How to Structure a Course on Sustainable Fashion? A Design-Based Research on an Online Course

Background for the research

The purpose of this research is to design a structure for an online course on sustainable fashion, which explores the elements of sustainable fashion and aims to give the course participant a holistic understanding of the current situation of the fashion industry. The research studies the ways in which critical and transformational pedagogies can be used in an online learning environment. Sustainable fashion has been recently researched a lot from different points of view, but none of the previous studies has addressed the subject from the point of view of a small clothing business aiming to teach a course for their customers.

The reasons to study sustainable fashion are very personal for the writer. As a small business owner working as an independent sustainable fashion brand, finding knowledge on the subject, and passing it on to other people in diverse ways, has become the main interest and the force that has kept the business going. I feel like it is my responsibility to find ways to educate my audience and to help build its sustainability literacy in a relatable and encouraging way, in hopes of making a small but positive change in the industry.

Even though (and partially because) there is so much info about the problems of the fashion industry and people are interested in knowing more about it, it seems complicated and time consuming for a fashion consumer to figure out what are the good choices. The clothing companies are not required to share info in a transparent way, so how can a consumer learn more about the subject in a straightforward way? Traditionally clothing businesses have not been the ones to take educating their customers about the problems in the industry to heart, but the times are changing and forcing things to evolve. The online course structure designed with this research will aim to educate fashion consumers about the industry and its problems in a way that will help them in understanding the big picture and in making those sustainable choices.

Research methods and results

Critical pedagogy and its reformational philosophical ideas are used as guides in finding dialogical elements to the course, instead of it becoming just a series of lectures. Thoughts on transformational theory are discussed as well, to find solid background for the pedagogical approach of adult learning. In addition, theories about online learning environments are studied and combined with the above-mentioned pedagogies. Finding ways to teach and talk about complicated, global, and often incredibly sad issues in a simple and positive way is a great challenge. Two rounds of online surveys were made: a general one with 112 respondents and a more specific one with 6 respondents. The course structure was designed in two developing cycles.

The online course structure was designed to include six 10–15-minute videos covering information about ecological, social and economic issues as well as sustainability efforts in the fashion industry. The videos include dialogical and conversational elements, and in addition, a platform for shared discussion between all participants was added to the course structure. Reflection and dialogue are important parts of critical and transformational pedagogies and they help people in understanding and changing their values and actions, which is the goal of the online course.

Aino Riiho

How to Structure a Course on Sustainable Fashion? A Design-Based Research on an Online Course


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