Online Presentations Drive Discussion in Sustainability Management Course

by |October 15, 2012

Engaging class discussion is faculty critical component of graduate education, and when it comes to a subject like sustainability, an informed dialogue is key. This is why every week in Professor Steve Cohen’s Sustainability Management course, students are broken into groups, and assigned to topical sustainability case studies  to create a recorded presentation to be posted on the class’s New CourseWorks website. Each case has two groups, Group A and Group B, that present opposing action recommendations about the central issue of the case. The pre-recorded presentations are then viewed by all of the students, who must then determine a position on the case and post their argument for either Group A or Group B on the New CourseWorks Discussion Board prior to the start of the next scheduled class. One case that was studied was “Hydrofracking in New York State” which asked the two groups to examine the practice of hydrofracking as if they were the Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Conservation and make a recommendation to Governor Cuomo as to what the New York State should allow. Group A was tasked with arguing for a full ban on hydrofracking, while Group B were to argue for allowing hydrofracking in select areas of New York State.

“After over three decades of teaching at Columbia, what has truly impressed me about the new digital student presentation format we are using in my Sustainability Management class is how well it fosters engaging class discussion,” stated Professor Steve Cohen. “Because students have had a chance to watch and respond to their fellow students’ presentations prior to the class session, I am able to read all of their responses and guide our discussions based on their insights and analyses. This new format has produced some of the best and most dynamic class discussions that I have ever been a part of at Columbia.”

The student presentations are created with the help of Adobe Connect, a web conferencing platform utilized for meetings, eLearning, and webinars, and includes capabilities for video recording and sharing files like Power Point presentations.  It is this technology that enables this assignment to be so successful. After watching the briefings, students are supposed to put themselves in the position of the “decision-maker” – a practical skill which is necessary to being an effective sustainability manager.

“In addition to being a great way to spark in class discussion, using the webinar technology is a way for students to practice and refine their professional briefing skills,” said Janelle Somerville, Lead Curriculum Assistant for the course. “It tasks the group presenting a recommended course of action to a high level decision-maker, and allows the rest of the class to comment on how well the group presents their case.”

You can view some examples of the Sustainability Management students’ class presentations by clicking on the links provided below.

Recommendation to Continue the Ban on Hydraulic Fracturing in New York State

Group Members: Drew Sambol, John Trucinski, Alex LaBua, Victoria Webster

Improving and Applying Walmart’s Sustainability Strategy

Group Members: Julia Byrd, Ben Hansen, Alexandra O’Hagan, Robert Lock, Benedicte Luttichau, Jeremy Simpson, Gerardo Zepeda

Recommendation to Continue the Use of Nuclear Power in Japan: 2012-2022

Group Members: Jeremy Capungcol, Amanda Lechenet, Meagan Cummings, Naoko Udagawa, Alona Gutman, Uzoma Okoro, Mikael Amar

The M.S. in Sustainability Management (MSSM), co-sponsored by the Earth Institute and Columbia’s School of Continuing Education, trains students to tackle complex and pressing environmental and managerial challenges. The M.S. in Sustainability Management program requires the successful completion of 36 credit points. Those credit points are divided among five comprehensive content areas: integrative sustainability management, economics and quantitative analysis, the physical dimensions of sustainability, the public policy environment of sustainability management, and general and financial management. Please visit our website to learn more about the program.


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