Education and research stories: In our backyard
Examples of sustainability-related educational initiatives at BCIT inspire other instructors, and demonstrate how sustainability can be integrated into diverse learning environments.
BCIT’s Automotive programs have embedded environmental principles and practices into their curriculum and in all aspects of the learning environment.
The worldwide adoption of the automobile requires competent automotive technicians to ensure these machines work as efficiently as possible. The automobile, like most machines, is a collection of systems, and the efficiency of each system contributes to total efficiency. The methods and attitudes in the automotive industry have changed to become more sensitive to environmental issues.
Environmental protection and sustainability are common points of discussion in all automotive courses, though it is difficult to identify and isolate time spent on environmental and sustainability issues. Every automotive course has incorporated, either in direct lecture, discussion, or shop practices, elements related to environmental impact and handling. Students learn throughout their courses that due diligence as a technician has an impact on our local environment, our planet, and future generations.
By way of example, the Automotive Service Technician and Operations diploma program devotes approximately 47 per cent of its 1200 total course hours to environmental and sustainability issues and practices. Each automotive program, at any level, contains a course specifically on workplace safety and handling of hazardous materials.
Shop practices incorporate recycling systems for all manner of material used. The recycling systems for oil, plastics, metal, and solvents mirror the established reclamation systems required by industry and government standards and regulations. All materials used are recycled or reused in the shop.
The automotive industry has long established practices focused on minimizing negative impact on the environment. Legislation and industry standards are being constantly developed as methods and attitudes within the auto industry continue to change. Change has been driven by new technicians that adopt more responsible methods, set an example, and teach the previous generation how to reduce the environmental impact of the automobile.
Mubasher Faruki, Associate Dean, Automotive
The School of Business and BCIT’s Library jointly created a paper-saving online resource for a course with a focus on sustainability.
The School of Business and BCIT’s Library jointly created a paper-saving online resource for a course with a focus on sustainability that contained links to relevant information and research resources for the course and subject area.
The collaborators created a course LibGuide for BUSA (Business Administration) 5200 that included resource sections on books and ebooks, journals, video, writing, and getting help.
Instructor Olga Agaponova compiled the bulk of the content for the LibGuide, while Librarian Lin Brander created the guide itself using the standard integrated platform for library guides. Lin also found new resources and has committed to providing ongoing support through updating and advising faculty regarding resource availability and new library resources. Communication on the project was done through email. Two additional instructors reviewed the content before its release
Both project leaders attended BCIT’s Pacific Spirit Project (PSP) in June 2011 and recommend the experience.
“PSP helps to establish a network of professionals/enthusiasts who believe in sustainability, change, and the power of knowledge,” explains Olga.
“Although I was quite aware of sustainability issues in general, PSP facilitated meeting many other people across campus who are very involved in sustainability initiatives. It really helps to know that many people are working on building sustainability at BCIT…Now I try to build sustainability into everything from personal practices to collection development and research resource development,” says Lin.
- Support of BCIT’s paperless initiative: students could go to one place to access research information that is available 24/7 and provides links to content – resource list handouts become unnecessary.
- Instructor has one place to list resources which is easy to update; the instructor can provide students with the link to the guide and embed the guide in D2L.
- Students and instructors do not need to keep track of multiple emails that list resources for the course.
- Links are live so that students can go directly to the resources.
- The project went smoothly. It was easy to communicate about the project via email so it was not costly in terms of meeting time.
- This project was an excellent liaison opportunity between the School of Business and the Library, giving each a chance to learn more about the specifics of the other’s area.
- The course LibGuide was a living document that is easy to update so the project is ongoing and easy to maintain.
Lin Brander, Librarian
BCIT’s Technology Teacher Education program is teaching future teachers to model the latest in sustainable techniques, and reduce toxins in curriculum whenever possible.
Technology Teacher Education (TTED) program instructors initiated a number of reviews and implemented changes in the areas of reducing, repurposing, and recycling in the shops.
The TTED program, a joint program offered with UBC, prepares students to become middle- and high-school shop teachers teaching in the diverse areas of electronics, woodwork, metalwork, automotive, power and energy technology, drafting, design, and manufacturing.
As teachers in training, it is especially important that TTED students learn to model the latest in sustainable techniques, and reduce toxins in curriculum whenever possible.
As a department, TTED embeds sustainable practices that the students learn, and hopefully, take with them. These include:
- using discarded materials in projects – e.g.: rebuilding bicycles that were sent to the landfill and making them available to needy individuals (locally and in Cuba);
- the “Phoenix” project, in which metalwork students locate a discarded metal item and transform it into a functional or aesthetic product;
- promoting the use of sustainable species of wood while discouraging the use of non-sustainable species; and,
- making students aware of and accountable for material costs and minimizing waste, e.g., in one first-year woodwork challenge, students are required to minimize waste. They must submit remaining waste (sawdust, chips, etc.,) in a zip lock bag as part of the grading criteria.
Class/shop operations were also greened and toxic cleaners reduced, for instance:
- Water based, 0-0-0 WHMIS cleaning solution replaced solvent based cleaner.
- Reusable, laundered shop rags have replaced disposable towels.
- Non-chlorinated degreaser replaced the chlorinated version.
- Food starch-based floor cleaner (made locally) replaced traditional, commercial grade cleaners.
Instructors managed to expand recycling to include tires, batteries, metal, oil containers, oil filters, used oil, and used antifreeze in the shops. On-site paper and drink container recycling in the labs was also initiated and implemented by the TTED faculty.
Changes can have a big impact when you think of all the students who will be touched by these changes to curriculum and practice.
Roger Bortignon, Program Head, Technology Teacher Education Program
BCIT’s department of Civil Engineering tapped into the rainwater management experience of leading practitioners in Metro Vancouver local governments, and proceeded to develop a rainwater management plan for the BCIT Burnaby Campus as a class project.
Richard Boase, P.Geo., from the District of North Vancouver, and David Desrochers, P.Eng., from the City of Vancouver, have both had an impact on BCIT through their guest lectures in the BCIT Civil Engineering fourth-year Storm Water Management course.
The guest lecture by Richard Boase in 2010 was the source of inspiration for a group project in 2011 to develop a Rainwater Management Plan for the BCIT campus, reports Dr. Colleen Chan, faculty in BCIT’s School of Construction and the Environment. “With the realization that the traditional approach to storm water management has the potential to cause substantial environmental damage, we are currently witnessing an evolution in drainage practices related to storm water and rainwater,” says Colleen.
“British Columbia is leading a paradigm shift from the traditional management of “storm-based” conveyance of storm water, to a focus on a multidisciplinary approach of rainwater management to mitigate the impacts of impervious land developments,” she continued.
Richard discussed the impacts of redevelopment on watershed health when careful rainwater management practices are not applied, and provided examples of mitigating the negative impacts through the implementation of low impact development practices. In addition, Richard led the class on a field trip to several rainwater management sites in North Vancouver, and showed the class the impacts of high-volume runoff on stream health.
David Desrochers from the City of Vancouver showcased Vancouver’s Country Lanes and Vancouver’s first environmentally sustainable street, Crown Street. David also emphasized the need for creative solutions in the multidisciplinary field of rainwater management.
“Both speakers were highly enthusiastic and engaging in their presentations, which were immensely beneficial for the students. The interaction between the guest speakers and the students provide an important transfer of knowledge from current professional practitioner to the next generation of practitioners,” concludes Colleen.
Students in the course applied what had been learned and developed a rainwater management plan for the BCIT Burnaby campus, with the goal of reducing the volume of runoff generated from the campus, and to utilize rainwater as a resource that can be beneficial to the campus community.
“When Colleen told me that the guest lectures that David Desrochers and I delivered last year gave her the idea for a class project this year, it gave me a little more confidence to believe that the region is innovating and adapting for greener and more water-efficient change,” says Richard.
“It is exciting to be told that what we are doing in the District of North Vancouver is inspiring a class of future professional engineers to view the built environment differently; and that these engineers-in-the-making are embracing a ‘design with nature’ philosophy,” says Richard.
- Connecting with industry leaders can inspire students.
- BCIT can produce engineers with strong backgrounds and capabilities in the traditional civil engineering disciplines, who also have complementary knowledge and information from other “non-traditional” sources.
- Leadership and innovation is needed to achieve goals.
Colleen Chan, Faculty, Dept. of Civil Engineering
In the BCIT Biotechnology laboratory, Myra Howell and Bryan Andrews implemented a system for diverting laboratory plastic waste by developing a set of procedures for sorting nonhazardous plastics at the point of use.
BCIT has an established system for recycling a nearly complete range of recyclable materials including soft plastic. In order to make full use of this system, it is important to divert as much “garbage” as possible out of other waste streams and into the appropriate recycling stream. To be viable, this must be done at the point of production so that the large volume of nonhazardous plastic does not get mixed with hazardous waste or placed into the garbage stream.
Over a third of the total plastic waste has been diverted to be recycled. This also represents an equivalent reduction in other waste streams so that the disposal cost (especially for the hazardous waste) is lower.
The main barrier was simply the forming of new habits in handling the material while working. The champions of this initiative needed to give friendly reminders to others in the program when recyclable material was about to be diverted into the wrong stream.
Bryan Andrews, Assistant Instructor, Biotechnology
The School of Health’s Nursing department has embarked on an effort to reduce, reuse and recycle, primarily in lab contexts.
Health care is not the first sector you might think of for opportunities for waste reduction. But BCIT Nursing has embarked on a wide-ranging “3 Rs” – reduce, reuse, recycle – program as it aims to train many of the nurses in our province. The Nursing department has focused on four main areas:
- reduction, reuse and recycling of wet and sharps
- paper reduction
- other recycling
- mobile devices
Everything that is not ‘wet’ or ‘sharp’ is reused and recycled:
- IV Bags are refilled for labs or access ports are converted for student open lab use (a port is a cap on an IV bag used to connect IV tubing or insert medication). When IV bags are empty they are recycled as IV drainage arms on dolls or in lab scenarios.
- IV tubing for infusion pumps is re-used in open lab.
- IV tubing (continue-flo and secondary) are drained. Packaging is saved to reuse and re-package the tubing as “simulated sterile” for other labs and student practice.
- Syringes are repacked for multiple uses. When discarded, the plastic cases are recycled.
- Pre-filled syringes are filled with water for multiple uses. Ampoules are refilled with water and put out for practice.
- Plastic vials are refilled with water and labelled to simulate meds.
- Foley catheters are repackaged until they no longer inflate.
- Urine bags are used as long as they hold up.
- Catheter, irrigation and dressing sets are rewrapped for multiple uses. When dismantled, anything appropriate is recycled.
- Dressings (4×4’s, 2 x 2’s, drain sponges, ABD pads, etc.) are repackaged to simulate sterile, or put out for students to repack their dressing kits.
- Old gauze is saved for cleaning doll arms and tummies.
- Normal saline bottles are refilled with water. Savlon/lubricant is simulated using dish soap in reusable containers.
Instructors are cutting down on paper:
- All instructors are using the online tool Desire To Learn (D2L) for students to access resources, and paper handouts are eliminated whenever possible.
- Instead of printing out medical administration records (MARs), physician orders, and scenarios for each class, these are placed in plastic sleeves and the students write on them with dry erase markers that can be wiped clean between classes. These are then reused for various classes and in subsequent semesters.
- Students in Level 1 receive their own MAR with a list of all meds for the semester which they reuse for each class, and then take home prior to skills testing. Level 2 students receive a dressing kit (dressing tray, gauze, drain sponge, & ABD pad) to use in L2 labs, practice labs, home practice, and Level 4 wound care labs.
- “Open lab,” which students attend in their own time, has a binder with resources in plastic sleeves for repeated use.
Beyond the usual paper and beverage container recycling (the deposits on these go to the Angela Mazzacato nursing student fund), the department also ensures that:
- All sharps are discarded into sharps/biohazard containers, boxed up, and sent out to be properly disposed of before they go off to recycling.
- At the end of the winter term, supplies that are no longer of use are sent to developing countries through the Rotary Club.
- The Bachelor of Science in Nursing and specialty programs are actively supporting students in the use of mobile devices loaded with healthcare software to use as a resource, which helps reduce the number of textbooks needed.
- Students will be able to access D2L through their handheld computers by the Fall 2011 semester.
It’s worth looking for ways to make systems more efficient – money and resources can be saved.
Glynda Rees, Faculty, Nursing
A BCIT Chemistry instructor used Desire 2 Learn (D2L) technology to set up online pre-lab quizzes. As a result, she significantly reduced paper use, as well as the work required to print, distribute, collect, mark and return pre-lab assignments.
D2L technology was used in pre-labs to reduce printing and other steps, and results in greater efficiency and effectiveness for instructor and students.
Pre-lab assignments are designed to entice students to read over procedures before attending labs. The traditional pre-lab assignment is due at the beginning of the lab, or is a quiz at the beginning of the lab. However, this eats up valuable lab time, sometimes leads to students doing the pre-lab while the lab is explained, and adds to marking load, paper use, and administration.
While working as an instructor in the Chemistry department, Angela Duso decided to see if the Desire To Learn (D2L) QUIZ Tool could create, administer, and grade pre-labs to help reduce work load and increase pre-lab effectiveness.
“Using D2L, I set up online pre-labs, created the questions and solutions, and set the times and dates when the quiz was available,” explains Duso. Students log in to take the quiz at a specified time before the lab session, and D2L marks the quiz and exports the grades to its grades tool or to an Excel spreadsheet.
Variables can be used in arithmetic questions and multiple choice answers can be randomized to help customize the quiz from one student to the next. A question library can also be set up to alter questions from class to class, and year to year. Respondus Lockdown Browser also prevents web surfing while the quiz is being completed.
Instructors don’t even need to start from scratch when generating questions for their pre-lab. Existing questions from quiz or exam documents can be imported into the D2L question bank using a D2L Question Library CSV file generator.
Duso succeeded in significantly reducing the work required to print, distribute, collect, mark and return pre-labs. She now feels more confident that students have read the procedure beforehand and will therefore have a more meaningful lab experience. Student cheating was also reduced.
Technology can help meet both sustainability and effectiveness goals. “The time I spent learning about D2L, and then setting this up, has been well worth it. These new processes are far better than traditional pre-labs for everyone.”
The BCIT Physics Department experimented with the use of the online learning environment the Learning Hub (D2L – Desire 2 Learn) to conduct student evaluations of their courses. This approach resulted in time savings for staff, and reduced paper usage for the Institute.
As part of the performance development system, Faculty and Staff Association instructors are required to administer BCIT’s “Student Opinion of Instructional Quality Survey.” Instead of using paper forms, this survey can now be done online using the Desire to Learn (D2L) system, offering both efficiencies and savings.
Instructors volunteered for the paperless trial – everything about how the survey was conducted, including the survey itself, was the same; it was just done online.
The survey used by the BCIT Physics Department was given to a section of Physics 0309 using the D2L system. Twenty-nine out of thirty students did the survey when they were told that the D2L system would release a sample final exam to them once they had completed the survey online.
Based on pilot success, physics classes started using the system. Instructors in the Math, Forensics, Communication and Computer Systems departments were asked to participate as well.
D2L can be used to efficiently administer the survey, requiring less work for the instructor and administrative staff.
D2L can be configured so that the survey is done the same way the paper survey, with the same advantages:
- It is anonymous.
- The instructor can see individual survey results but cannot identify who did that survey.
- The instructor cannot see who did not do the survey.
D2L provides additional advantages that the paper system does not offer:
- The results are available right away and there is no delay waiting for surveys to be hand-scanned, which can take weeks at a busy time of year.
- The instructor receives a convenient summary of the survey results, with answers to each individual topic area grouped together.
- There is no transcription required and no handwriting to indicate which student might have written which comment.
- Results can be printed to a pdf and saved, making it easy to retain the surveys for 48 months, as required by policy.
In general, online surveys may encounter reluctance. This challenge is greater with this particular survey, as there is little or no perceived value for the student, whether it is completed online or on paper. However, the D2L system has the ability to release resources under the condition that certain requirements are met. In this pilot, students were told that if they did the survey, the D2L system would release a sample final exam to them. Under these conditions, 29 out of 30 students did the survey.
- The D2L system represents a more modern approach to BCIT’s performance development system.
- BCIT orders approximately 30,000 paper surveys for course evaluation per year. All that paper could be eliminated through the use of online surveys.
- With proper incentives, D2L may also help increase student participation in the surveys.
Shaun Culham, Faculty, Physics