reebok Human Rights Foundation, International Crisis Group and mtvU created the Darfur Digital Activities Challenge, which brought together technology students to create games to help educate the public about the genocide in Darfur. One of the finalists, Darfur is Dying, requires players to negotiate forces that threaten the survival of their refugee camps.

Using Games for Good: PSFK and Al Gore, with The Climate Reality Project, collaborated in an open source Gaming for Good Challenge where gamers were encouraged to create games that build awareness, promote fundraising, solve the unsolvable, embed knowledge, teach new skills or leverage collective manpower. One of the finalists was the very popular Facebook game, FarmVille, which gives players the change to run their own farms.

Do you use any games or simulations in your classes? Please share your experiences in the discussions area below.

Online and connected: Bringing Sustainability courses online

More and more business schools are exploring the wide range of ways that they can use the Internet to not just promote their programmes, but to enhance them. This is the first of a series of blogs looking at how business schools are using the Internet to communicate and engage with not just students but the wider community regarding sustainability issues.

One of the ways is by providing programme online content for students. There are already a number of schools offering degree progammes online, such as Marlboro College in the USA with their MBA in Managing for Sustainability. Antioch University also in the USA has a new Sustainable MBA which held a virtual open house on their website last March to introduce prospective students to their programme.
A growing number of business schools are using the web to provide the public with a range of free online courses on topics relating to sustainability and responsible leadership. The Open University Business School in the UK provides a range of individual courses and programs focused on sustainable business via distance and online learning. Their OpenLearn website gives free access to course materials and Learning Space, including many free study units, each with a discussion forum. Sample lectures from many of their courses are also available from iTunes U, a database of thousands of free lectures from all around the world. MIT in the US has an Opencourseware platform which provides over 2000 courses online free of charge, including a range of courses from the business school, covering topics relating to responsible management.

FGV-EAESP, in collaboration with Walmart Brazil, has developed three free online courses about sustainability. The first course, “Sustainability in everyday life: guidelines for citizens” launched on February 1 in Portuguese and addresses the importance of responsible consumption. The course is offered through the OpenCourseWare Consortium, a collaboration of higher education institutions and associated organisations from around the world creating a broad and deep body of open educational content using a shared model.

The Escuela de organizacion industrial in Spain, also a member of the OpenCourseWare Consortium has a programme called Salvia. Salvia is an institutional repository of books, case studies, projects, research etc. produced by the school on the topic of sustainability available to the public. EOI also has a wide range of blogs on the topics of commons, sustainability and responsible innovation and is active on a wide range of social media platforms.

Grenoble Ecole de Management in France created OPEN RIM – Responsible Innovation and Management, an online knowledge sharing and learning platform financed by the Rhône-Alpes region.  It is kept up to date by students and faculty who develop online content including courses and educational materials, student initiatives and projects. The web platform will be available to the general public during the 2010-2011 academic year with several online courses, including responsibility in the global economy, acting on sustainable development, and business ethics, among others.

The Innovation School at EUROMED in France is an online learning platform that acts as a knowledge database and provides a range of online course modules. Each student can use the platform to personalise his/her own learning path by choosing which areas he/she wants to learn about. Students can browse through this global tool, which is accessible from anywhere in the world, and check his/her own level of understanding and acquisition of these concepts, look for internships, access a specific module etc.

Is your university exploring using the Internet to provide online courses to students or to the wider community? Share your experiences in the comments area below.

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