Creative Education
2013. Vol.4, No.4A, 19-28
Published Online April 2013 in SciRes ( DOI:10.4236/ce.2013.44A004
A Global Classroom for International Sustainability Education
Arnim Wiek1, Michael J. Bernstein1, Manfred Laubichler2,3,4, Guido Caniglia2,
Ben Minteer2, Daniel J. Lang5
1School of Sustainability, Arizona State University, Tempe, USA
2School of Life Sciences, Arizona State U niversity, Tempe, USA
3Santa Fe Institute, Santa Fe, USA
4Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole, USA
5Institute of Ethics and Transdisciplinary Sustainability Research, Faculty Sustainability,
Leuphana University of Lüneburg, Lüneburg, Germany
Received February 11th, 20 1 3 ; revised March 15 th, 2013; accepted March 27th, 2013
Copyright © 2013 Arnim Wiek et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons At-
tribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the
original work is properly cited.
Sustainability studies put emphasis on social-environmental-technical problems with local manifestations
and global impacts. This makes especially poignant the need for educational experiences in which stu-
dents confront the challenges of crossing cultural, national, and geographical boundaries in a globalized
world and understand the historical, epistemological and ethical underpinnings of these diverse cultural
conditions. The success criteria to evaluate the educational experiences demanded by the globalization of
education, however, are yet to be specified and used in novel educational opportunities. A brief review of
international sustainability education options currently available to students reveals a gap between the
knowledge students may need to succeed in a globalized world and the opportunities available. Into this
landscape, we introduce The Global Classroom, an international collaboration between Leuphana Univer-
sity of Lüneburg in Germany and Arizona State University in the US. The project strives for an interdis-
ciplinary and cross-cultural approach to equipping students with the knowledge, skills, and attitudes re-
quired to take on sustainability challenges in international settings. We discuss the structure and organiza-
tion of the Global Classroom model and share preliminary experiences. The article concludes with a re-
flection on institutional structures conducive to providing students with the international learning oppor-
tunities they may need to tackle sustainability problems in a globalized world.
Keywords: Sustainability Education; International Education; Project- and Problem-Based Learning;
Interdisciplinary Education
Sustainability challenges, including climate change, loss of
biodiversity, poverty, epidemics, and violent conflicts, manifest
at specific locations; yet, the underlying causes are linked to
other regions, nations, and even the global society. Hence, po-
tential mitigation and solution options require coordinated and
collaborative efforts around the world (Van der Leeuw et al.,
2012). The coming generations of decision-makers, government
agents, entrepreneurs, farmers, engineers, consultants, and oth-
ers will have to face these challenges while collaborating across
local, regional, national, geographical, and cultural boundaries.
Collaboration of this extent requires the broad acquisition of
specific competence, knowledge, skills, and attitudes, which in
return has major implications for teaching and education (de
Haan, 2006; Rowe, 2007; Sipos, 2008; Brundiers & Wiek,
With these new teaching challenges, educators must deter-
mine how to best equip students with these trans-boundary
competencies. Classroom exercises that present sustainability
problems and solution options are an important part of such a
competency-focused approach. These classroom exercises,
however, lack the cross-cultural and real-world experience that
is critical for developing competencies that account for the
local nuances of sustainability problems and solutions. There is
a particular need for diverse and rich cross-cultural learning
opportunities that simultaneously prepare students for under-
standing sustainability challenges and build student capacity to
develop robust solution options to these challenges.
The success criteria or general learning objectives for such
international educational experiences can be summarized as
follows. Students need to be capable of working across national,
geographical, and cultural boundaries, recognizing the cultural,
historical, epistemological and ethical context of perceiving
sustainability problems and developing solution options; and
drawing on a pool of internationally-sourced solution ideas that
can, when adapted, be transferred to different local contexts.
Students ought to become:
Sensitive to cultural differences and their historical origins
(general cultural sensitivity).
Attuned to how sustainability problems and potential solu-
tions differ in diverse local contexts (context-specific prob-
lem and solution orientation).
Recognize, distill, adapt, and transfer sustainability knowl-
edge, problem-solving frameworks, concepts, and best prac-
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 19
tices to local settings (problem-solving through adaptation
and transfer).
Integrate perceptions, knowledge, and skills across different
disciplines and communities of practice in order to com-
prehensively understand sustainability challenges and their
ethical implications and to develop evidence-based solution
options (interdisciplinarity).
Capable of working in teams composed of individuals with
diverse cultural backgrounds (cross-cultural teamwork).
In the following, we briefly review international sustainabil-
ity education options that are currently available to students and
summarize the strengths and weaknesses of these education op-
tions. Against this review background, we present the concept
and structure of the Global Classroom, an international collabo-
ration between Leuphana University of Lüneburg in Germany
and Arizona State University in the US. The Global Class-
room offers cross-cultural and interdisciplinary educational
experiences with the intent to equip students with the knowl-
edge, skills, and attitudes required to take on sustainability
challenges in international settings. We conclude the article
with a discussion of institutional structures best suited to pro-
vide students with such international learning opportunities.
The article offers a tangible example of how to provide in-
ternational educational opportunities in line with the general
criteria for advanced sustainability education. We hope the
article provides a valuable source of inspiration for other uni-
versities to initiate similar efforts or expand ongoing ones.
International Opportunities for Sustainability
Universities are in the process of recognizing the need for
shifting and transforming established structures and practices in
research, teaching, and operations in order to meet the sustain-
ability challenges of the 21st century (Ferrer-Balas et al., 2008;
Whitmer et al., 2010; Wiek et al., 2011b; Lang & Wiek, 2012).
One important domain of this transformation is the emergence
of international educational programs in sustainability. We first
review the current state of international sustainability education
opportunities through the lens of 17 international programs
featured by the Association for the Advancement of Sustain-
ability in Higher Education (AASHE). AASHE is a support
network for educational organizations to advance sustainability
in teaching, research, and operations. AASHE maintains a list
of sustainability study abroad programs offered by various or-
ganizations across the US1. We limit our review to academic
institutions (as opposed to including other organizations) pro-
viding undergraduates with sustainability study abroad oppor-
tunities. While not comprehensive, the selected 17 programs
present a robust spectrum of opportunities currently available to
students in the US. We reviewed these programs based on the
information available on the web (we did not request further
information, conduct interviews, etc.). For the purpose of this
review, we sought only information easily and readily accessi-
ble to students landing on the program page.
We use a review scheme based on the quality criteria for in-
ternational sustainability education in a globalized world we
explored above. For each program we asked the following
In how far does this program:
Promote cross-cultural education?
Address the context-specificity of sustainability problems
and potential solutions?
Offer capacity-building in complex problem-solving (solu-
tion orientation)?
Adopt an interdisciplinary approach to sustainability prob-
lems and potential solutions?
Teach teamwork in cross-cultural settings?
To keep our review cursory, as intended, we reviewed if an
element was either “strong,” predominantly “absent,” or “not
clear” from available material. We formulated our answers
based on keywords and phrases available on program landing
pages. In particular, we focused on sentences beginning with
phrases like, “The program is designed […]” or “this program’s
goal […]” or “students will explore […]” For example, the
phrase to provide “students with an opportunity to learn about
contemporary and historical issues that impact development
and social change in Southern Africa” is deemed a “strong”
opportunity for cross-cultural education. The phrase, “This
course will examine watershed management and its role in
sustainable development,” represents a “strong” solution orien-
tation; use of the word “transdisciplinary” indicated a “strong”
interdisciplinary approach. The statement that students will,
“cross borders, working collaboratively to solve problems” is
deemed evidence of “strong” teamwork in cross-cultural set-
tings (Table 1).
The majority of international sustainability education oppor-
tunities we reviewed lasted between one and two months (Ta-
ble 2).
Our review reveals that a majority of programs (14 of 17)
provide students with a cross-cultural educational opportunity
(Table 1). The majority of programs available address the con-
text-specificity of sustainability problems and potential solu-
tions (10 of 17); slightly fewer build capacity in complex prob-
lem-solving (solution orientation) (8 of 17), or adopt an inter-
disciplinary approach (8 of 17; 3 additional programs may, but
this was “not clear” from available information). Our review
reveals a dearth of programs offering students experience to
work on cross-cultural teams (1 of 17). Only one program
meets all of the presented criteria for international sustainability
education opportunities (Table 3).
The Global Classroom Experiment
Into this landscape, we introduce The Global Classroom, an
international collaboration between Leuphana University of
Lüneburg in Germany and Arizona State University in the US.
During the academic year 2009/2010, an international group
of fellows in residence at the Institute for Advanced Studies in
Berlin (Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin) formed a working group
on curriculum reform. These fellows represented a wide range
of disciplines (from physics and biology to political science and
art history) and geographical regions (US, Europe, India, Israel).
The group produced a manifesto and a set of recommendations
(see:; Elkana et al., 2010). The
central recommendation was to prepare students from the be-
ginning of their studies to understand and deal with real-life
problems at a global scale and to understand contextual (geo-
graphical, cultural) dimensions of knowledge.
1Available at: Based on these discussions, the group began to explore the
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 21
Table 1.
International sustainability education oppo rtunities feature d by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE).
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 23
Table 2.
Duration of the reviewed internatio nal programs.
Program du ration 1 - 2 seme s t ers 1 - 2 months 1 - 3 weeks
Number of programs 4 7 3
Table 3.
Narrowing of the opportunity space for students in international sustainability education as more quality criteria are applied.
Number of programs
Number of programs
promoting cross-cultural
Number of programs
promoting cross-cultural
education AND
addressing context
Number of programs
promoting cross-cultural
education AND
addressing context
specificity AND having a
solution o ri entation
Number of programs
promoting cross-cultural
education AND
addressing context
specificity AND having a
solution orientation AND
adopting an
interdisci plinary approach
Number of programs
promoting cross-cultural
education AND
addressing context
specificity AND having a
solution orientation AND
adopting an
interdisciplinary ap
AND teaching
cross-cultural teamwork
17 14 11 7 6 1
tive research model that is inquiry-based, problem-driven, con-
text-sensitive and solution-oriented. By combining interdisci-
plinary liberal arts approaches based on historical, epistemo-
logical, ethical and sociological analyses with a problem- and
solution-oriented sustainability science research educational
model, the Global Classroom uses virtual technologies to edu-
cate students on ways to engage and contextualize complex
sustainability problems. The Global Classroom adopts method-
ology and computational tools developed in other educational
projects to facilitate teaching and learning. These include the
Embryo Project (, which developed
workflows and manuals for peer review, writing and publishing
based on modular research projects; system thinking ap-
proaches to sustainability challenges; mapping methodologies
inspired by urban sociology; walking methods developed in the
fields of urban studies, photography, and sociology; and a
Problem- and Project-Based Learning (PPBL) approach de-
veloped in the School of Sustainability at ASU (Wiek et al.,
2013). The Global Classroom is built on the understanding that
when we deal with problems in isolation, without recognition
of broader context and cause, we fail to generate effective,
possibility of an educational pilot that would allow pursuing
these recommendations. Of the institutions represented in this
group, Arizona State University (ASU) and Leuphana Univer-
sity of Lüneburg (LUL) provided the best opportunity to con-
duct a pilot project. Both universities had recently begun a
process of radical transformation that challenged traditional
conceptions of research and education (Crow, 2010; Lang &
Wiek, 2012), similar to other universities around the world
(Ferrer-Balas et al., 2008); professional relationships (student
exchange, co-teaching, joint supervision, etc.) already existed
among faculty and students from both institutions; and both
institutions were willing to facilitate and support a pilot in
global education for continuation and expansion, beyond a one-
off experiment.
A new group emerged from these initial discussions that was
tasked to develop the Global Classroom as an integrated joint
program between ASU and LUL for 12 credit hours (US) or 30
credit points (Germany) that would run over 3 semesters and
initially involve three overlapping cohorts of 40 students each
(20 from each institution). With this idea, the group success-
fully approached the Stiftung Mercator for funding. Through a
series of virtual and in-person meetings involving faculty
members, post-docs and teaching assistants from both institu-
tions, we developed an integrated curriculum and a technology
platform for start in January 2013.
lasting solutions. Our educational institutions have a long re-
cord of successfully training topical experts with narrowly con-
strained skill sets. The Global Classroom draws off of these
critical basic knowledge foundations. But where current educa-
tional institutions seek only to better understand urban systems,
the Global Classroom builds capacity for generating knowledge
that sustainability change-makers—be they researchers, practi-
tioners, or general citizens—can use to advance urban sustain-
ability in addition to gaining a broader contextual understand-
ing of these issues.
Basic Features
The initial Global Classroom focuses on one topic—Sus-
tainable Cities—and approaches it from a variety of perspec-
tives, including sustainability studies, sociology, social geog-
raphy, history, history and philosophy of science and medicine,
environmental ethics, and economics. The background of the
first cohort of students is equally diverse. Applying the prince-
ples of the curriculum reform manifesto as well as similar ef-
forts in re-conceptualizing sustainability education (Wiek et al.,
2011b), the Global Classroom is built on a hands-on, collabora-
To equip students with the knowledge and tools they need to
systematically engage urban sustainability challenges and drive
toward positive change, the Global Classroom pairs an in-
quiry-based mode of researching and experiencing the city with
a sustainability competency approach to education. Further-
more, the Global Classroom provides students with the skills to
analyze the historical, epistemological and ethical foundations
of these problems. A competency framework provides a “con-
verging set of key competencies that can guide the design of
programs and courses in sustainability, teaching and learning
evaluations” (Wiek et al., 2011a). The key competency frame-
work proposes five domains of knowledge and skill as critical
to sustainability science research and education: systems think-
ing, anticipatory thinking, normative thinking, strategic think-
ing, and interpersonal skills (ibid.). Table 4 illustrates how
learning outcomes of the Global Classroom map onto key
The Global Classroom is designed and taught by an interna-
tional team of faculty and graduate students, drawing on diverse
disciplinary backgrounds from sustainability to biology to phi-
losophy to environmental ethics, promoting an interdisciplinary
approach. The Global Classroom engages in the first cohort 22
ASU undergraduate students and 20 LUL undergraduate stu-
dents of diverse disciplinary backgrounds from art, psychology,
biology, sustainability, and others.
The students both in Germany and in the United States start
with an open exploration of their cities. From the beginning,
they work in international teams on collaborative projects that
get refined over the course of the three semesters. The research
projects include a focus on context-specific sustainability chal-
lenges, using problem- and project-based learning approaches
(Steinemann & Asce, 2003; Thomas, 2009; Yasin & Rahman,
2011; Wiek et al., 2013) but also emphasize the various con-
textual factors needed to fully comprehend the issues. For ex-
ample, in Phoenix, students have the opportunity to focus on
water resource management, urban sprawl, or urban heat island;
in Lüneburg, students have the opportunity to focus on sus-
tainability-oriented business development, energy transitions,
and urban-rural development tensions. In both cases, students
will also investigate the larger cultural context and historical
constraints for all these issues. Student research teams are ex-
pected to investigate not just urban sustainability challenges,
but also potential solutions, focusing on lessons to be learned
from sustainability advancements in Phoenix, and Lüneburg,
and around the world.
Active exploration of the cities is complemented by discus-
sion and instruction in background knowledge on cities, sus-
tainability, history, ethics, etc. To this end, online-material is
provided for discussion in the joint transatlantic sessions en-
abled by the use of Vydio® technology. Other electronic teach-
ing and communication platforms, such as social media and
discussion forums, accompany in-class presentations and dis-
cussions. Funding from Stiftung Mercator allows for two ex-
change visits to the partner university by each cohort. During
the first visit, students refine, defend, and plan their group re-
search projects; during the second one they finish up and pre-
sent their findings in an open event.
Modular Design
The Global Classroom curriculum on urban sustainability
unfolds over three semesters spanning three core stages com-
bining problem-based and solution-oriented sustainability ap-
proaches with perspectives from history and philosophy of
science as well as ethics (Figure 1). Each student’s resident
cities, Phoenix and Lüneburg, frame case studies for urban
Each of the six modules engage students through a suite of
diverse content, context, and methodologies framed, augmented,
and achieved through teamwork, stakeholder engagement, and
Table 4.
Linking learning outcomes of the global classroom to sustainability key competencies.
Systems think i ng Anticipatory thinking Normative think i ng Strategic thinking
Analyze complex feedbacks amon g
cross-sector and cross-scale urban
sustainabili ty challenges, l ike land-use
change a nd energy c onsumption, as
well as path dependencies that
constrain directions o f development in
society, as with transportation
Create a n d craft plausible sustainability
visions (desirable future states), for
example a vision of healthy and livabl e
urban communities.
Evaluate implications of and trade-offs
among different conceptions of the city,
different motivations for devel op ment, and
alternative visions of the future; assess
how different w orldviews shape the reality
of a city.
Develop strategies t o s upport
change in different societal
contexts, for example a strategy
for initiating and maintaining
urban agriculture.
Interpersonal skills
Engage, motivate, collaborate with peers, decision-makers, stakeholders, and the public.
Module 1
skills workshop
Introduction to
and cities
Mapping and
walking audits
Stage 1
Basic Content Development
Module 2
Introduction to
Mapping and
walking audits
Begin teamwork
Module 3
students visit
Arizona State
and project
Stage 2
Group Project Development
Module 4
group work
Module 5
group work
through virtual
Module 6
Arizona State
students visit
Final in-person
Stage 3
Figure 1.
Working model for t h e s t a g es a n d modules of the Global Classroom.
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
ational co
ntent component of each module becomes the entry
Study experience to bear on
Methodology le, instructors cultivate an apprecia-
The complexity and diversity of sustainability challenges
a collaborative approach to problem and solution re-
search. Students in the Global Classroom tackle sustainability
llenges in international and interdisciplinary teams
s to de-
e Global Classroom enriches the op-
tions available in the landscape of international sustainability
ed -
eed to be capable of working across
cultures, recognize cultural contexts, and draw upon a pool of
at can, when adapted, be trans-
intern llaborat io n. calls for
The co
point for student engagement with sustainability problems. By
building systemic understanding of urban sustainability chal-
lenges and pushing students to grapple with the potential out-
comes of different societal trajectories and evaluate the impli-
cations of these trajectories, the content component empowers
students with a nuanced, holistic appreciation for the complex-
ity of the urban environment.
Students review the broad history of urban development;
learn about current urbanization challenges related to popula-
tion growth, social and demographic change, land-use land-
cover change, water and energy systems, decision making, and
infrastructure decay; encounter visions of sustainable cities and
successful responses to urban challenges; and develop an un-
derstanding of how change happens in cities. When synthesized
and framed in a problem-based and solution oriented context,
the knowledge developed in the content section provides a
foundation for place-based, student-driven research on solution
development. In addition, students will also further explore the
historical origins and ethical challenges behind all these sus-
tainability solutions.
Context: The “Local” Case
Just as an individual brings his/her own
an issue and uses his/her experience as a medium of exchange
in dialogue with his/her peers, the context component, here
urban sustainability issues in Phoenix and in Lüneburg, will be
the medium of engagement and exchange for Global Classroom
students. By challenging students to apply their competency-
based approach to conceive of specific urban sustainability
problems in Phoenix and in Lüneburg, the context component
equips students with place-based issues on which to engage
their international peers. By collaborating across cities as dif-
ferent as Phoenix and Lüneburg students cultivate an apprecia-
tion for the diversity of urban sustainability challenges and
solutions. Through engaging specific place-based challenges
and learning about different problems shared or unique to dif-
ferent cities and cultures around the world, students bring richer
perspectives to problem conceptualization and solution-oriented
Throughout each modu
tion of exploring knowledge gaps. They discuss different types
of knowledge generated by different types of research and how
to apply different methods of knowledge generation when un-
dertaking solution-oriented sustainability research. Furthermore,
they will also convey to students how to critically evaluate,
reflect and problematize these solutions and their constraints in
light of historical, epistemological, and ethical considerations.
Students obtain a broad methodological skill set to perform
solution-oriented sustainability research. In addition to learning
the importance of a dialectic approach to critical engagement,
students are being introduced to problem analysis, sustainabil-
ity visioning, and transition strategy development methods.
research cha
to prepare them for this reality. By supplementing knowledge
cultivation with professional skills development, including
project management, team document organization, meeting
facilitation, conflict resolution, and virtual collaboration, the
Global Classroom provides students with an experience base on
which to draw for future professional work and research.
International Collaboration and Virtual Teamwork
The majority of sustainability challenges have global causes
and implications. The Global Classroom experience is designed
to address problems of this scope by having students
local problems and then engage with international peer
velop a richer understanding of how global problems manifest
differently (and similarly) in other local contexts. The Global
Classroom allows students to explore not just different cities,
but also cultures. Students develop an appreciation for diverse
values and perceptions influence sustainability challenges and
solutions. By providing coaching support and virtual platforms
for international communication, the Global Classroom builds
student capacity for cross-cultural collaboration, a critical in-
gredient for interacting successfully in a globally intercon-
nected world. The Global Classroom project pursues the goals
of international education as a hybrid course that takes advan-
tage of new media, technology, and learning theory. In addition,
students gain first-hand experience with cutting-edge tools in
video communication, online course environments, and online
project presentation. Collaborative virtual group workspaces for
participants and an online course environment that houses sup-
porting course resources complete the Global Classroom learn-
ing environment.
Initial Experience with the Global Classroom
In light of our review of international sustainability education
opportunities, we find th
ucation. Below, we discuss the ability of this model to de
er on quality criteria for international sustainability education;
we present our plan for formative and summative assessments
of student performance and program learning objectives; and
we delve into the challenges (expected and experienced) of
implementing the program, as well as strategies for coping with
experienced challenges.
Continuous Assessment
To succeed in addressing sustainability challenges in a glob-
alized world, students n
internationally-applied ideas th
rred to different local contexts. The Global Classroom project
provides various opportunities to acquire these capabilities
through international education.
Global Classroom students work in international team on di-
verse place-based sustainability challenges in Phoenix and
Lüneburg. As they shape their research, students are constantly
challenged to combine the perspectives of international team
members. In this way, students gain first-hand experience with
oss-cultural teamwork and the different norms, perspectives,
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 25
and approaches of their peers. Additionally, students and in-
structors draw on diverse epistemological backgrounds to craft
research questions—teams composed of students from the arts,
psychology, biology, sustainability and other programs are
being coached by instructors to tackle urban sustainability is-
sues that do not recognize disciplinary boundaries. Student
teams not only delve into sustainability problems, but are also
encouraged to research potential solutions—drawing from
German, US, and international expertise across disciplines. This
includes recognizing, distilling, transferring, and adapting sus-
tainability knowledge, problem-solving frameworks, concepts,
and best practices to local settings.
For continuous improvement, we are instituting a range of
formative assessments to help us evaluate student learning and
course effectiveness. One of our approaches to evaluating ef-
fectiveness is through the sustainability key competencies
framework (Wiek et al., 2011a). Adopting the competencies
e vision of the Global Classroom runs up against
university logistics, virtual collaboration, and
rsity Logistics
In conducting a three semester long collaboration, as op-
s exhibited in many of
-month, and semester-to semester issues of
g criterity education opportunities.
Promote cross-cultural context-specificity of Have a solution Adopt an interdisciplinary
approach to sustainabili ty Teach teamwork in
amework allows for a comprehensive set of proxies for many
of the quality criteria of international sustainability education
outlined above (Table 5). For example, practice in cross-cul-
tural teamwork develops interpersonal skills; synthesizing in-
terdisciplinary perspectives to tackle an urban sustainability
problem builds capacity in systems think about complex webs
of influence among, say, infrastructure and political power.
We are evaluating the development of student competencies
though pre-, interim-, and post-assessments that will be coded,
with standards of inter-rater reliability, at the conclusion of the
first cohort. In addition, we conduct periodic student-student,
student-instructor, and instructor-instructor reviews to allow
going formative assessment of the structural aspects of the
Global Classroom itself (e.g., effectiveness of virtual platforms,
relevance of content, availability of instructor support, sources
of conflict, course strengths and areas of improvement, etc.).
Table 5.
Exemplary use of sustainability key competencies as indicators for meetin
Address the
At times, th
the reality of
her challenges. Below, we explore a few of these challenges
we have encountere d and coping strategies we have adopted as
the program develops.
Time Zones and Unive
posed to shorter international courses a
e international sust ainability education options, two logistical
challenges arise. The first challenge occurs at the micro-level:
the day-to-day issues of communicating with partners across an
8-hour time difference. Time zones present a two-fold challenge
related to when classes can be held (either far earlier than nor-
mal for one institution or far later for another), and when fac-
ulty can find time to collaborate and plan for classroom and
program activities. E-mail, video conferencing services, and the
cloud-based software packages each present important tools for
the Global Classroom to span the international dateline and
communicate synchronously and asynchronously. As we dis-
cuss later, however, such technological solutions come with
their own issues.
The second challenge occurs at the macro-level: the week-
to-week, month-to
aching a course simultaneously at two universities with sig-
nificantly different semester calendars. Semester start- and
end-dates, and holiday schedules perforate Global Classroom
calendars. But these challenges also offer opportunities as they
enable us to take advantage of non-overlapping semesters to
organize exchange visits to Phoenix and Lüneburg, respec-
a of international sustainabili
education sustainability problems and
potential solutions orientation problems a nd potential
solutions cross-cultural se
nking ts
physical landscapes.
Differences in urban
decision-making contex
leading to di
Recognition of how loc
factors contribute to diversity
urban sustain abi li ty
challenges and solu
Incorporation of div erse
knowledge domains to urban
sustainability research
thinking y ms or
s research
onsideration of diverse
rspectives to avoid
xts over others.
onsideration of winners
rs when
researching potential
sustainabi lity solutions. .
y to
Leverage disciplinary
or test sustai n ability
solutions. individual
Navigatio n o f local
contexts and multi-cultural
team dynamics.
Navigatio n o f local contexts
and multi-cultural team
Navigatio n o f local
contexts and multi-cultural
team dynamics.
Ability to bridge disciplines
in team setti ng s and in
public com munication .
Navigatio n o f local
contexts, cult ural, and
disciplinary perspe ctives.
Considera ti on of diverse
perspectives to avoid
Consideration of con t ext when
analyzi ng ur ban proble
Considera ti on of how
different disciplinary
approaches may or may not
fully addres
Considera ti on of diverse
perspectives to avoid
Not privileging certain
cultural conte
and loseNot privileging certain wa ys
of knowing over others
Considera ti on of diverse
perspectives to avoid
Leverage cultural diversity
to research and test suite
potential s
Leverage cultural diversit
research and test suite of
potential sustainability
Appropriate, translate, and
adapt knowledge of lo
contexts in
problem-solv ing efforts.
diversity to more fully
address research questions
Cultivate dyna mic that
draws on teammate
strengths and supports
team and
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
Virtual Collabo
ens hats
several transatlantic visits that were necessary to plan and con-
solidate the s orga
standinome up we and acceptabl
olutions, sometimes last minute. Therefore, we are still seek-
tional strategies for successful virtual
roaches we take to planning Global Classroom activities.
Tensions are often palpable between those with more proc-
al Classroom Ex-
periment was presentedm inspiration, design,
approach, and ability to mpiled criteria. Finally,
sustainability education will require more substantial change at
lenges of potentpatible semetion sche-
ll alty,
es. In as tol
resources for sufficient virtual collaboration and technological
llaboration is not a full s
espite our best efforts. In
of hours of video c
and doz
ubstitute for in-person in-
deed, hundreds of e-m
could not compensate for
the level of acad
sarily affect adm
yet interconnect
yllabus and course
ges require a lot of good
g in order to c
nization. In general, plan
will, trust, flexibility, an
ith feasibl
dules, as we
post-docs, and re
ning challen
ing and exploring addi
Beyond these more intangible issues of virtual collaboration
are the invariable rules of using technologies in the classroom.
If you need to use it, and your entire meeting revolves around
the need of a technology to work correctly, it will fail some-
times (we have empirical evidence). Institutional technology
support (technician), patient students, and good-humored in-
structors are instrumental in surmounting such technical hic-
ross-Disciplinary and Cross-Cultural Collaboration
The Global Classroom seeks to equip students with tools and
experiences on working in interdisciplinary, cross-cultural
teams. The same applies to the instructors. We often experience
first-hand the need for patience, broad perspectives, and flexi-
bility when it comes to attempting to globalize the educational
landscape. Different epistemological perspectives manifest in
the app
ess-driven, meticulous approaches vs. those with a more
tive” attitude, for instance, when developing proposals, work
plans, and course material. These tensions, when not addressed,
can lead to frustration and reluctance to fully engage in con-
tinuous deliberation and collaboration. If not addressed early,
this could lead to resentment capable of undermining the entire
Global Classroom effort. In response, we are learning to prac-
tice the very process checks we teach to our students about
successful international collaboration; listen to colleague-
perspectives, respect the work being done, question assump-
tions about differences in approaches, and communicate ques-
tions appropriately, and institute regular assessment of team
interactions. So far we have been successful.
This article started out with quality criteria for international
educational experiences to prepare students for confronting
sustainability challenges crossing cultural, national, and geo-
graphical boundaries. With these criteria in hand, we reviewed
student opportunities in international sustainability education.
Our rough appraisal found that only one of seventeen programs
reviewed fulfill all of the criteria. The Glob
with its progra
deliver on the co
e reviewed the challenges of designing a program that we find
fulfills the quality criteria of international sustainability educa-
tional experiences.
The Global Classroom is but one program between two in-
stitutions supported by a generous external grant. While we find
our model of international collaboration valuable, its scope is
limited. True transformation of the landscape of international
support, as well as intermittent travel funding, is essential. With
institutional support, we can imagine generic global classroom
teams securing outside funding of site visits, but only with the
demonstrated institutional support for other facets of the class-
room experience as we have experienced from Arizona State
emic institutions. Su
inistration, faculty,
d ways.
n needs to work cl
ially incom
changes would neces
students in different,
to navigate the cha
ster and vaca
s establishing incentive
search and teaching as
ddition, finding way
structures for facu
sistants to tackle the
leverage institutiona
d Leuphana universities.
Faculty need to develop skills in international collaboration
and project management. In addition, faculty with valuable
disciplinary perspectives but relatively untrained in working on
interdisciplinary teams needs to learn to navigate the tension of
such worldview-challenging experiences. Although at first dif-
ficult, we expect the benefits of such work to far exceed the
costs, opening up new streams for fruitful research, travel, and
educational opportunities for faculty and students alike.
Students need to develop exceptional flexibility as Global-
Classroom-like programs come online. At a most basic level,
the majority of the students may never have experienced chal-
lenges to their worldviews. In addition, those participating in
the class must be prepared to manage heavy workloads that
may fall at odd-times in their conventional semester as accom-
modations are made to pair university schedules. Students also
need to be flexible regarding out-of-class working hours, as in-
ternational peers may not be easily reached during conventional
work times (e.g., the evening hours for one set of students may
be the class hours for another). Where international travel is
involved, faculty and administration need to coach students on
how to secure outside funding (to ensure that all who are inter-
ested have access to these international experiences), as well as
on proper travel etiquette.
All parties involved need to adopt to and integrate the prom-
ising practices of virtual educational technologies. From in-
class video conferencing to out-of class times, emails, and
workflows, all parties will likely need to cultivate patience and
skill in navigating the online world. These forays into virtual
spaces, however, allows universities to tap into the growing
body of resources available to online education efforts. A fully
global classroom can take advantage of “flipped classroom”
models (Strayer, 2007) in which students are free to interact
with lesson content outside of the class and instructors are free
to use class time to engage students on the nuances of cross-
cultural perspectives, collaboration and knowledge translational
and adaptation. In addition, such a “flipped” model would also
secure valuable and scarce time in which students know they
will be able to work together on joint projects, using the para-
digm of problem- and project-based learning (Steinemann &
Asce, 2003; Wiek et al., 2013).
A critical step to internationalizing sustainability education is
to establish the standards vital to ensuring quality student ex-
periences. The Global Classroom can serve as a real-world
laboratory for consolidating such standards and practices. Ad-
ditional “meta research” along a clearly structured research
design is required to evaluate, generalize, and transfer the in-
sights gained. While more detailed studies need to be done, our
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 27
review demonstrates the distance to go in closing the gap be-
tween the knowledge, skills, and perspectives students need to,
and the opportunities they have to hone these skills in interna-
tional sustainability education. Future global classrooms will
also need to press the envelope of cross-cultural fluency. Our
Germany-US collaboration looks much different than, say, a
US-China or Germany -South Africa collaboration might. Should
our institutions choose advance the ideas embodied by the
Global Classroom model, multiple and diverse partnerships will
be required to encourage broad-based cultural exchanges. The
suite of institutions providing student opportunities in interna-
tional sustainability education, universities, like Arizona State
University, Leuphana University of Lüneburg, and those re-
viewed in this article, will play a critical role in providing stu-
dents with the international learning opportunities they need to
tackle sustainability problems in a globalized world.
The authors would like to thank their colleagues at Arizona
State University and Leuphana University of Lüneburg, in-
cluding Beatrice John, Sacha Kagan, Jane Maienschein, Rich-
ard Creath, Sean Cohmer, Andrew Ells, Irma Sandercock,
Charles Kazilek, Nils Ole Oermann, Robert Page and Sascha
Spoun and our first cohort of Global Classroom students for
their collaborative engagement and support in the first Global
Classroom. The authors acknowledge financial support from
the Stiftung Mercator.
Brundiers, K., & Wiek, A. (2011). Educating students in real-world
sustainability research: Vision and implementation. Innovative High-
er Education, 36, 107-124. doi:10.1007/s10755-010-9161-9
Brundiers, K., & Wiek, A. (2013). Do we teach what we preach? An
international comparison of problem- and project-based learning
courses in sustainability. Sustainability, 5, 1725-1746.
Crow, M. M. (2010).ch to address the
grand challenges ioScience, 60, 488-
489. doi:10.1525/b
Organizing teaching and resear
of sustainable development. B
De Haan, G. (2006). The BLK “21” programme in Germany: A “Ges-
taltungskompetenz”-based model for education for sustainable de-
velopment. Environm e n t a l Education Resources , 1, 19-32.
Elkana, Y., Laubichler, M. D., & Wilkins, A. S. (2010). Call to reshape
university curric u la . Nature, 467, 788. doi:10.1038/467788c
Ferrer-Balas, D., Adachi, J., Banas, S., Davidson, C. I., Hoshikoshi, A.,
Mishra, A., Motododa, Y., Onga, M., & Ostwald, M. (2008). An in-
ternational comparative analysis of sustainability transformation
across seven universities. International Journal of Sustainability in
Higher Education, 9, 295-316. doi
Lang, D. J., & Wiek, A. (2012). The role of universities in fostering
urban and regional sustainability. In H. A. Mieg, & K. Töpfer (Eds.),
Institutional and social innovation for sustainable urban
ment (pp. 393-411). London: Earths
Rowe, D. (2007). Education for a sustainable future. Science, 317, 323-
324. doi:10.1126/science.1143552
Sipos, Y., Battisti, B., & Grimm, K. (2008). Achieving transformative
sustainability learning: Engaging head, hands and heart. Interna-
tional Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, 9, 68-86.
teinemann, A., & Asce, M. (2003). Implementing sustainable devSel-
opment through problem-based learning: Pedagogy and practice.
Journal of Professional Issues in Engineering Education and Prac-
tice, 129, 216-224. doi:10.1061/(ASCE)1052-3928(2003)129:4(216)
trayer, J. F. (2007). The effect of the claSssroom flip on the learning
t used an intelligent tutoring sys-
environment: A comparison of learning activity in a traditional
classroom and a flip classroom tha
tem. Ph.D. Thesis, Columbus, OH: Ohio State University.
homas, I. (2009). Critical thinking, transformative learning, sustain-
able education, and problem-based learning in universities. Jou
of Transformative Education, 7, 24
an der Leeuw, S., Wiek, A., Harlow, J., & Buizer, J. (2012). How
much time do we have? Urgency and rhetoric in sustainability sci-
ence. Sustainability Science, 7, 115-120.
hitmer, A., Ogden, L., Lawton, J., Sturner, P., Groffman, P. M.,
Schneider, L., Hart, D. et al. (2010). The engaged university: Pro-
viding a platform for research that transforms society. Fr
ontiers in
Ecology and the Environment, 8, 314-321. doi:10.1890/090241
iek, A., Withycombe, L., & Redman, C. L. (2011a). Key competen-
cies in sustainability—A reference framewo
development. Sustainability Scien
Wrk for academic program
ce, 6, 203-218.
iek, A., Withycombe, L., Redman, C. L., & Banas Mills, S. (2011b).
Moving forward on competence in sustain
lem solving. Environment: Scien
Wability research and prob-
ce and Policy for Sustainable De-
velopment, 53, 3- 12. doi:10.1080/00139157.2011.554496
iek, A., Xiong, A., Brundiers, K., & van der Leeuw, S. (2013). Inte-
grating problem- and project-based learning into sustainability pro-
grams—A case study on the School of Sustainability at Arizona
Yted project based
education for sustainable develop-
University. Intern ational Journal of Sustainability in Higher Educa-
tion, under Review.
asin, R. M., & Rahman, S. (2011). Problem orien
learning (POPBL) in promoting
ment. Procedia Social and Behavioral Sciences, 15, 289-293.
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.