3.2: Contributing to Sustainability

Nadine Ibrahim

Workshop Introduction

Engineering students are introduced to concepts of sustainability at some point in their undergraduate education. The recent transition to online teaching prompted a change in teaching delivery methods and assessments. An example of a second-year undergraduate engineering course on Engineering and Sustainable Development is presented to demonstrate how to leverage the opportunities brought on by online and remote learning.

This talk will:

  • Discuss the course structure for online/remote learning and present examples of assistance from the Centre for Teaching Excellence;
  • Highlight the teaching philosophy to enable the application and integration of sustainability concepts as it ties in with sustainable cities;
  • Present a community-building strategy to engage students and encourage interaction outside of the class; and
  • Share an example of how students co-created content and contributed to sustainability knowledge by producing an e-book for peers and the wider engineering community.

Presenter: Nadine Ibrahim, PhD

Nadine Ibrahim is the Turkstra Chair in Urban Engineering and a Lecturer in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Waterloo. She comes from a cross-section of industry and academia in the areas of urban infrastructure, sustainable cities, and sustainable development, focusing on climate change mitigation in global cities and megacities, and most recently sustainability assessments in megaregions. She holds a BASc, MASc, and Ph.D. in Civil Engineering, and a Certificate of Preventive Engineering and Social Development, from the University of Toronto. Beyond the boundaries of civil engineering, she combines environmental engineering and incorporates non-engineering fields including economics and governance. She was a post-doctoral fellow working on Engineering Education for Sustainable Cities in Africa, launching a Sustainable Cities course online, and piloting a Global Classroom. For more, see UW Profile and UW Urban Engineering.


The content shown is taken from a seminar recording presented by Nadine Ibrahim with an accompanying PowerPoint. The full Powerpoint presentation in the seminar can be found by clicking the link below, which will take you to a google drive folder.

Key Takeaways

  • Sustainability has a wide range of definitions. Measures of sustainability in terms of air quality, water quality, electrical intensity, etc. must be discussed, along with the methods of measuring them via sustainability indicators, involving their appropriate units and models.
  • There exists a norm of mapping learning outcomes to graduate attributes goals. Including Sustainability Development Goals and Canadian Engineering Grand Challenges can be used as another framework to map courses’ learning outcomes.
  • The consistent structure with quizzes and assignments set expectations and gives the student a more manageable workload to create their own timetable.
  • “Week 0” acts as an introduction for the student to familiarize themselves with the course syllabus, set time for social hours, and set expectations for the course. This eased the transition into week 1.
  • The Weekly Checklist is the first item sent every week. It acts as a guide for the students on their required work, recommended readings, and other updates in the particular week.
  • Evaluation and Assessments were diverse with assessments, surveys, quizzes, and a big project which gave every student an opportunity to be evaluated by their preferred preference, whether it being a quantitative quiz about sustainability versus students writing a big project.
  • The before surveys consisted of 5 short questions and demonstrated students had an underlying concept of sustainability. Whereas the After survey contracts with a more sophisticated diction.
  • The Ebook enabled a peer-to-peer learning opportunity and a course takeaway. Where the project is done individually however it contributes to a finished project by the entire class. This Ebook is available here.