Engaging with Environmental Management: The Use of E-Learning for Motivation and Skills Enhancement

Engaging with Environmental Management: The Use of E-Learning for Motivation and Skills Enhancement

Jim Wright (University of Southampton, UK), Michael J. Clark (University of Southampton, UK), Sally J. Priest (Middlesex University, UK) and Rizwan Nawaz (University of Leeds, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59904-980-9.ch006
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Abstract

There is an inherent antithesis between environmental management as professional practice and as concept or philosophy. Not only does this antithesis pose a problem in teaching environmental management, but also learners often have difficulty with the broad-based, multi-disciplinary nature of the subject and the value-laden nature of many environmental management decisions. Furthermore, field experience is an inherent part of environmental management and fieldwork is thus a necessary component of most environmental management modules. E-learning offers a mechanism through which to address these potential problems, through virtual practical experience and by serving as a virtual management laboratory. In this chapter, the undergraduate focus of a module on Upland Catchment Management and on environmental management is compared with e-learning for postgraduate delivery (a module on GIS for Environmental Management). The differing styles of delivery highlight the flexibility of e-learning as a vehicle for acquiring skills and knowledge, and underpin the claim that the result is an enhanced engagement with the practice of informed management.
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The Challenge Of Teaching Environmental Management As A Discipline

Environmental management is a discipline that seeks to co-ordinate development so as “to improve human well-being and mitigate or prevent further damage to the Earth and its organisms” (Barrow, 1999). Environmental management emerged as an academic subject during the 1970s and 1980s in response to a growing awareness of environmental degradation. The scope of the discipline is contested, with some arguing that many environmental management courses have a rather technocentric and state-led focus that should be broadened to consider human interactions with attitudes to the environment more generally (Bryant & Wilson, 1998). Others (Diduck, 1999) have argued that the discipline should facilitate public engagement with the environment, enabling both empowerment of local communities and social action in response to emerging environmental problems. In this chapter, we follow Barrow’s definition of environmental management, but paying particular attention to the different perspectives on the environment of the public, environmental managers, business, and other stakeholders.

Within geography, environmental management is being increasingly recognized within the discipline as an area of importance and is considered by some to be the third category of geography, incorporating the interactions between the physical and human elements (QAA, 2000). As a subject within geographical education, environmental management is seen as a potential means of enhancing the employability of geography graduates, as well as meeting a growing student interest in issues of sustainability. Clark (1998), for example, describes the use of student work placements involving environmental auditing of different companies as one means of boosting employability.

However, teaching and learning in environmental management presents several discipline-specific challenges, namely:

  • The difficulty of teaching an inherently practical, applied subject such as environmental management;

  • Providing effective fieldwork as a necessary part of an environmental course;

  • The breadth of understanding required by students, because of its multi-disciplinary nature;

  • Enabling students to appreciate the value-laden nature of many environmental management decisions.

We will consider each of these challenges in turn, before exploring some of the e-learning solutions developed in three case studies.

Environmental management in the three case study modules described here is a practical subject, since it focuses on solutions to specific environmental problems such as identifying an appropriate location for siting wind turbines. It should be noted that some have contested the practical, pragmatic element of environmental management, for its over-emphasis on compromise and inter-organizational collaboration (Prasad & Elmes, 2005). Nonetheless, in this context, all three case studies entailed students working towards the solution of environmental problems and there is an inherent contradiction in trying to teach this within the classroom. How can the “real world” problems and decisions be brought into classroom activities? A constructionist approach has generally been adopted within the development of learning materials for environmental management where the main focus of unit development is to ensure that environmental management learning is embedded within “realistic and relevant contexts” (Honebein, 1996, p. 11). However, ensuring workplace relevance in environmental management education remains a significant challenge.

Complete Chapter List

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Dedication
List of Reviewers
Table of Contents
Foreword
Lou McGill
Acknowledgment
Chapter 1
Philip Rees, Louise Mackay, David Martin, Gráinne Conole, Hugh Davis
Technologies offer a range of tantalizing potentials for education—in terms of providing access to media- rich context and for students to visualize... Sample PDF
Developing E-Learning in Geography
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Chapter 2
Samuel Leung, David Martin, Richard Treves, Oliver Duke-Williams
In contrast to other Web-based resources, e-learning materials are not always exchangeable and shareable. Although transferring electronic documents... Sample PDF
Exchanging E-Learning Materials, Modules, and Students
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Chapter 3
Helen Durham, Katherine Arrell, David DiBiase
Collaborative learning activity design (CLAD) is a multi-institution approach to the creation of e-learning material from the design phase through... Sample PDF
Collaborative Learning Activity Design: Learning about the Global Positioning System
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Chapter 4
David Martin, Philip Rees, Helen Durham, Stephen A. Matthews
This chapter presents the development of a series of shared learning materials prepared to facilitate teaching in human geography. The principal... Sample PDF
Census and Population Analysis
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Chapter 5
Stephen Darby, Sally J. Priest, Karen Fill, Samuel Leung
In this chapter we outline the issues involved in developing, delivering, and evaluating a Level 2 undergraduate module in fluvial geomorphology.... Sample PDF
Using Digital Libraries to Support Undergraduate Learning in Geomorphology
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Chapter 6
Jim Wright, Michael J. Clark, Sally J. Priest, Rizwan Nawaz
There is an inherent antithesis between environmental management as professional practice and as concept or philosophy. Not only does this... Sample PDF
Engaging with Environmental Management: The Use of E-Learning for Motivation and Skills Enhancement
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Chapter 7
Louise Mackay, Samuel Leung, E. J. Milton
In our experience of earth observation (EO) online learning we highlight the usefulness of the World Wide Web in terms of its software... Sample PDF
Earth Observation: Conveying the Principles to Physical Geography Students
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Chapter 8
Helen Durham, Samuel Leung, David DiBiase
Academic integrity (AI) is of relevance across all academic disciplines, both from the perspective of the educator and the student. From the former... Sample PDF
Generic Learning Materials: Developing Academic Integrity in Your Students
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Chapter 9
Karen Fill, Gráinne Conole, Chris Bailey
The DialogPLUS Toolkit is a web-based application that guides the design of learning activities. Developed to support the project’s geographers, it... Sample PDF
A Toolkit to Guide the Design of Effective Learning Activities
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Chapter 10
David DiBiase, Mark Gahegan
This chapter investigates the problem of connecting advanced domain knowledge (from geography educators in this instance) with the strong pedagogic... Sample PDF
Concept Mapping to Design, Organize, and Explore Digital Learning Objects
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Chapter 11
Terence R. Smith, Marcia Lei Zeng
We describe a digital learning environment (DLE) organized around sets of concepts that represent a specific domain of knowledge. A prototype DLE... Sample PDF
Semantic Tools to Support the Construction and Use of Concept-Based Learning Spaces
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Chapter 12
Richard Treves
Teaching geography at university level involves students in study of complex diagrams and maps. These can be made easier to understand if split into... Sample PDF
Simple Geography-Related Multimedia
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Chapter 13
Karen Fill, Louise Mackay
This chapter is concerned with the evaluation of learning materials and activities developed as part of the DialogPLUS project. A range of... Sample PDF
Evaluating the Geography E-Learning Materials and Activities: Student and Staff Perspectives
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Chapter 14
Louise Mackay, David Martin, Philip Rees, Helen Durham
In this book we have illustrated the materials, software, and experience of developing and delivering geography e-learning courses and learning... Sample PDF
Reflections, Lessons Learnt, and Conclusions
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Chapter 15
Sally Priest
This chapter discusses the design, technical development, delivery, and evaluation of two online learning activities in environmental geography. A... Sample PDF
Online Learning Activities in Second Year Environmental Geography
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Chapter 16
Dion Hoe-Lian Goh
With the rapid growth of digital information, there is increasing recognition that digital libraries (DL) will play important roles in education... Sample PDF
Learning Geography with the G-Portal Digital Library
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Chapter 17
Shivanand Balram
This chapter describes the origins, boundaries, and structures of collaborative geographic information systems (CGIS). A working definition is... Sample PDF
Collaborative Geographic Information Systems: Origins, Boundaries, and Structures
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Glossary of Terms
About the Contributors