Sustainability in Cross-Disciplinary Modules

The project is focused on increasing the sustainability orientation through two components.  First,  a theoretical component: a lecture about ethical aspects and considerations in knowledge-based project development and a “Responsible Innovation" analysis using  a matrix in which the approach of Stilgoe et al (2013) is combined with Brey (2012). Stilgoe et al (2013) mention four measures to create responsible innovation: anticipation, reflexivity, inclusion and responsivene. Brey (2012) use a classification  into three levels: technology level, artefact level and application level.  In the InGenious module of Linköping University, students are using the above-mentioned classification to think in new ways and develop innovative solutions and concepts. Second, to increase the level of sustainability in the project work: student solve challenges from outside partners, either firms or not for profit organisations such as municipalities.

The module has  a strong focus on sustainable development following the Agenda 2030 and the UN global goals of sustainability. Consequently, the challenge providers, as well as their challenges to the students, has been carefully chosen to fit this approach. As a result, all projects during this ongoing semester has strong sustainability focus and during the previous semester, most challenges had a clear sustainability focus. 


  • 8 hp – equals around 216 hours/ individual
  • Part time, covering one semester
  • Cross disciplinary teams (minimum 90hp of previous studies)
  • International network and cooperation, ECIU
  • English if English speaking students
  • Two times per year and in total 60-80 students
  • 10-14 groups solving external challenges annually


Main Elements

  • Cross disciplinary work and cooperation
  • Sustainable development – Agenda 2030, UN SDGs
  • Challenge-based learning
  • Idea development and conceptualization
  • Communication - pitches


What‘s new?

  • CBL pedagogics: Inductive and student-centered method has been refined and developed further. But CBL is a new method, which requires a lot of development work to become perfect!
  • External sharp real-life challenges recognized by openness, by means of that it could be adapted by the students to fit the group
  • Searching for “a” solution rather than “the” solution
  • Challenge providers takes the role of a “speaking partner” rather than being a customer and also participates more throughout the course
  • Able to “own” by the students
  • External stakeholder has been more involved, e.g. science parks and incubators etc.
  • Interactive seminars such as Shitty prototyping, Responsible innovation, Pitch trainings
  • Online and hybrid solutions has been developed



  • “Working with this team and project has brought me invaluable lessons about myself, teamwork and entrepreneurship”
  • […] “Due to my lack of experience of collaborating with interdisciplinary teams, I unintentionally developed negative feelings and thoughts of the future teamwork.”
  • […] “However, as I grew into my role and found out more about entrepreneurship and my teammates, my perspective completely changed. At that point, I perceived uncertainty as an opportunity, rather than an obstacle.”


Main outcomes

  1. Equipped students with self confidence
  2. The course has been developed further especially regarding sustainability and regarding ethics.
  3. The pandemic situation has also given us valuable insights since we were forced into a distance mode. Several new platforms have been explored and used. Running the course in hybrid mode allows us to take on ECIU students from other universities also in the future.


Lessons learned & Future plans

  • Lots of VUCA (volatility uncertainty ambiguity complexity) => needs to be handled.
  • Students need to operate outside their comfort zone = Growth on individual level
  • Student centered = lots of own responsibility
  • 21st century skills = Cross disciplinary teamwork entails that students have to interact, contribute and communicate. It also enables innovative thinking,
  • We will write papers on How to work with external challenge providers and create great challenges for students; How to develop the role of teachers, teachers and facilitators
  • We will participate in pedagogic activities and conferences.


Methods used

To realise the development of the module the following methods are used: 

  • Challenge-based learning, – Students work on challenges from external providers which could be both private firms and public organizations. 
  • Active learning – means student centred processual learning where the students are regarded as co-creators of the learning and the teachers as facilitators. The opposite is the traditional learning where the teacher transfers their knowledge to the students which are more of passive receivers. 
  • Blended learning – which in its simplest form, is a mixture of traditional face-to-face learning and e-learning but could be made more complex. The benefits of this approach are that it takes into account that students are individuals with various type of learning styles, provided that there are several ways and sources of gaining knowledge offered. 
  • Entrepreneurial/experimental learning - entrepreneurial learning is synonymous with experimentation, which in turn is related to active learning. In short it implies that the students both must formulate their problems and their solutions thereof. 


Learn more:

More information: Dr. Charlotte Norrman (