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COVID-19: the impact of a global crisis on sustainable development teaching

Leal Filho, Walter and Price, Elizabeth and Wall, Tony and Shiel, Chris and Azeiteiro, Ulisses M and Mifsud, Mark and Brandli, Luciana and Farinha, Carla Sofia and Caeiro, Sandra and Salvia, Amanda Lange and Vasconcelos, Claudio Ruy and de Sousa, Luiza Olim and Pace, Paul and Doni, Federica and Veiga Avila, Lucas and Fritzen, Bárbara and LeVasseur, Todd Jared (2021) COVID-19: the impact of a global crisis on sustainable development teaching. Environment, Development and Sustainability. ISSN 1387-585X

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Abstract

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a global crisis, one which also influences the ways sustainability is being taught at universities. This paper undertakes an analysis of the extent to which COVID-19 as a whole and the lockdown it triggered in particular, which has led to the suspension of presence-based teaching in universities worldwide and influenced teaching on matters related to sustainable development. By means of a worldwide survey involving higher education institutions across all continents, the study has identified a number of patterns, trends and problems. The results from the study show that the epidemic has significantly affected teaching practices. The lockdowns have led to a surge in the use of on-line communication tools as a partial replacement to normal lessons. In addition, many faculty teaching sustainability in higher education have strong competencies in digital literacy. The sampled higher education educations have—as a whole—adequate infrastructure to continue to teach during the lockdowns. Finally, the majority of the sample revealed that they miss the interactions via direct face-to-face student engagement, which is deemed as necessary for the effective teaching of sustainability content. The implications of this paper are two-fold. Firstly, it describes how sustainability teaching on sustainable development has been affected by the lockdown. Secondly, it describes some of the solutions deployed to overcome the problem. Finally, the paper outlines the fact that the COVID-19 pandemic may serve the purpose of showing how university teaching on sustainability may be improved in the future, taking more advantage of modern information technologies.

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