Sustainability in CSE Education Workshop Summary Notes

15th May 2019

Experiences in incorporating sustainability in CSE education – what’s happening now?

  • All Chalmers Bachelors students have to take 7.5 credits in sustainability and ethics – not a requirement for GU students.
  • There is a Chalmers course in sustainable computing, potentially, any GU could take the course – DIT196, Technology for a Sustainable Global Society.
  • No requirement for direct entry Master’s students, particularly international, to have any courses in sustainability.
  • Masters course – Sustainable Computing – also has entry requirements which may act as a barrier to some students. There is the ability to teach some of the pre-requirements on the course, but at the moment the course is not set up like that.
  • A few more CSE courses contain rotating sustainability content, but not in syllabus.
  • Student representation through student groups, active in sustainability course at Bachelors level, and through the Hackathon – not in sustainability groups but in student unions – particularly not CSE students.
  • Sustainability and ethics taught within generic and transferable skills (GTS) – a requirement for all Chalmers PhD students, and some GU students.
  • Frances and Hakan’s course – Sustainable development and ethics for computer science – Master’s course from within Earth, Space and Environment – optional Master’s course
  • Current activities: hackathon, Challenge Lab, Bachelor course and Master’s course – new programme and associated course – new Chalmers-wide tracks in AI; sustainable transport; health and sport technology, new pathways through existing programmes (pilot phase).
  • There is a Chalmers library of sustainability resources for teaching, which includes best approaches, roles and programmes

Challenges and barriers to incorporating sustainability in CSE education

  • Chalmers central administration holds responsibility, and therefore there has to be a pulldown into departments by programme managers or those responsible for each area.
  • What would be mandated – do you write sustainability into a syllabus or mandate a person to teach it? What happens when teachers change on courses?
  • The problem of mandating it into a syllabus means you have to teach it, but what happens if you don’t have the guest lecturers to do so? What if your guest lecturers are poor, you would still be mandated to use them? People don’t want it mandated because it’s just another requirement to be met – time pressures and too much added to the syllabus already!
  • You can open more courses available to more students, but that doesn’t mean you will get accepted or it will count towards your degree – administrative
  • Also, how much do students want to move away from the suggested pathways and electives, even if other courses are offered and count towards the degree?
  • Chalmers understanding and interpretation of what sustainability means and how it should be taught.
  • Students no interested or are confused by the interdisciplinary nature of sustainability; don’t have the skills to be reflective or work with problems without solutions; computer engineering students not conducive to groupwork; unwillingness to accept supervision as associated with failure and weakness.
  • Is it good to be taught in the 5th semester? Allows for a skills and knowledge to be pre-taught by other courses, but then there needs to be a link between all courses and teachers.
  • There has been increased interest in sustainability offered in courses over the years, but attendance is low for these lectures – so, students have been forced to attend through putting questions in the exam linked to those specific lectures.
  • Are there incentives for teaching sustainability compared to sustainability in research? Adding trends into syllabus just adds to a workload with no incentive. (Load in CSE is exceptionally high already)How many times do you rewrite programmes for different tracks and trends?
  • Students experiences of guest lecturers and sustainability have been hit and miss in the past – often repetitive and too abstract for the students to grasp. How do you sell it to students – job markets and skills developments!
  • As student knowledge of sustainability increases the courses need to reflect that… resulting in a constant flux of change.
  • Increasing knowledge of CSE in where the push comes from – top-down or bottom-up – who to contact for what?
  • Challenge Lab is great idea, but theses are very difficult to write in CSE and how to show competency in the field.

What resources are needed going forward?

  • Sustainability markers for Chalmers courses, as with GU. But, what do you mark, the potential or that there has been some sustainability taught in the course previously? Possibility of highlighting sustainability within previous course PMs.
  • Civil engineering has completely rewritten their course to integrate sustainability as a learning track – is it the aim to do this to all courses? Or potential to offer one course each semester with sustainability in it so students can arrange their own sustainability tracks.
  • Above suggestion requires matrix of coordination within each programme and thus requires all staff buy-in, adding more time to people’s workloads.
  • Requirement for interdisciplinary collaboration in writing and running courses to include sustainability in all its forms.
  • There appears to be money available to redevelop courses at the programme or department level, potentially to include sustainability, but the problem is finding the people with the time.
  • Definition of sustainability within CSE – examples and definitions, how does this fit to Chalmers’ definition and national goal requirements?
  • TA for sustainability – do they work across multiple courses for continuity and consistency (but not hard-coding it into courses), or have one responsible person per programme?
  • Toolkit of resources and concrete examples to be used within courses – specifically linked to CSE and actioning immediate social changes.
  • More outreach to develop students and staff perceptions of CSE and sustainability – not just coding of predetermined innovations and solutions.

To Do for 2019

  • Use the findings to create sustainability in CSE goals for 2020.
  • Find pilot activities and actions, 2-3 for next year. Possibilities:
    • Create repository of CSE sustainability examples and case studies for use in projects and lectures
    • Research process of gaining a sustainability marker for GU courses, share findings with faculty
    • Find CSE-specific student representatives active on student unions
    • Showcase sustainability in CSE activities at Act! Sustainable in November