Satisfying sustainability skills at a distance

Burnley, Stephen (2008). Satisfying sustainability skills at a distance. International Journal of Performability Engineering, 4(4) pp. 371–384.



The supply of environmental goods and services is a large global industry and is predicted to increase by 45% by 2015. This will generate an increased demand for environmental professionals which will, in part, be met by people studying on a part-time and distance learning basis to updating their existing knowledge and acquiring new skills. Teaching practical subjects such as environmental engineering by distance learning presents several challenges in terms of ensuring that students gain practical fieldwork and laboratory skills as well as experience of working on projects. Students taking courses leading to the Open University’s Diploma in Pollution Control gain such experience through the use of a home experiment kit that allows them to investigate their own environment while developing key skills. Students engaged on an environmental impact assessment project use a multi-media resources DVD containing virtual reality views of the proposed development, maps of the region, supporting technical data, interviews with experts and advice from a virtual tutor. A survey of students that have undertaken these courses show that the majority are studying to develop or change their careers and over a third of the students received financial support from their employers.

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