The SusTEACH Planning Tool

Planning Tool

The Open University

As a lecturer or academic designer, you may find the SusTEACH Planning Tool helpful when you are designing or planning the teaching and learning provision for new courses or modules1. This tool is designed to help you:

  • consider the likely carbon-based environmental impacts of particular course or module proposals at the early planning stages;
  • plan the learning design and delivery of teaching in Higher Education (HE) to reduce environmental impacts;
  • promote greater awareness of more sustainable Teaching Models and support HE policies to meet the challenges of carbon reduction.

The development of the SusTEACH Planning Tool is based on ideas about the design of the teaching, learning and asessment provision including: guidance; teaching content; library resources; learning activities; communication and collaboration; and assessment. For more details, see the background to the SusTEACH Planning Tool.

This self-assessment tool asks you questions about your proposed design for a new course or module that you plan to develop, (or one that you have already developed). These questions seek to identify the teaching methods that you plan to use to deliver the teaching and learning provision, including face-to-face teaching methods, Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs), and/or specially developed printed teaching materials within the HE teaching system. Overall, the questions should take you about 5 minutes to complete.

The resulting report provides feedback on the likely environmental impacts associated with your proposed Teaching Model. This feedback is based on the findings of the SusTEACH project which conducted an assessment of the environmental mpacts of campus and distance-based HE courses and modules, and analysed the energy and carbon impacts associated with different teaching delivery methods.


1 The terms course and module are both used within and across HE institutions, to refer to a set of modular, standardised, independent, or interrelated teaching units that, when appropriately combined, construct a degree qualification. The second meaning for the term course is not used here, which refers to a course of study on a qualification programme and could consist of several modules or courses.

Rate your plan for developing your course or module  Reset the SusTEACH Planning Tool  Background to the SusTEACH Toolkit SusTEACH Toolkit

For each of the statements below select the main options which express how you propose to deliver your teaching plan.
To get the best result from this diagnostic tool, please provide 1-3 responses to each question.

1. How do you plan to provide the guidance and support for students?
Select the main ways you plan to provide guidance.

Guidance is provided face-to-face (e.g. during a lecture).
Guidance is provided using printed text (eg. a Welcome pack, Introductory Study Guide/Planner)
Guidance is provided using off-line software (e.g. DVD's, CD's).
Guidance is available as text for download using web-links.
Guidance is provided online using web-links (eg. to access a Study Planner).
Guidance is provided using online, interactive guidance for study planning.

2. How do you plan to provide the teaching content and information?
Select the main ways you plan to provide the content.

Teaching content is provided during regular face-to-face teaching requiring students to travel to University campus buildings most weeks. (e.g. to attend lectures, seminars, tutorials, workshops or field trips).
Teaching content is provided during occasional face-to-face teaching requiring students to take at least one journey during the course or module (e.g. to attend lectures, seminars, tutorials, day schools, field trips, or residential schools).
Teaching content is provided using printed text and materials to support teaching.(e.g. set books and publications).
Teaching content is provided using off-line software and audio-visual resources (e.g. DVD's, CD's).
Teaching content is provided via web-links to access textual content available for download.
Teaching content is provided using online audio-visual resources.
Teaching is provided using online interactive content.

3. How do you plan to provide the library resources?
Select the main ways you plan to provide library resources.

Students are not expected to access library resources during the taught module/course.
Students are recommended to travel to library facilities to access library resources.
Library resources are provided to the students as printed text.
Library resources are provided using offline software or audio-visual resources.
Students are recommended to use online web-links to access library resources for download.
Students have some remote online access to library resources.
Library resources are provided as an integrated online library resource to support the module/course.

4. How do you plan to provide the learning activities and experiences for students?
Select the main ways you plan to provide learning activities.

When answering this question, you may find it helpful to consider the tasks that learners typically undertake: (identified by (Conole and Fill, 2005.)

  • assimilative (e.g. attending to and understanding content);
  • information handling (e.g. gathering and classifying resources or manipulating data);
  • adaptive (e.g. use of modelling or simulation software);
  • communicative (e.g. dialogic discussion activities);
  • productive (e.g. construction of an artefact); and
  • experiential (e.g. practising skills in context or undertaking an investigation)
Student learning activities are provided during face-to-face teaching at seminars, tutorials, workshops, field trips, work environments, day schools or residential schools.
Student activities are provided using specially developed printed teaching materials.
Learning activities are guided offline using software, ICT equipment and campus facilities.
Student learning activities are provided by online links to access website materials.
Student activities are provided during online tutorials (e.g. Elluminate).
Student activities are provided using specially designed, interactive and collaborative online activities.

5.How do you plan to provide opportunities for student reflection, thinking and experience?
Select the main ways you plan to provide learning experiences.

Student reflection and learning is encouraged during face-to-face teaching, for example seminars, tutorials, workshops, field trips, work environments, day schools or residential schools.
Opportunities for student reflection and learning are provided using specially developed printed teaching materials (e.g. distance-teaching materials).
Opportunities for reflection and learning are provided using off-line audio-visual resources (e.g. DVD's, CD's).
Opportunities for student reflection and learning are provided with reference to online quizzes and assessments.
Reflection and learning is encouraged with opportunities for students to write and record their learning online.
Reflection and learning is encouraged with opportunities for students to collaborate during online learning activities.

6. How do you plan to support student student communication and collaboration on learning activities?
Select the main ways you plan to provide opportunities for communication.

The provision for student communication and collaboration on learning activities is planned to be face-to-face (e.g. in a seminar or tutorial).
The provision for student communication and collaboration on learning activities is planned to use distance methods, such as post and telephone.
Student activities are supported with informal opportunities for online communication and collaboration.
Student communication during learning activities are supported using mainly ONE asynchronous tool (e.g. email) to support Face-to-face or Distance-teaching.
Student communication, conferencing and collaboration on learning activities are supported using SEVERAL asynchronous tools (e.g. email, VLE forums, wikis, blogs) OR ONE synchronous tool(e.g. Elluminate, Skype, Facebook) to support Face-to-face or Distance-teaching.
Student communication, conferencing and collaboration on learning activities are supported using SEVERAL tools including AT LEAST ONE synchronous tool (e.g. Elluminate, Skype, Facebook) AND asynchronous tools (e.g. email, VLE forums, wikis, blogs).

7. How do you plan to provide the assessment of the evidence of student learning?
Select the main ways you plan to provide formative, diagnostic and summative assessment.

Students are required to travel for assessment, for example to the exam theatre, campus site or workplace.
Students will complete assessments from home following the receipt of printed assignments, assessments and/or exam materials by post.
Students are required to use some offline ICT software or equipment to complete assessments in exam theatres or for home-based assignments/exams.
Students submit assignments, projects, or dissertations online.
Students complete some formative assessments online, although summative assessment is conducted offline.
Students complete summative assessments online, for example interactive computer-marked examinations.

Rate your plan for developing your course or module  Reset SusTEACH Toolkit  Background to the SusTEACH Toolkit SusTEACH Toolkit