Message by VCSE Project Manager
Our biggest challenge in this new century is to take an idea that seems abstract "sustainable development" and turn it into a reality for all the world's people. Kofi Annan, Secretary General of the United Nations, March 2001
Struck by successive food, energy, financial and environmental crises, our economies are now threatened by recession, unemployment, and poverty aggravation, while the cohesion of our societies and the health of our environment are in danger. The culminating global financial crisis, combined with the ongoing environmental crisis, makes painfully clear that the economic and social development model we have adopted in recent decades comes at an extraordinarily high social and environmental cost. Today, more than ever, we need to shift the focus to the real economy, the people and our environment. The European Union is playing a leading role in promoting a more sustainable way of doing business. The successful transition to a sustainable development model requires the active involvement and participation of the public, which in turn presupposes well-informed citizens. Academic Institutions can play an important role in transferring accurate and reliable information on all aspects of the complex issue of sustainable development as well as in initiating and coordinating the dialog among the various key players.
The “Virtual Campus for a Sustainable Europe” (VCSE) Project aspires to contribute to the promotion of sustainability by developing a network of European Universities that delivers formal academic courses on various aspects of sustainable development and involves the relevant stakeholders in a public dialog. By bringing together specialists in different scientific areas from different European countries, VCSE has the capacity to serve as a platform providing the interdisciplinary and intercultural knowledge and experience required to understand sustainability at the European level. The most important aspect of VCSE is that it uses an e-learning platform in order to deliver its actions. The use of an e-learning platform is best suited for a network on sustainability since it achieves the highest level of participation at the minimum cost for the environment.
We consider our experience in working on the development of the VCSE as extremely positive and very fruitful. Over the past two years we were able to strengthen the ties and improve the understanding among the five VCSE-partners, advance the educational material we offer, enhance our actions at the local and regional level and enlarge our partnership. Considering all the benefits and costs of our venture, we warmly suggest to other Institutions to either join our Virtual Campus, or to undertake similar initiatives. The Best Practice Guide at hand is an attempt to present our experience over the past two years in a comprehensive way so as to either assist other Institutions in making the decision to join our partnership or help them in pursuing similar activities.
The road that led us to the completion of the VCSE project was not always easy and that is what gives additional importance to the success of our efforts. There are many people that have contributed to the achievement of our ambitious goals and I would like to thank all of them.
In particular I would like to thank:
- The Education, Audiovisual & Culture Executive Agency that provided us with the necessary financial support throughout the eLearning programme.
- Our external evaluators, Prof. Wim van Petegem, Head of the Centre for Audio-visual and New Educational Technologies at Leuven University, Belgium and Prof. William Scott, Director of Centre for Research in Education and the Environment (CREE), University of Bath, UK, who did an excellent job in providing us with valuable comments and suggestions.
- All the participants in the VCSE Best Practice Guidebook Workshop (21-22/10/2008,Thessaloniki-Greece) for their constructive feedback, as well as the co-referees who gave an intensive insight in their experience in that field (|http://www.vcse.eu/fileadmin/upload/downloads/Final_Agenda_VCSE_BPGW_21-22_10_2008.pdf ).
- Last but not least, I would like to thank Dr. Sophia Gregou who did an excellent job in coordinating the actions of all partners. The management of this project would not have been possible without her relentless and very efficient efforts.
Closing, I would like to reafirm our commitment to continue our efforts and I am certain that our partnership will not only be further enlarged but also that each partner will be able to have an important contribution at the regional and local level.
Associate Professor of Environmental Economics,
University of Macedonia, Greece