We welcome you to join Sustainability Course’s midpoint meeting!

A warm welcome to the midpoint meeting on November 4th at 14 – 16!

Working groups producing teaching materials for the upcoming new Sustainability Course at the University of Helsinki present their proposals for the Table of Contents of different course modules. Meeting is open for all University of Helsinki staff members and students. The midpoint meeting’s materials will be uploaded here  including more specific schedule, table of contents drafts and feedback e-form.

We also encourage university community to peer-review table of contents of course modules via e-form to be opened soon!

Midpoint Meeting of the University of Helsinki Sustainability Course working groups

Wed 4.11.2020 at 14:00-15:00 in Zoom

(meeting ID: 626 6980 0023, Passcode: 088997)

Welcome to join the seminar to hear their ideas, give feedback and point out possible overlaps and gaps from the material in progress in these working groups:

  • 1 INTRO: Sustainability as a concept, the complexity of sustainability challenges, and systemic approach
  • 2: Solutions: Solutions to sustainability challenges the roles of students in solving sustainability challenges as future experts, individuals and as members of society. Designing the sustainability project.

    Thematic modules (perspectives, ongoing changes, processes, phenomenon and solutions)

  • 3A: Global environmental commons
  • 3B: Human well-being and capabilities
  • 3C: Sustainable and just economies
  • 3D: Sustainable food systems and healthy nutrition
  • 3E: Energy decarbonisation with universal access
  • 3F: Urban and peri-urban development

Tervetuloa / Welcome / Välkommen!

What’s up with the Sustainability Course?

It has been almost a month since the kick-off event where all the groups met for the first time and started the work for the sustainability course’s content. Time for a checkup: what the groups are doing now and what happens next?

Eight different multidisciplinary groups are forming table of contents for each module. The groups meet approximately every two weeks and discuss how to form best kind of content and what to include and how. After settling with table of contents, the next step is starting to draft teaching materials. During the work, student members are also a very important part of this; their work is to read and comment the texts for any improvements and to bring student perspective along.

We will organize midpoint seminar in early November, where all the groups are free introduce their work for other groups, staff and student members. The idea is that the groups present their ideas, comment on others, recognize any overlapping or knowledge gaps in the contents and collect feedback to fine-tune their work.

Almost all the groups are ready with their table of content; just bit refining and the next step can start!

We find it important that the course includes activating and interaction hence we highly encourage the groups to produce diverse learning materials, such as text, images, charts, videos, podcasts, and so on. We are also planning to produce introductory videos for each module.

Learning materials

Each module includes assignments and evaluations that include 1) activation of previous knowledge, 2) supporting the learning process by actively linking content to student’s own previous structures and 3) evaluations. Moreover, while planning these assignments, the working groups must keep in mind that the evaluation is based mainly on automatization, students’ own self-assessments and peer review.

Got any questions? Write them down to the comments box and we will answer them!

Pedagogical and content production guidelines of the Sustainability course 

During the fall 2020 the teaching materials are made in multidisciplinary working groups and students will conduct the first test runs of the materials. You might ask how the groups work and what kind of results are asked for.

Read the Pedagogical and content production guidelines of the Sustainability course. 

The learning objectives were approved at the Academic Affairs Council (ONE) meeting one June 17th 2020. Read the post about ONE meeting here. 

The working titles for the modular course structure are loosely based on the UN report The Future is Now (UN 2019). You can find the summary of the report here.

Sustainability – Bringing people together

The registration for The Sustainability course’s working groups has now officially closed and we are happy to announce that staggering 160 persons registered for the teams! We are truly amazed of the interest the course development has gained; sustainability theme seems to bring people together!

Staggering 160 persons registered for the teams!

We got registrations from all faculties from the University of Helsinki, just as we wished. It is important to have interdisciplinary points of view in the development phase of the course since the course is open for all students in the University of Helsinki. We welcomed great variety of students (bachelors and masters), pHd students, staff members and staff members also from University services.

The first kick-off event is 18.9.! Things are getting real and 2021 coming closer: we are ready for the teams to get working!

Great to have so many people onboard!

Sustainability course mentioned in the university’s opening speech!

The autumn semester has officially started! Hopefully it will be a good one!

We are happy to tell you that our sustainability course has gained some interest and was mentioned in the University’s opening speech by the rector Sari Lindblom on Monday 31.8.2020.

Rector Lindblom sees that the sustainablity course can give the students skills in both ecological sustainability and in taking care of one’s own wellbeing:

”Sustainability is a necessity in terms of both individual wellbeing and the environment, which is why we have decided at the University of Helsinki to offer all students the opportunity to take a multidisciplinary course in sustainability from this academic year onward. This course provides tools for making responsible decisions and maintaining personal wellbeing. I would like to encourage you students to participate in this course. It is stimulating to develop new skills!”

Moreover, the importance of knowledge, the central role of teaching and future experts, collaboration and multidisciplinarity – along with this year’s exceptional circumstances were present in the speech. ”We educate experts who will change the world”, rector Lindblom said.

Also, the biggest newspaper in Finland Helsingin sanomat recognized the course in their article on Monday 31.1.2020! The article had citations from Lindblom’s speech and offered information that it will be a five-credit course, build online and its pilot will be launched in the spring of 2021.

The whole opening ceremony is visible here and read rector Lindblom’s speech in Finnish, Swedish or English on the University of Helsinki website.

Get to know our new trainees!

It is time to thank the old trainees Lotta, Arttu and Heidi and introduce new faces that will start working with the sustainability course. Sometimes it is too easy to forget how much work and effort there is behind each magnificent project so to say the least these triplets’ work has been indispensable. You all will be greatly missed, and it’s been truly a pleasure to work with you and get to know you!

Here are our new people working with university’s sustainability course:


I am Meri Mäkelä. Two years ago I moved from northern Finland to the countryside of Viikki to study in Environmental Change and Global Sustainability master’s programme. Currently I am working on my thesis about ecosystems and long-term climate change in the Arctic. In my studies, I have especially focused on arctic studies, sustainable forestry and changing environments, but I have also gained a wider interest in sustainability themes in general. My main responsibilities in this course planning will be to work with the groups producing content for the thematic modules. Also as a former biology and geography teacher, the pedagogical side of sustainability teaching interest me. I am super excited about this project! It is an amazing opportunity to be a part of the team developing so important course. I am looking forward to meet the working groups, start developing the material and learn more about sustainability!


My name is Ville-Pekka Niskanen (Viltsu in short) and I am currently conducting my non-military service at HELSUS. In the sustainability course development, I will take part in communicating about the course and content production. Moreover, I’m working with University of Helsinki sustainability initiatives, HELSUS communications and events. I come from the ECGS Master’s Programme, where I have focused on science and technology studies. Music and photography are my hobbies.

Last year, I participated in a project , where we interviewed five students about sustainability. The interviewees found that sustainability is not only about the environmental or economic aspects that often receive the most attention. Equality, friendships, and finding and accepting new viewpoints are central, too. This way sustainability is present in our everyday actions, in addition to the enormous changes that are soon necessary. I view the sustainability course as an opportunity to give its participants (all of our students!) tools for acting for sustainability – understanding and friendliness – in their future tasks.


Hi! My name is Saara Pörsti and I’m super excited to work with this project for the next five months! This fall starts my second year in Environmental change and global sustainability master’s programme (ECGS) and in my studies I’m focusing on sustainable cities and sustainable development. I also have a minor in adult education, so I’m thrilled to challenge what I’ve learned there so far considering this course project.

During my HELSUS traineeship I will take part in communications, event organizing and developing the sustainable course. In detail, my responsibility areas considering this course are content production, communications and I will also take part in managing the groups that will start working during September. This course offers a great deal of new learning experiences and I’m truly looking forward what kind of new visions might occur during this fall when the teams gather.

A chance to help in making a change for the better – join us in creating a brand-new sustainability course  

Our process for developing a brand new, multidisciplinary sustainability course at the University of Helsinki has reached the next stage – creating teaching materials and content, or the actual substance of the course. As advertised before on this very blog, the learning objectives and core contents of the course have been chosen, and to build on from that, we need you, the students and staff of the university. 

During autumn semester 2020, we will be establishing small groups of interested students and staff to brainstorm and produce content for the course over teaching periods 1 and 2. This could be anything from text, video, activating exercises, ideas for student projects, to evaluation criteria for when the course launches. The registration for these groups is now open and will continue until September 6, 2020.  

There are altogether eight groups – or thematic hubs, as we call them. They will each cover a segment of the course and work on producing materials that correspond to their topic. The following groups will launch this fall: 

  1. The Introductions-hub: Sustainability as a concept, the complexity of sustainability challenges and systemic approach. 
  2. The solutions hub: Solutions to sustainability challenges – students as future experts, individuals and citizens.  
  3. Thematic hubs:

A) Global environmental commons
B) Human well-being and capabilities
C) Sustainable and just economies
D)Sustainable food systems and healthy nutrition
E) Energy decarbonisation with universal access
F) Urban and peri-urban development 

The core contents of the course – the thematic hubs – are based on the United Nations 2019 report on entry points for sustainability transformations. You can read more about them on our previous post here. 

We have several roles for both staff and students within these hubs: 

  • Developing teaching materials (staff) 
  • Group leader (staff) 
  • Developing teaching materials (Master’s students) 
  • Testing teaching materials (Both Bachelor’s and Master’s students)

We will kickstart the work on week 37 in September with an event for everyone who signed up to the hubs. After that, the groups should meet every two weeks or so, either over Zoom – or in person given the situation with coronavirus allows for it. The groups can work and produce content in Finnish, Swedish or English.  

As the work is spread throughout the autumn semester, the participants can choose if they participate either in both periods, or just one of them. The goal is to finish the first version of the course by the end of the year, but it is likely some development work will continue in spring 2021.  

The participating students can receive a certificate of their role in the process. If you wish to, you can check with your degree programme whether or not this could be counted towards your degree studies in a suitable study module. If there are more enthusiastic students registering than we are able to accommodate, priority will be given first in order of registration, unless it is necessary to weigh other factors in order to ensure hubs are as multidisciplinary as possible.  

You can sign up for the groups here. Registration will remain open until the 6th of September 2020. When signing up, you can indicate which group you would like to work in and tell us when you would be available to join usYou can also describe your field of study/research and interests, if these are something you would like to utilise in the development work.  


Learning objectives and core contents for the sustainability course – Next steps and planning for the fall

In Finnish below! 

A lot has happened in May and June on the course-development front. The development team hosted a workshop at the Vice-rector’s summer meeting for the University of Helsinki pedagogical network (more on this later) and presented a proposal of the core contents and learning goals to the Academic Affairs Council. The proposal is based on expert interviews, student survey resultsstaff workshops and literature 

The meeting of the Academic Affairs Council ended up being very encouraging, as the steering group’s proposal received positive feedback, which ultimately means that the planning can continue in the fall. This feedback will also help with refining some of the learning objectives and will be helpful for the development process in the future as wellSome vice-deans voiced their worries on student workload, which is a concern in the planning of a course such as this one – however, this will be kept in mind going forward.  

You can read the proposal in full on University of Helsinki Onedrive. To give you the long and short of it, though, the proposed course has the following learning objectives for students to:  

  1. Understand the complexities involved with sustainability and the multidisciplinary and the philosophical and ethical dimensions of the subject matter
  2. Understand their own role as an expert, as an individual, and as a member of a society in solving sustainability challenges
  3. Have the ability to discuss sustainability-related questions in an empathetic and constructive manner, and to understand alternative viewpoints 
  4. Understand the changes, and the related processes, phenomena and potential solutions to sustainability challenges 
  5. Have the ability to apply sustainability-related knowledge in a multidisciplinary project 

The course itself would be based on six steps (see picture above), during which the student would familiarize themselves with sustainability as a concept, the complexities involved with sustainability questions, multidisciplinarity, and systems-thinking (1). The student would also think about their role as an expert, as an individual and as a member of society in solving sustainability challenges (2). During later stages of the course,  students would examine the changes (3), underlying processes and phenomena (4) as well as solutions (5) related to sustainability challenges through six cross-cutting multidisciplinary thematic modules (A-F, see picture above). The student will study some of these themes more in depth.  

During the course, the student will complete a project together with a group of students from different disciplines. The project will be evaluated by peers. The ethical and philosophical questions on sustainability will be integrated across the course, not as a separate element. The course structure and modules A-F are based on the sustainability course workshops, the student survey, expert interviews and the United Nations proposal on the six key transformations needed to achieve the sustainable development goals (United Nations, 2019see pictures below).  

The development of course content will begin in August – we will keep you up to date here on our blog and our mailing list (instructions on joining here).  The idea is to gather thematic groups to work on the different elements of the course, with representatives from different disciplines. You can also keep up with the course planning on our Teams-area. Joining is easy – just follow this linkYou are welcome to join the planning and creation of the teaching materials for the MOOC – more information will be coming in August. In the meantime, we wish you a warm and relaxing summer.  


Osaamistavoitteet ja ydinsisällöt kestävyyskurssille – seuraavat askeleet ja kurssin valmistelu syksyllä 

Kurssin suunnittelu on edennyt touko- ja kesäkuussa vauhdilla. Kurssia on esitelty muun muassa vararehtorin ja yliopiston pedagogiikkatoimijoiden kesätapaamisessa. Lisäksi opetusvaradekaanit käsittelivät ehdotusta kurssin oppimistavoitteiksi ja ydinsisällöiksi opintoasiainneuvoston kokouksessa.  Ehdotus on laadittu avointen työpajojen, haastattelujen ja opiskelijakyselyn tulosten sekä kirjallisuuden pohjalta. 

Opintoasiainneuvosto otti kurssin vastaan positiivisesti. Saimme kuitenkin opetusvaradekaaneilta palautetta, joiden pohjalta kurssin oppimistavoitteita pystytään vielä tarkentamaan. Tämän lisäksi opintoasiainneuvosto toivoi, että kurssin suunnittelussa pidettäisiin huolta siitä, että työtaakka ei muodostu opiskelijoille liian raskaaksi. Nämä asiat pyritäänkin huomioimaan kurssin suunnittelussa.  

Opintoasiainneuvostolle esitellyt materiaalit voi lukea kokonaisuudessaan täältä – linkki aukeaa Helsingin yliopiston Onedriveen, joten tarvitset yliopiston käyttäjätunnuksen. Kurssin oppimistavoitteet ovat seuraavanlaiset: 


  1. Ymmärtää kestävyyskysymysten kompleksisuutta, monitieteisyyttä sekä kestävyyden eettisiä ja filosofisia ulottuvuuksia.
  2. Ymmärtää omat roolinsa asiantuntijana, yksilönä ja yhteiskunnan jäsenenä kestävyyskysymysten ratkaisemisessa. 
  1. Osaa keskustella empaattisesti ja rakentavasti kestävyyskysymyksistä ja ymmärtää toisten ihmisten näkökulmia. 
  1. Ymmärtää kestävyyshaasteisiin liittyviä muutoksia, niiden taustalla olevia prosesseja ja ilmiöitä sekä mahdollisia ratkaisukeinoja. 
  1. Osaa soveltaa kestävyyteen liittyviä tietoja monitieteisessä projektityöskentelyssä.


Kestävyyskurssi rakentuu ehdotuksessa kuudesta vaiheesta (ks. yllä oleva kuva), joiden aikana opiskelija tutustuu kestävyyteen käsitteenä, kestävyyskysymysten kompleksisuuteen ja monitieteisyyteen sekä systeemiseen lähestymistapaan (1). Opiskelija pohtii kurssilla omaa rooliaan kestävyyskysymysten ratkaisijana tulevana oman alansa asiantuntijana (suhteessa muiden alojen opiskelijoihin), yksilönä ja yhteiskunnan jäsenenä (2). Globaaleihin kestävyyshaasteisiin liittyviä muutoksia (3), muutosten taustalla olevia prosesseja ja ilmiöitä (4) sekä ratkaisukeinoja kestävyyshaasteisiin tarkastellaan kuuden läpileikkaavan monitieteisen temaattisen modulin kautta (A-F), joista opiskelija keskittyy tarkemmin osaan (esim. 1-2 teemaan perehtyminen tarkemmin). 

Kestävyyskurssin aikana opiskelija laatii monitieteisessä ryhmässä projektityön, joka vertaisarvioidaan. Kestävyyden eettiset ja filosofiset kysymykset integroidaan kurssin kaikkiin osiin läpileikkaavana teemana. 

Kurssin rakenne ja modulien teemat perustuvat kestävyyskurssin kehittämispajoissa, haastatteluissa ja opiskelijakyselyissä nousseisiin teemoihin sekä YK:n esitykseen (Yhdistyneet Kansakunnat 2019ks. kuvat alla) tiedeyhteisön kokonaisnäkemyksestä kuudesta tärkeimmästä systeemitason painopisteestä kestävyysmuutokseen, joihin keskittymällä YK:n kestävän kehityksen tavoitteiden saavuttamista voidaan vauhdittaa. 

Kurssin kehittäminen jatkuu elokuussa kurssin rakenteen pohjalta koostettavissa teemaryhmissä. Tavoitteena on, että monien eri tieteenalojen edustajia saataisiin mukaan kurssin suunnitteluun ja opetusmateriaalien rakentamiseen MOOC-kurssia vartenSuunnittelutyötä on helppo seurata esimerkiksi kurssikehittäjien Teams-alueella, jolle voi liittyä tämän linkin kautta. Lisäksi tiedotusta voi seurata täällä blogissa, sekä sähköpostilistallamme. Toivotamme kaikki kiinnostuneet mukaan kehitystyöhön, ja tiedotamme asiasta lisää elokuussa. Lämmintä ja rentouttavaa kesää kaikille!  


Mul­tidiscip­lin­ary sustainability course for all stu­dents at the University of Helsinki – What’s go­ing on?

Last fall the HELSUS trainee William Smolander wrote a comprehensive report on sustainability-related courses organized globally. After that a lot has happened and the development work for Helsinki Uni’s own sustainability course for all students continues at full speed. If you feel like you have missed something here and you have more questions than answers regarding this sustainability course, this is the piece of news you should read!

In the strategic plan of the University of Helsinki 2021-2030 one of the four main strategic choices is “our University is a leader in responsibility and sustainability”. The idea for the sustainability course is a natural continuation for the strategy and the thought that all future university graduates should have sustainability expertise. The idea of a sustainability course matured gradually and included ideas and discussions from many parts and persons. Also our Rector Jari Niemelä, University Lecturer Hannele Cantell and the Vice-Rectors Sari Lindblom and Tom Böhling have participated in the discussion. The Centre for University Teaching and Learning (HYPE) and Helsinki Institute of Sustainability Science (HELSUS) have also been involved.

The vision is that the sustainability course could eventually be compulsory for all students of all faculties. There is no such decision though and the faculties have still time to have their influence in the presumable decision sometime in the future. The development project is led by a steering group formed by Vice Rector Sari Lindblom and the idea is that the course could be included in the next curricula 2023-2026. The goal is that the course will consist of a three credits common course for students of all faculties which will be carried out as a MOOC online course and a two credits programme or faculty specific course. Altogether it will form a five credits course in the degree.

The course development is carried out by HYPE and HELSUS. In March 2020 these units employed a university teacher to lead the development process. The teacher is Rami Ratvio who has worked before as a university lecturer, project researcher, in geography division of the matriculation exam board and as a geography teacher.  Rami has a Ph.D. in Urban Geography and has a subject teacher’s qualification in geography and biology. Ratvio has organized online workshops for university staff and put together a student’ survey with the help of the HELSUS trainees Lotta Ruippo and Arttu Jokinen. There were almost 70 participants in the workshops and the survey gathered approximately 800 answers from the students. The course development can be followed in this sustainability course blog.

Next step in the course development is going through the results from the workshops and the student survey. In the spring semester 2021 the sustainability course will come out as an optional three credit online course for all students. The course will first be tested in this format before it will be expanded with another two credits. However, the work for doing the new curricula starts at earliest next year and all the faculties can have their say about the new sustainability course.

Everyone is welcome to participate in the course design process. If you have questions how to participate or something else on your mind concerning the course please contact University Instructor Rami Ratvio (rami.ratvio@helsinki.fi).

Student survey heading into its final week

The last week of the student survey is here! So far, our survey has received altogether 700 responses with respondents from every faculty at the University of Helsinki. There is time until Friday, so if you have not done it already, go ahead and fill out the survey here!

Even though proper analysis is still pending, it seems that the majority of the respondents (74%) are female. This is maybe less surprising considering the majority of the students at UH are female  (64% in 2018). Furthermore, whilst reading answers to our open-ended questions, I noticed many respondents mentioned the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic as an important moment for them in thinking about sustainability. It also seems that many students identified the Australian bushfires and the decision made by Unicafe to remove beef from its menu as impactful sustainability-related experiences for them in the past academic year.

Once the survey is closed, we will begin a more careful analysis of student responses. I hope that we will be able to tell you more about the results soon, but until then, thank you to everyone who responded – this information is vital to the project!