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Special Issue "The Future of Education for Sustainable Development – Between the Power of Technology and the Need for Responsible Citizenship"

A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050). This special issue belongs to the section "Sustainable Education and Approaches".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 September 2020) | Viewed by 27628

Special Issue Editors

Dr. Christian Rammel
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
RCE Vienna, University of Business and Economics Vienna, Vienna, Austria
Interests: education for sustainable development; transformative education; sustainability-driven entrepreneurship; change and adaptation; resilience
Dr. Clemens Mader
E-Mail Website1 Website2
Guest Editor
1.Technology and Society Lab, Empa – Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology, St.Gallen, Switzerland
2. Sustainability Team, University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland
Interests: sustainability assessment; technology assessment; education for sustainable development; education–research–policy–practice interface

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Over the course of the 4th industrial revolution of digitalization, we have experienced or encountered new trends in society and technology that strongly affect the way we learn, teach, and understand knowledge and education. New technology applications, such as blockchain, machine learning, MOOCs or virtual learning environments, are being increasingly used for teaching and learning. There is, not only a high degree of expectation, but also criticism of the societal impacts these new technological applications might have. This is further echoed within the global debate of the effects of emerging technologies on education, in general, and education for sustainable development (ESD), in particular.

Beyond the power of technological applications, recent socio-economic and ecological challenges show that we do not lack sufficient knowledge for change, but we lack people who are willing and able to engage and make change. Especially in the area of climate change research, our recent problems are not derived from a lack of scientific data and technological opportunities for dissemination, but from a lack of adequate methods of teaching and knowledge exchange, which can initiate and foster active engagement and responsible citizenship.

ESD aims at new ways of learning that enable citizens to actively shape sustainable socio-ecological transformations. This Special Issues calls for cases, reviews, and research articles to discuss technological applications in the transdisciplinary light of responsible citizenship and engagement for sustainable development.

This Special Issue is open to submissions of original articles, subject to a rigorous peer review, covering the recent debate on technological applications in education and learning environments, with special attention on learnings from the application of MOOCs, blockchain, artificial intelligence, and virtual learning environments. We look forward to transdisciplinary contributions from sustainability and technology sciences, education studies and the wide range of research in ESD.

Dr. Christian Rammel
Dr. Clemens Mader
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All submissions that pass pre-check are peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Sustainability is an international peer-reviewed open access semimonthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 2000 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • education for sustainable development (ESD)
  • transdisciplinary learning environment
  • responsible citizenship
  • engagement
  • technology applications
  • digitalization
  • virtual reality
  • machine learning

Published Papers (12 papers)

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Research

Article
The Digitalization Sustainability Matrix: A Participatory Research Tool for Investigating Digitainability
Sustainability 2020, 12(21), 9283; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12219283 - 09 Nov 2020
Cited by 14 | Viewed by 2260
Abstract
Rapidly increasing applications of Digitalization and Artificial Intelligence (D&AI) are already impacting our day-to-day life substantially, along with social and economic prospects worldwide. The accelerating utilization of D&AI has stirred the discussion concerning the responsible application of technologies for assisting the implementation of [...] Read more.
Rapidly increasing applications of Digitalization and Artificial Intelligence (D&AI) are already impacting our day-to-day life substantially, along with social and economic prospects worldwide. The accelerating utilization of D&AI has stirred the discussion concerning the responsible application of technologies for assisting the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). D&AI can raise productivity, lower costs, reduce resource intensity, and enable efficient public services. However, there are also risks and downsides that we all must identify and tackle to address any potential short-/long-term undesired impact. Notably, there exists a gap in knowledge about the mutual relationships between D&AI and the 17 SDGs. To address this gap and gather broader perspectives of experts on the potential uses and pitfalls of D&AI for SDGs and their respective indicators, we propose a participatory research approach: the Digitalization–Sustainability Matrix (DSM). The DSM serves as a means for collaborative methods, such as participatory action research (PAR), for the knowledge production process. We exercised the DSM in the Digitainable Thinkathon event, a gathering of experts from diverse sectors and backgrounds for capturing the action-oriented dialogues concerning the use of D&AI technologies for the indicators of SDGs 4 (Education) and 13 (Climate Action). As a tool, the DSM aided in the discussion by systematically capturing transdisciplinary knowledge generated on several aspects, such as: (1) the need for research–practice nexus action; (2) data-capturing efforts and social considerations; (3) collaborative planning for utilizing the power of D&AI; (4) lessons from the diverse community to encourage the purposeful use of technologies. Overall, the proposed approach effectively triggered a discussion on the crucial aspects that need to be considered for D&AI’s practices, a step towards deep-rooting the transdisciplinary perspectives for meaningful use of D&AI for SDGs. Full article
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Article
Prediction of Coding Intricacy in a Software Engineering Team through Machine Learning to Ensure Cooperative Learning and Sustainable Education
Sustainability 2020, 12(21), 8986; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12218986 - 29 Oct 2020
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 885
Abstract
Coding deliverables are vital part of the software project. Teams are formed to develop a software project in a term. The performance of the team for each milestone results in the success or failure of the project. Coding intricacy is a major issue [...] Read more.
Coding deliverables are vital part of the software project. Teams are formed to develop a software project in a term. The performance of the team for each milestone results in the success or failure of the project. Coding intricacy is a major issue faced by students as coding is believed to be a complex field demanding skill and practice. Future education demands a smart environment for understanding students. Prediction of the coding intricacy level in teams can assist in cultivating a cooperative educational environment for sustainable education. This study proposed a boosting-based approach of a random forest (RF) algorithm of machine learning (ML) for predicting the coding intricacy level among software engineering teams. The performance of the proposed approach is compared with viable ML algorithms to evaluate its excellence. Results revealed promising results for the prediction of coding intricacy by boosting the RF algorithm as compared to bagging, J48, sequential minimal optimization (SMO), multilayer perceptron (MLP), and Naïve Bayes (NB). Logistic regression-based boosting (LogitBoost) and adaptive boosting (AdaBoost) are outperforming with 85.14% accuracy of prediction. The concerns leading towards high coding intricacy level can be resolved by discussing with peers and instructors. The proposed approach can ensure a responsible attitude among software engineering teams and drive towards fulfilling the goals of education for sustainable development by optimizing the learning environment. Full article
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Article
Big Data and the Ethical Implications of Data Privacy in Higher Education Research
Sustainability 2020, 12(20), 8744; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12208744 - 21 Oct 2020
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 1527
Abstract
Despite the claimed worth and huge interest regarding the increasing volumes of complex data sets and the rewarding promise to improve research, there is, however, a growing concern regarding data privacy that affects both qualitative and quantitative higher education research. Within the contemporary [...] Read more.
Despite the claimed worth and huge interest regarding the increasing volumes of complex data sets and the rewarding promise to improve research, there is, however, a growing concern regarding data privacy that affects both qualitative and quantitative higher education research. Within the contemporary debates on the impact of Big Data on the nature of higher education research and the effective ways to harmonize Big Data practice with privacy restrictions and regulations, this study sets out to qualitatively examine current issues regarding data privacy, anonymity, informed consent and confidentiality in data-centric higher education research, with a focus on the data collector, data subject and data user. We argue that within current regulations, data protection of research subjects concerns more data collection and disclosure and insufficiently describes use, having procedural implications for both the complex nature of higher education (HE) research and the type of research data being collected. We work our argument through an examination of several factors that call for a reconsideration of data privacy and access to private information in HE research. The conclusions indicate that Big Data-centric HE research is increasingly becoming a mainstream research paradigm which needs to address critical data privacy issues before being widely embraced. Full article
Article
Bringing Policy Decisions to the People—Education for Sustainable Development through a Digital Simulation Game
Sustainability 2020, 12(20), 8743; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12208743 - 21 Oct 2020
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1151
Abstract
After repeated warnings by the European Commission regarding high nitrate concentrations in German waters, in 2017, Germany implemented a new fertilizer application ordinance (FO) with stricter nitrate value limits. The new regulations have severely affected agricultural regions in Germany and could lead to [...] Read more.
After repeated warnings by the European Commission regarding high nitrate concentrations in German waters, in 2017, Germany implemented a new fertilizer application ordinance (FO) with stricter nitrate value limits. The new regulations have severely affected agricultural regions in Germany and could lead to a high number of job losses if farmers must conform to the new regulations and do not implement new production methods. Therefore, a simulation game was developed to educate farmers and residents about the new FO and to facilitate adaptation to the new environmentally friendly legislation. The aims of the newly developed simulation game are to educate residents and farmers in affected regions about the new FO and to develop new ideas on how to comply with the new regulations. The aims of the present study are, first, to research participants’ evaluation of the simulation game and, second, to assess the effect of the simulation game on subjective knowledge, internal efficacy, and attitude towards the new FO. This pre- and post-comparison design study was based on pre-test and post-test with participants in two games (N = 90). The results were analyzed using descriptive statistics, multiple regression analyses, qualitative content analysis, and mean value comparisons. The simulation game had a positive effect on participants’ subjective knowledge (Cohen’s d 0.65) and internal efficacy (Cohen’s d 0.36), but it did not have an effect on their attitudes toward the new FO, and it was shown to slightly lower their interest in agriculture politics (Cohen’s d −0.33). The participants reported that the game made them more aware of both the difficulty and necessity of finding compromises in the field of agriculture politics. Overall, the simulation was rated very positively and was perceived as interesting and informative by the participants. Full article
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Article
Validation of the Smart City as a Sustainable Development Knowledge Tool: The Challenge of Using Technologies in Education during COVID-19
Sustainability 2020, 12(20), 8384; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12208384 - 12 Oct 2020
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1417
Abstract
The objective of this research was to design and validate a questionnaire for teachers on the knowledge and use of smart city concepts and their usefulness in online learning during the COVID-19 pandemic based on a sustainable approach at different educational levels. It [...] Read more.
The objective of this research was to design and validate a questionnaire for teachers on the knowledge and use of smart city concepts and their usefulness in online learning during the COVID-19 pandemic based on a sustainable approach at different educational levels. It is important to analyze the use of online education based on the construction of intelligent learning environments, which favor the interaction between the environment and the student. With a quasi-experimental methodology, the psychometric properties of the questionnaire were analyzed through structural equation modeling (SEM), and the model was adjusted through a multivariate regression analysis to relate response patterns to a set of latent factors that cannot be directly observed, but exist in continuous dimensions of the people evaluated, and to create a valid and reliable instrument as a measurement tool using a sample of n = 973 subjects. The sample distribution consisted of 22.36% primary school teachers, 59.01% high school teachers, and 18.56% university teachers. The results showed a high reliability and construct validity through two models, and adjustment of the original model produced better goodness-of-fit parameters. We conclude that the designed questionnaire is a useful and valid tool for understanding how teachers have approached online teaching during the pandemic and their knowledge and use of Smart City concepts. Full article
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Article
Improving Knowledge about the Sustainable Development Goals through a Collaborative Learning Methodology and Serious Game
Sustainability 2020, 12(15), 6169; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12156169 - 31 Jul 2020
Cited by 13 | Viewed by 1646
Abstract
The university is a key agent in the process of transformation towards sustainability within the framework of the 2030 Agenda. This study aims to analyze the usefulness of the collaborative learning methodology through a serious game (SG) in the university environment to increase [...] Read more.
The university is a key agent in the process of transformation towards sustainability within the framework of the 2030 Agenda. This study aims to analyze the usefulness of the collaborative learning methodology through a serious game (SG) in the university environment to increase the level of knowledge and the importance given to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by students. Through ex ante and ex post questionnaires, the degree of variation in the knowledge acquired and importance given to the SDGs was measured. To compare the midrange of these two samples and determine whether differences existed, we applied the Student and Wilcoxon t-tests. The results indicate that the methodology used produced an improvement in knowledge about the SDGs. Therefore, it is concluded that the university should promote this type of workshop and SG activities to contribute to the achievement of the SDGs, both in the Bachelor’s Degree in Primary Education and in degrees of other disciplines. Moreover, we have encouraged active learning of the SDGs through collaborative workshops using the design thinking method and an SG called “The Island”, which, based on certain economic, social and environmental information, puts students in a position to govern resources to meet the needs of its population. Full article
Article
Sustainability in Higher Education: The Relationship between Work-Life Balance and XR E-Learning Facilities
Sustainability 2020, 12(14), 5872; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12145872 - 21 Jul 2020
Cited by 24 | Viewed by 3057
Abstract
Nowadays, collaborative learning is proving to offer solutions to new inclusivity research challenges, and most importantly, can help ensure sustainable education. Collaborative learning can strengthen positive attitudes towards learning, improve performance in academic results, and enhance self-esteem, by promoting interaction and mutual support [...] Read more.
Nowadays, collaborative learning is proving to offer solutions to new inclusivity research challenges, and most importantly, can help ensure sustainable education. Collaborative learning can strengthen positive attitudes towards learning, improve performance in academic results, and enhance self-esteem, by promoting interaction and mutual support among young people. Extended reality (XR), associated with collaborative learning, offers a further advantage by facilitating deep comprehensive learning. An online survey was conducted to investigate respondents’ views on the impact and influence of virtual technologies on work, study, and social life. Respondents (n = 1032) were recruited from Serbia, Romania, and Hungary, from five public and private universities. The study reveals students’ perceptions of e-learning and XR immersion. The data were analyzed by using a combination of descriptive techniques from PSPP (GNU open source SPSS—Statistical Package for the Social Sciences, Free Software Foundation, Boston, MA, USA), and by designing a regression model to evaluate the work-life balance. This regression model shows that the work-life balance is positively influenced by the inclusion of XR facilities in the e-learning process, along with an increased level of culture and living standard. The higher living standard of a student is associated with higher digital competence and more financial resources available to invest in technology. Full article
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Article
The Smart Classroom as a Means to the Development of ESD Methodologies
Sustainability 2020, 12(7), 3010; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12073010 - 09 Apr 2020
Cited by 29 | Viewed by 3503
Abstract
Educational institutions are envisioned as principal agents for addressing the current sustainability challenge that society is facing. Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) is transformational and concerns learning content and outcomes, pedagogy and the learning environment in itself. ESD entails rethinking the learning environment [...] Read more.
Educational institutions are envisioned as principal agents for addressing the current sustainability challenge that society is facing. Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) is transformational and concerns learning content and outcomes, pedagogy and the learning environment in itself. ESD entails rethinking the learning environment (physical and virtual) in line with sustainable development, which implies classrooms’ transformation towards learner engagement, formative assessments and active methodologies. This paper responds to this need through exploring the relationship between Smart Classrooms and four widely used ESD methodologies (project or problem-based learning, case study, simulation and cooperative inquiry), identifying how the dimensions and categories of the characteristics of Smart Classrooms can contribute and lead to the implementation of ESD methodologies in real teaching practice in an effective way. The method used in this study consisted of a literature review of both theoretical frameworks separately, ESD and Smart Classrooms, and a subsequent expert analysis to identify the interrelation between both. The Smart Classroom shows a high level of adequacy for using problem and project-based learning, case study and cooperative inquiry methods because of its characteristics in terms of technology developments, environmental conditions and processes. Simulation is the ESD methodology with the lowest level of adequacy in a Smart Classroom, because it is primarily held online rather than through face-to-face teaching. Smart Education facilitates the putting in practice of ESD processes as it enables the creation of intelligent, sustainable, resource-efficient, personalised and adaptive learning environments. Further empirical research is needed to explore the influence that the Smart Classroom has in enabling ESD processes and practices, and to identify students’ and teachers’ needs at different education levels. Additionally, teacher training programmes focused on the correct use of Smart Classrooms and on the digital competence of teachers are critical to its successful implementation. Full article
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Article
Sustaining a Culture of Excellence: Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) on Land Management
Sustainability 2019, 11(12), 3280; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11123280 - 14 Jun 2019
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 3104
Abstract
Increasing globalization and the emergence of disruptive learning technologies have derived a pedagogical paradigm shift from the conventional on-campus higher education to the digital and online higher education. Massive open online courses (MOOCs), especially, are the most notable manifestation of educational transformation. We [...] Read more.
Increasing globalization and the emergence of disruptive learning technologies have derived a pedagogical paradigm shift from the conventional on-campus higher education to the digital and online higher education. Massive open online courses (MOOCs), especially, are the most notable manifestation of educational transformation. We developed a MOOC entitled Introduction to Land Management (ILMx MOOC) for potential entrants to the land management domain, or for those who simply want to become aware of land-related challenges and brought together with thousands of participants worldwide with freely accessible course content and rooms for open discussion. Our experience with ILMx MOOC has accumulated new knowledge and insight across a broad range of questioning on how to design and develop alternative courseware and teach using digital learning technologies in land management. This paper examines an account of emerging patterns of demographics, geography, and course engagement throughout the ILMx MOOC. We found that the subject of land management in digital higher education affects gender gaps in enrolments. We also assume that the topic of land management has been globally recognized as an important nexus to guide professionals in international development studies and practices as well as sustainability research. However, new behavioral patterns of learners were also observed. They participated in the learning process very enthusiastically only during the first month of the course and this seems to be due to lack of motivation and interest to induce learners efficiently into the learning content. We believe that the culture of excellence in land management needs to be accompanied by engaged excellence and new forms of educational culture and work processes. This means that the high-quality and rigorous knowledge we produce and accumulate is coupled closely with new styles of educational development and delivery, new types of resources and hardware, and extensive engagement with countries, localities, people, and practices of those who handle land matters. Full article
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Article
Education for Sustainable Development 4.0: Lessons Learned from the University of Graz, Austria
Sustainability 2019, 11(8), 2347; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11082347 - 19 Apr 2019
Cited by 20 | Viewed by 2606
Abstract
Higher education for sustainable development plays a crucial role in the transformation of society towards a more sustainable pathway of development. The new trends in society and technology experienced in the course of the fourth industrial revolution come with challenges, but also provide [...] Read more.
Higher education for sustainable development plays a crucial role in the transformation of society towards a more sustainable pathway of development. The new trends in society and technology experienced in the course of the fourth industrial revolution come with challenges, but also provide opportunities. In this paper, we reflect on the conceptual basis of education for sustainable development as approached at the University of Graz, Austria, and contrast this basis with the expectations stated by students. The results showed that students acknowledged the high importance of digital competencies and found it highly important to be confronted with future-oriented topics and contents. Interestingly, students seemed skeptical about online course formats and digitalization of teaching and clearly preferred the interactive classroom experience. Students also rated international topics and transdisciplinary thinking as fairly important. Interestingly, a relatively high share of students only saw mediocre added value in experiencing international classrooms, and in having international teachers, when it comes to meeting their top priority, which is being competitive in the job market. Education for sustainable development in the future will not only need to prepare students for international, interdisciplinary, and digital environments, but also will need to meet the expectations of demanding and ambitious students and provide them with bright career prospects. Full article
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Article
Massive Open Online Courses in the Initial Training of Social Science Teachers: Experiences, Methodological Conceptions, and Technological Use for Sustainable Development
Sustainability 2019, 11(3), 578; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11030578 - 22 Jan 2019
Cited by 25 | Viewed by 2580
Abstract
This article analyzes, on the one hand, the perception of future teachers (n = 162) on the degree of acquisition of the Digital Teaching Competition (CCD) in the teachers’ formative contexts. On the other hand, this article analyzes future teachers’ social representations [...] Read more.
This article analyzes, on the one hand, the perception of future teachers (n = 162) on the degree of acquisition of the Digital Teaching Competition (CCD) in the teachers’ formative contexts. On the other hand, this article analyzes future teachers’ social representations about the potential contribution of educational technologies, in particular the massive open online courses (MOOCs), to comply with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). A questionnaire validated by three Spanish universities is applied, and a quantitative analysis of the data is used. The results obtained inform the educational need to transfer the progress and generalization of information and communication technologies (ICT) for education for sustainable development in teacher training curricula. Full article
Article
Semantic Analysis of Learners’ Emotional Tendencies on Online MOOC Education
Sustainability 2018, 10(6), 1921; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10061921 - 08 Jun 2018
Cited by 37 | Viewed by 2435
Abstract
As a new education product in the information age, Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) command momentous public attention for their unexpected rise and flexible application. However, the striking contrast between the high rate of registration and the low rate of completion has put [...] Read more.
As a new education product in the information age, Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) command momentous public attention for their unexpected rise and flexible application. However, the striking contrast between the high rate of registration and the low rate of completion has put their development into a bottleneck. In this paper, we present a semantic analysis model (SMA) to track the emotional tendencies of learners in order to analyze the acceptance of the courses based on big data from homework completion, comments, forums and other real-time update information on the MOOC platforms. Through emotional quantification and machine learning calculations, graduation probability can be predicted for different stages of learning in real time. Especially for learners with emotional tendencies, customized instruction could be made in order to improve completion and graduation rates. Furthermore, we classified the learners into four categories according to course participation time series and emotional states. In the experiments, we made a comprehensive evaluation of the students’ overall learning status by kinds of learners and emotional tendencies. Our proposed method can effectively recognize learners’ emotional tendencies by semantic analysis, providing an effective solution for MOOC personalized teaching, which can help achieve education for sustainable development. Full article
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