IISc_COL Initiative: Environmental Engineering Open Distance Learning Courses
As engineers play a key role in the process of development, the World Federation of Engineering Organisations came up with its proposal for the World Engineering Partnership for Sustainable Development. The partnership and capacity building process needed to consider that most engineering professionals may not be able to leave their workplace for extended periods.This necessitated the development of Environmental Engineering Courses in Self Learning Format, taking advantage of recent developments in Information Technology, so that the Courses could be taught in distance mode.
Recognising the need for environmental engineering courses in India, Commonwealth of Learning (COL) (COL), Vancouver, Canada, provided five environmental engineering modules earlier developed by UNESCO-COL to the Indian Institute of Science (IISc). COL-IISc jointly examined those modules for teaching professionals in environmental engineering through distance. This resulted in the design and development of Series of Learning Materials in Engineering Sciences for open distance learning. COL provided support for capacity building in the instructional design and networking and limited financial assistance for the development of environmental engineering courses and a delivery model suitable for open distance learning.
The courses developed in self-learning materials (SLM) for continuous professional development of engineers are:
(i) Management of Solid Wastes
(ii) Ground Water and Soil Pollution from Agricultural Activities
(iii) Air Pollution Control
(iv) Municipal Water and Waste Water Treatment
(v) Environmental Management
These courses are directed at practicing professionals (in service professionals), engineers and technologists, in India, South Asia and the developing countries in the Commonwealth, who are all involved in environmental management in some form. The course curriculum and the content design therefore is more applied and not deeply theoretical or mathematical. In other words, the aim is to build on the existing repertoire of skills base of the practicing professional so that they will be exposed to new knowledge and skills required in the field. Currently, at Indian Institute of Science two courses are being offered through the Internet.
Based on the analysis of target audience, instructional goals and objectives, and desired course content for India, an outline of the content was created, which was reviewed by a committee of content and instructional design experts. The development of five environmental engineering courses included formative evaluation by project review committee and electronic list discussions. The summative evaluation included validation and pilot testing and brainstorm sessions to ascertain the suitability of materials to meet the project goals and objectives. Participants included working professionals from industry, the government, faculty from Universities, etc.
The multi tier approach adopted involving content development, transformation to self learning format, review of content, validation and pilot testing of courses and finally development of delivery model with open access using ICT's. The overall process involved:
I. Content development:
• Need assessment of subjects
• Decision on target groups and their learning needs
• Organisation of the content
• Contextualization for India
• Review (Programme review committee)
• Revision of content based on review
II. Development of Instructional Design
• Evaluation of instructional design template (Programme review committee)
• Transformation of content to self learning format
III. Validation of Courses
Independent experts (academicians, etc.)
IV. Pilot testing of Courses
Participants mainly in-service professionals chosen to represent all categories with diverse infrastructure availability.
V. Revision of Courses based on the input from Validation and pilot testing exercises
VI. Language, content and design editing.
VII. Publishing: E -version and hard copies
VIII. Development of Delivery models for distance education
IX. Launching of Courses
Instructional development process provided a framework for systematic planning, development, and adaptation of instruction based on identifiable learner needs and content requirements. This process proved to be an essential step in distance education, where the instructor and students may share limited common background and typically have minimal face-to-face contact. The basic stages involved are design, development, evaluation, and revision.
Transformed into self-learning materials, the courses enable distance learners to develop an understanding of:
• the principles of the specific field of environmental engineering covered in the course;
• improved knowledge of the activities covered in the course and their implications on environment;
• characteristics of factors that influence the environment and their adverse effects on environment;
• use of monitoring techniques and data processing in the affected environment; and
• the need to protect the environment from pollution and possible remedial techniques.
Learners (Course students) on successful completion of the courses would be able to:
a) demonstrate an informed understanding of techniques for environmental management, their evolution and their present status, particularly in India and also throughout the world;
b) analyse and categorise the environmental impacts associated with various kinds of developments and production processes;
c) describe basic assessment techniques, and their applications in life cycle analyses, environmental impact statements and other assessments;
d) prepare or co-ordinate environmental assessments;
e) assess the environmental status of existing systems, and include environmental considerations into engineering design procedures, to avoid or reduce adverse environmental impacts and to meet regulatory requirements; and
f) critically evaluate and apply appropriate environmental assessment tools for the minimisation of waste in industrial enterprises.