Attaining a more sustainable future with the help of virtual courses

April 25, 2022
Sara Erkinharju

Challenge my ways of thinking, interesting contrast, complementary, and flexibility are just a few words Sara Erkinharju used to describe her experience completing the UniPID Sustainability in Development Module.

“Sustainability is a theme that will be part of the future no matter what and thus should be widely implemented to all subjects”

Sara Erkinharju
Sara Erkinharju

I found out about UniPID via an email shared by my university Turku School of Economics. I had never heard of the Network before but found out we were offered a possibility to do a minor in the UniPID courses. I found the courses to be an interesting contrast to my more mathematics-based economics major and decided to complement my degree with a UniPID module. In addition, I was already studying in two universities, Economics in Turku and Society and Change in Helsinki, so an online based module was an ideal addition to my studies. Studies on sustainability are a crucial part of any degree, and unfortunately my previous studies did not cover the topic to a large extent. Naturally I want to be part of creating a more sustainable future, but I also think that sustainability is a theme that will be part of the future no matter what and thus should be widely implemented to all subjects.

I wrote my bachelor and master’s theses on the impact of development assistance on economic growth. My university did not, however, have any courses on development economics, and I was pleased to find that UniPID offered an introductory course on the topic. I also got to challenge my very rooted vision of science as a base of decision making on the course of Contemporary Environmental Conflicts, where the concept of ontology was introduced, and the relation of nature and capitalism was discussed. I also got to deepen my knowledge on corporate social responsibility on the Globalisation and Corporate Responsibility course. As many of the course tasks were short essays, I found it a good way for students to implement their previous knowledge while learning new things, regardless of the level of previous studies. The sustainable development goals were very much present on every course and while the courses were unique, I feel that they also supplemented each other very well.

The UniPID platform offers a large variety of courses varying from group work and discussion based to more individual task driven ones. I aimed to pick a selection of courses that would challenge my way of thinking and provide concrete tools and ideas on how to create a more sustainable future. I often find that when concepts of sustainability are taught, it is more based on blaming the old ways rather than conceptualizing and innovating some new ones.

The UniPID module is a great example of what studying in the future could – and in my mind should – look like.

The platform harnesses knowledge from universities all around Finland making it accessible for people beyond geographical restrictions. While the problems of distant learning have been highlighted during the pandemic, virtual studies do offer much needed flexibility to those who want it. In addition, distant learning and distant learning during a pandemic are two very different things, and as we are returning to normal and students become more mobile again, virtual courses offer a great possibility to study without being tied to one location.

Using technology and co-operation results in sharing knowledge and broadening the discourse beyond everyone’s own faculties. This is crucial with common agendas, such as how to make international development more sustainable. Shared knowledge is an asset for all of us, so why restrain it based on distance from classroom or overlapping course schedules? Sustainability needs co-operation from all branches of sciences and UniPID offers a platform where future economists, biologists, teachers, and other students from different faculties can brainstorm together and share different point of views thus creating a stronger foundation of knowledge for everyone involved.

I hope that with the help of more reachable and heterogenous platforms such as UniPID a more future oriented and solution concentrated discourse is introduced to academia. Universities and faculties are rather separated and keep to themselves, and innovative ideas from other faculties are rather judged than embraced. Adding some much-needed interdisciplinary brainstorming is very much needed and will benefit us all.

Follow Sara on LinkedIn!

Photo credits: Omar Flores, 2019 on Unsplash