Promoting sustainable human development in engineering: Assessment of online courses within continuing professional development strategies

Agustí Pérez-Foguet, Boris Lazzarini, Richard Giné, Enrique Velo, Alejandra Boni, Manuel Sierra, Guido Zolezzi, Rhoda Trimingham
Journal of Cleaner Production

Higher Education Institutions play a critical role in societies transition towards sustainable development, educating future professionals and decision makers. In the last few decades, a number of technical universities have devoted major efforts to integrating sustainable development into engineering curricula. There is still, however, an increasing need to further transform learning and training environments and build capacity of educators and trainers on sustainable development issues.

Against this background, this paper assesses the role of online training courses, within continuing professional development strategies, in promoting sustainable human development in engineering de-grees. It was built upon the implementation of a European initiative, the Global Dimension in Engi-neering Education, promoted by a transdisciplinary consortium of technical universities and non-governmental organisations.

In terms of method, this study analyses two sets of quantitative and qualitative indicators to assess i) the perceived quality/relevance of the training proposals, and ii) the learning acquisition of participants. Quantitative indicators were complemented by a descriptive analysis of findings from a semi-structured survey. The results provide evidence that online learning can be an effective approach for continuing professional development of academics. The findings also suggest that participants perceived online courses’ contents and curricula, developed jointly by academics and practitioners of non-governmental organisations, as relevant and useful for integrating sustainability principles in teaching activities. To conclude, authors recommend the leaders of higher educational institutions to explore the integration of online courses addressed to faculty into university policy and strategies, as a way to promote professional development and the engagement of academics on sustainable development.