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Applied Geo-Information Science course bases its curriculum on SDGs

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  4. Interview: Applied Geo-Information Science course bases its curriculum on SDGs

A project team from the Applied Geo-Information Science HBO (higher professional education) course at HAS University of Applied Sciences has worked hard over the past year on improving the course. The new curriculum focuses on the implementation of social issues in the living environment, where both lecturers and students can have a direct impact. It is based on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by the United Nations.

Lecturers Susan van Dijk and Marjo Baeten talk enthusiastically about how the course has incorporated the SDGs in its curriculum. "We took a close look at the curriculum of the Applied Geo-Information Science course, formerly Geo Media & Design," says Susan, who was part of the project team. “We examined how we had organised the teaching, and how we conduct research and share knowledge. Our graduates end up in a professional area in which data science has made enormous advances in recent years, and our goal was to make sure this was better reflected in the course. HAS University of Applied Sciences’ general strategic framework until 2025 states that we establish active links with the SDGs as a higher professional education institution. These SDGs turned out to be great tools for designing the new curriculum of the Applied Geo-Information Science course.”

SDGs as a starting point

At HAS University of Applied Sciences, Marjo works on anchoring the SDGs within the triangle of education, research and valorisation. “The transformation of Applied Geo-Information Science turned out to be an opportunity to base a curriculum on the SDGs, instead of introducing them into an existing curriculum. We’d built up a very diverse network around the Global Goals, which Applied Geo-Information Science could immediately exploit.”

Universal language

Susan adds: “Looking at things and working in this inverted way unleashed a lot of energy in all of us. The SDGs have really made an impact, and lots of people are working on them. It’s a universal language that helps us understand each other and what we’re doing. The renewal of the course was the ideal opportunity to interweave the SDGs with all the parts of the curriculum, and resulted in a very strong connection with the professional field and society."

Two people at HAS University of Applied Sciences

Susan van Dijk and Marjo Baeten

Educational innovation and professional innovation

The new curriculum is based on two pillars: educational innovation and professional innovation. In terms of educational innovation, Applied Geo-Information Science is a testing ground in the areas of flexible and adaptive education; the curriculum is comprised of both basic and flexible parts, with which the student can personally decide the content within the frameworks set by course. With regard to professional innovation, the course is mainly about developing knowledge. HAS University of Applied Sciences is growing from a university of applied sciences into a centre of expertise. In this role, it is actively working on social issues in the areas of agriculture, food, and the living environment. Data science has become an indispensable part of this.

Strong profile thanks to selecting certain SDGs

Susan: “We focus on social issues in the living environment that are directly linked to one or more SDGs, and where both lecturers and students can have a direct impact. We’re aware that we can’t work on all 17 SDGs at the same time, so we’ve narrowed our scope down to five SDGs. Selecting certain SDGs in this way strengthens the programme’s profile, and means we can really make an impact. We also work on concrete assignments around which the curriculum is designed. Last autumn, we surveyed the second-year students to see if this way of working and learning appealed to them. COVID-19 prevented these students from participating in an orientation internship, so as an alternative they started working on an issue related to the SDGs, in which they also reflected on the role that a graduate of Applied Geo-Information Science can play in solving such a problem.”

Female student

Lotta de Beer

Water footprint online platform

Lotta de Beer is a second-year student, and worked with fellow students Margo Burgers and Rik de Hoop on the start-up project Wat(er) I Can Do. “Our assignment was to build an online calculator that measured citizens' water footprints based on their clothing consumption. We also made an infographic with tips on how consumers buying clothing can be more aware of water usage and consumption.

See the bigger picture

She continues: “During this project, I began to notice more and more that consumers in the Netherlands buying clothing, and even in Europe, feel little responsibility when it comes to water usage and consumption, especially if the effects of this are not visible in their immediate environment. Water wastage mainly affects the countries where clothing or food is produced. By taking the SDGs as a starting point for the project, I became really aware of the enormous water problem in the world, and how I can help once I graduate. I have learned to see the bigger picture and my role in it."

Opening doors

“Young people like to be creative,” says Marjo. “We want them to feel this freedom within the curriculum, and stimulate them to get to work on social challenges. That’s why flexible education is so important. The SDGs are a driver, and show students the point of their efforts. Students become enthusiastic about working with the SDGs because they become more aware of their role in the bigger picture, and they also experience that the SDGs open doors everywhere."

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