Community Engaged Learning for Energy in the Built Environment

25 March 2023

Educational project

Community Engaged Learning for Energy in the Built Environment

The project contributes to the themes Energy Transition & Sustainability, and the application domain of the built environment. We aim to place citizens/households’ energy-related behaviour at the centre of the energy transition. This proposal is for the course GEO4-2522. The  aim is to develop innovative educational initiatives regarding energy in the built environment, and to develop collaborations with relevant stakeholders to tackle sustainability challenges.

Project description

Firstly we want to develop interactive in-class sessions in the form of workshops to work together with external partners from local government organisations (municipalities/provinces), non-profit organisations, foundations, citizens’ initiatives, and companies with a social objective. For this we look at partners already providing guest lectures or workshopw for our students, and possible collaborations on demonstration projects such as the Inside Out and Iris Smart Cities which involve co-creation with citizens in the area of Utrecht, across the Netherlands (and beyond), but also to connect with other relevant stakeholders.

This proposal is intended to build upon (and expand upon) this first trial in 2022-2023 in the form of two additional workshops, as part of the course GEO4-2522, with the following partners:

  • Regionaal Energieloket: a collaboration between municipalities, local organisations and businesses helping 2.7 million Dutch residents to make their homes more sustainable. Contact person and UU alumnus: Manuel Oppenoorth (Consultant Sustainable Living).
  • Energie-U: originally started as a citizens’ initiative in 2010, which has nowadays grown to one of the largest energy cooperatives in the Netherlands with both volunteers and permanent employees. Contact person: Sander Willemsen (Director).

In the envisioned interactive workshops, we aim to further develop and apply concepts such as challenge-based learning and community-engaged learning where students will be taught to find solutions for societal challenges through collaboration with their peers, lecturers, and experts from outside the university.

Build a community in social media around the topic ‘Energy in the Built Environment’ and the course GEO4-2522, to stay connected with our alumni, teachers, and guest speakers, and to connect with other relevant stakeholders. Our aim is to encourage lifelong and CEL on energy in the built environment and keeping our community up-to-date in the field. Results of the alumni survey 2021 shows that 73% of our alumni would like to stay involved and connected with UU. Through our social mediapages we will share insights and experiences from our R&D efforts, and invite the community members in relevant research activities, events and symposia.
Organise meetings/workshops with external partners where we can showcase our CEL experiences within the course, to brainstorm, and to explore future CEL activities. Within our network we plan to approach Utrecht and Diemen Municipalities, Utrecht and Noord-Holland Provinces, and companies such as BeNext B.V., Eneco, Energie VanOns, Energie van Utrecht, TenneT TSO B.V., and EDMij. The meetings with external partners and community building through social media is expected to be particular relevant also for future research activities and especially for empirical verification with inviting citizens to participate in experimental research such as our ongoing effort for the NWO call ‘energy transition as a socio-technical challenge’.
Organise a (hybrid) symposium at the end of the course, GEO4-2522,to resemble a (hybrid) conference by letting the students’ presenting their assignments (i.e., mini-review papers). The UU Online Conferences project team will be consulted to explore the use of (hybrid/online) Conferences Toolkit, and to make the event accessible to a broader audience. During the end-of-course symposium/conference the students will present/defend their findings and debate not only with fellow-students but also with external partners whowill benefit from the students’ findings. With emphasis on learning communities and (co-)design/creation, we prepare our students for the working practice.
Expand Blended Learning activities, as an integral part of the course, through the use of the FeedbackFruits software via Blackboard, in order to:
  • Sharpen students’ critical thinking, peer-feedback and (self-)reflection skills
  • Enhance the ability of the students to work effectively in a team, and to guide them to create meaningful online discussions
  • Encourage (state of the art) interdisciplinary collaboration within the context in which emerging energy technologies and concepts in the built environment are employed, and how different technologies can be integrated both in research and in practice.
The aim, according to Bloom’s Taxonomy, is to support our students to draw connections among ideas (through group essays on the lectures and the online discussions by using FeedbackFruits to sharpen students’ skills through debate/self-reflection to organise and compare concepts/solutions).

Goals and results

The project aim (as part of GEO4-2522 ‘Energy in the Built Environment’) is twofold:

  1. Develop innovative educational initiatives with an impact on current curricula, i.e., new initiatives in CEL, support lifelong learning as part of an online community on urban energy, and expand our blended learning activities based on ourCOVID-19 experiences with focus on direct interaction between students and lecturers, and between students and their peers.
  2. Develop collaborations with relevant stakeholders to tackle sustainability challenges, i.e., build and maintain an online community on urban energy to stay connected with our alumni and relevant stakeholders, and develop interactive workshops for our students with the participation of experts outside the university.



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