Faculty Reflection: Sue Ebanks
Savannah State University
Course(s): ENVS 1140 Environmental Issues
COST 4140K Environmental Justice & Coastal Risk Management
A Success Story in Programmatic Change
For my courses, Units 1, 4, and 5 of Natural Hazards and Risks: Hurricanes; Unit 1 Introduction of Environmental Justice and Freshwater Resources; and Map Your Hazards! Assessing Hazards, Vulnerability, and Risks were the materials primarily used. The main function was to introduce and to help guide students of different majors toward understanding the basic, and sometimes complex, geoscience concepts that were in the scope of the specific course. Having differing degrees of module usage resulted in my developing an appreciation for the plasticity of the materials, having the minute details available but not being a necessary component for using the materials.
Because my grading style was different, some changes had to be made. For example, the detailed grading information that was interlaced throughout some of the components, had to be reconstructed to suit the needs of the students and the established grading technique that I use. I imagine that if I were completely new to teaching, I would have found that a bit more useful than I did at this stage. Because this experience with the InTeGrate materials came at a time when my pedagogical creativity was a bit stifled, working with the modules and activities, in particular, breathed new life into the existing course that I was teaching. This also helped me to work with University administration and other faculty to determine how the cross-cutting study and use of coastal resources (recreational, social, economic, historical, etc.) can be infused into the education of our undergraduate students.
Additionally, our state University System of Georgia has some initiatives in which Savannah State has been involved, Complete College Georgia (CCG) and Affordable Learning Georgia (ALG). These programs focus on helping the numerous people that have started collegiate studies, complete their matriculation even though they may have been out for some time, while hopefully keeping the process at a minimal cost. Offering a solution to the rising cost of textbooks and educational materials, is one of the goals of ALG and the InTeGrate materials help with both of these missions. First, having resources tailored (or that can easily be so) to both the instructor and the student, improves the efficiency of the teacher, allowing him/her to help the student with other issues such as study habits. Secondly, the materials are accessible and are truly Online Educational Materials (OEM), as they can be manipulated by the instructor. Most of the materials capitalize on online available videos and educational materials and others are centered on a text or other material that requires purchasing from a vendor of one's choosing. The functionality and flexibility have made a marked difference in my being able to really make use of the InTeGrate materials.
Lastly, this experience allowed me to collaborate with colleagues in different colleges on our campus in an effort to bring together students from a range of backgrounds so that they may learn how they can contribute to the stewardship of the natural environment, regardless of the background or career interest. This new interaction has broadened my ability to relate to students in the COST 4140K course to help them to understand some of the underlying challenges so that they may be empowered to take appropriate steps to effect positive and productive changes.
Incorporating InTeGrate Materials
The survey in the EJ and Risk module was used to help students gather information about their colleagues to evaluate how communications, transportation, and other considerations may need to be made in the development of a Coastal Hazards Risk Management Plan for our region, with particular focus on the campus community. This was also a way to give students the experience of dealing with data and with thinking about how surveys may or may not capture the intended information. The other sections of the module provided resources to discuss various events and issues (coastal storms, food deserts, access to water, storm water management, proximity to industry, etc.) from an Environmental Justice perspective and transition into the necessary components/considerations for the Management Plan.
For the Hurricane mapping exercise, in a lower-level existing course, I modified the assignment to have them also map for someone that they knew in another location of the country or for a potential business partner to discuss the relative risk for having the business in one location versus another.
I was not able to use the materials in their entirety but many of the activities were quite helpful in situational placement for students, particularly for issues to which they had no previous experience. Otherwise, only minor adjustments were made and generally just for longer or shorter class periods. Across the board, I removed the grading information. For the Hurricane mapping exercise, I modified the assignment to have them also map for someone that they knew in another location of the country or for a potential business partner to discuss the relative risk for having the business in one location versus another.
Outcomes and Evidence
Students were definitely more engaged in the process for the hurricane mapping risk exercise once they realized the significance of the decisions that could be made and the similarities between what they were doing and what the insurance companies and many industries, as well, do for risk assessment. Of course there were some less involved students but, in general, the students appreciated ANY of the components that brought real-world relevance, a sense of purpose, for what they were learning. This has always been a staple in my teaching style but the InTeGrate materials helped make that easier by making it more accessible and at my own pace (on-demand format). I would be overwhelmed if this were all presented and only available in a conference-type format.