Using online roleplay simulations for teaching sustainability principles to engineering students

Publisher:
Dublin Institute of Technology, Tempus Publications
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Citation:
International Journal of Engineering Education, 2007, 23 (6), pp. 1162 - 1171
Issue Date:
2007-01
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Developing in students a deep understanding of the concept of sustainability, and how it applies to engineering, is a difficult task. Here we introduce a novel framework for developing online roleplay simulations for teaching sustainability principles to engineering students, based on a systems model of sustainability. Application of the framework is illustrated with a case study, the Mekong e-Sim, which is an online roleplay simulation set around proposed development issues in the Mekong region of South-East Asia. In 2005, the e-Sim was centred on public inquiries into two proposed development issues, including the Nam Theun II hydropower dam in Laos and the proposed Lancang project in China. The latter includes the blasting of rapids to improve river navigation and the construction of a large hydropower dam. The recommendations in relation to the proposed developments were to proceed with the Nam Theun II dam, but that approval of the Lancang project was unlikely. An evaluation of the 2005 Mekong e-Sim revealed that there was a high degree of interaction between roles about the social, environmental and economic issues surrounding the two proposed hydropower projects, and that the e-Sim was able to develop (i) awareness of the complexity of, and need for, sustainable development, (ii) the ability to see engineering issues from multiple perspectives, (iii) an understanding of the political, social, economic and scientific dimensions of engineering decision-making and (iv) a better understanding of the meaning of sustainable development.
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