InTeGrate Modules and Courses >Renewable Energy and Environmental Sustainability > Instructor Stories > Randolph Chambers
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Randy Chambers: Using Renewable Energy and Environmental Sustainability at the College of William and Mary

About This Course

An elective in the environmental science and policy curriculum.

15–18
students

One 80-minute lecture/lab
session per week
Small public 4-year liberal arts institution.

Syllabus (Microsoft Word 26kB Jun16 15)

A Success Story in Building Student Engagement

This course was implemented within the context of exploring issues of environmental science and policy and sustainability. Of particular note for this course adaptation was the consideration of alternate energy strategies for our college campus. Students in the course (undergraduate, non-science majors) met once weekly to investigate renewable energy options and determine whether those options were viable to supplement campus energy demands.
The flipped course structure (lecture materials read outside of class; in-class time used for discussion and for hands-on activities and experiments) was a real success and kept students fully engaged the entire semester.

My Experience Teaching with InTeGrate Materials

The entire course comprised the InTeGrate materials and was a stand-alone educational product. The course was taught as a 1-credit, hands-on lab course that met once weekly throughout the semester.

Relationship of InTeGrate Materials to My Course

This is an entire course, so all materials presented in the course comprise items developed specifically for GREENS. The first module on energy and power should always be the first module presented. The remaining modules, however, by nature are stand-alone, which offered necessary flexibility in course delivery. So, for example, the unit on photovoltaics includes an outdoor exercise that works best under sunny conditions. If the day of the course was cloudy or rainy, I substituted another module. Certainly some value is provided in clustering modules associated with light, but my students and I needed to be flexible. The students clearly looked forward to learning about the "next" potential strategy each week!

Assessments

Formative assessments included weekly review questions posed and answers given by the students regarding their reading of module materials. Students also were required to give a single 10-minute oral presentation during the semester on a relevant renewable energy topic. Summative assessments included a pre-post, 50-question multiple choice exam covering the topics in the course, and a final written exercise requiring them to use their newly acquired knowledge to describe their vision for a community that would incorporate a full range of sustainability approaches in its design.

Outcomes

My vision was that this group of non-science majors would be exposed to various alternate energy strategies, using the campus energy needs and available renewable resources to assess the utility of these strategies for the College of William and Mary. I wanted students to become comfortable with numbers and with common "units" of power and energy, to allow them to compare relative yields among different renewable energy sources, and to calculate how much the college could reduce its carbon footprint by implementing each renewable energy strategy. Within this context, I wanted students to think critically about each energy strategy and the relative costs and benefits, both social/economic and environmental.

Overall, students were engaged in the course and in each module. The biggest thing contributing to their engagement was having hands-on exercises for each module that allowed students to explore the renewable energy concept at a fundamental level. Unfortunately, I do not think the students were able to grasp all the concepts of each module in the allotted 80 minutes each week of the course. Some scaffolding of learning occurred, but the course did not "build" as quickly as I would have liked. Perhaps a course that met more than once each week would allow students more concentrated opportunity to acquire and use what they learned in each module.

Students did become engaged in sustainability issues on the William and Mary campus and now have a good sense of what sorts of renewable energy and efficiency strategies are viable in our environment. Some of the students now serve on the campus Committee on Sustainability. One student in the course wrote a successful proposal to the College to determine the feasibility of photovoltaic installation on the rooftops of two buildings on campus, and another student is planning to propose the acquisition and installation of a micro-hydro power station at the dam on the campus lake. Very applied stuff relating to a place about which the students care. To me, these sorts of outcomes demonstrate how students are taking their coursework to the next level—a good outcome for a 1-credit course.

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These materials are part of a collection of classroom-tested modules and courses developed by InTeGrate. The materials engage students in understanding the earth system as it intertwines with key societal issues. The collection is freely available and ready to be adapted by undergraduate educators across a range of courses including: general education or majors courses in Earth-focused disciplines such as geoscience or environmental science, social science, engineering, and other sciences, as well as courses for interdisciplinary programs.
Explore the Collection »