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McGill introduces optional sustainability module on MyCourses

“Creating a Brighter Future: Sustainability at McGill,” an online learning module focused on sustainability, is now available to students on MyCourses, though its content is subject to change until its official launch on Jan. 26. 

According to the McGill Office of Sustainability (MOOS), the module takes approximately 45 minutes to complete and introduces students to strategies for living more sustainably. Those who complete the module will receive a credit on their Co-Curricular Record, which acknowledges out-of-classroom learning experiences. The McGill Tribune looked into what students think about the release and the effectiveness of online learning modules in teaching about sustainability.

Developed by the MOOS, Teaching and Learning Services, and the Associate Provost of Teaching & Academic Programs in Spring 2021, the new module promotes McGill’s Climate & Sustainability Strategy 2020-2025. According to the MOOS, approximately 100 members of the McGill community, including students, participated in reviewing the MyCourses addition prior to its release. The module is separated into three sections: What is sustainability, sustainability at McGill, and living sustainably. They include videos, interactive animations, images, articles, and questions posted on Slido, an online polling and survey platform. 

Students are introduced to the fundamental aspects of sustainability and different ways of getting involved in sustainability efforts, such as through student groups, courses, and volunteer opportunities. Francois Miller, executive director of the MOOS, is hopeful that the module will inspire students to engage with sustainability in their own ways.

“The purpose of the module is to be a helpful starting point for students interested in incorporating sustainability into their studies, their extracurricular activities, or their day-to-day actions,” Miller said in an interview with the Tribune. “We hope students who complete the module will feel empowered to get involved in the larger sustainability movement happening at McGill.”

Sarah Taciani, U2 Science, is doubtful that “Creating a Brighter Future” will effectively teach students how to implement more environmentally friendly practices. She pointed to McGill’s sexual violence module, “It Takes All of Us,” as an example, and suggested that a mandatory in-person course on sustainability would be more beneficial to get the message across.

“I thought ‘It Takes All of Us’ was long, and while I always pay attention, I have heard stories of people putting it on mute and answering questions quickly,” Taciani explained in an interview with the Tribune. “It’s effective if you want it to be effective. I believe that interactive in-person seminars may be more engaging.”

Oban Lopez-Bassols, U2 Arts and a member of the student-run environmental club Greenpeace McGill, expressed his concern about the module’s optional status for students, especially since “It Takes All of Us” is mandatory.  

“I think this module should be mandatory,” Lopez-Bassols said in an interview with the Tribune. “There are a lot of people who care about sustainability, but few willingly do a 45-minute module unless it is mandatory. It then becomes a question of why one should be mandatory and the other not, as if sustainability is not a priority at McGill.”

Lopez-Bassols is also concerned that the purpose of initiatives like “Creating a Brighter Future” is to create a greener image for McGill so it can rank higher on university sustainability indexes rather than improving environmental practices.

“There has been some back and forth where people are pressuring McGill to divest from fossil fuels, and in the meantime, McGill is trying to highlight all of its green initiatives,” Lopez-Bassols said. “Indexes are very important, especially when comparing institutions. But they become very difficult when a somewhat arbitrary indicator is used to measure something, and the university focuses just on that, and not the actual sustainability.”

The McGill Office of Sustainability will be hosting a Launch Party on Jan. 26 to celebrate the official release of the module.

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that over a 100 members of the McGill community participated in reviewing the MyCourses module. In fact, approximately 100 members had participated. The Tribune regrets this error. 

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