COVID-19: the impact of a global crisis on sustainable development teaching

Walter Leal Filho, Elizabeth Price, Tony Wall, Chris Shiel, Ulisses M. Azeiteiro, Mark Mifsud, Luciana Brandli, Carla Sofia Farinha, Sandra Caeiro, Amanda Lange Salvia, Claudio Ruy Vasconcelos, Luiza Olim de Sousa, Paul Pace, Federica Doni, Lucas Veiga Avila, Bárbara Fritzen, Todd Jared LeVasseur

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a global crisis, one which also influences the ways sustainability is being taught at universities. This paper undertakes an analysis of the extent to which COVID-19 as a whole and the lockdown it triggered in particular, which has led to the suspension of presence-based teaching in universities worldwide and influenced teaching on matters related to sustainable development. By means of a worldwide survey involving higher education institutions across all continents, the study has identified a number of patterns, trends and problems. The results from the study show that the epidemic has significantly affected teaching practices. The lockdowns have led to a surge in the use of on-line communication tools as a partial replacement to normal lessons. In addition, many faculty teaching sustainability in higher education have strong competencies in digital literacy. The sampled higher education educations have—as a whole—adequate infrastructure to continue to teach during the lockdowns. Finally, the majority of the sample revealed that they miss the interactions via direct face-to-face student engagement, which is deemed as necessary for the effective teaching of sustainability content. The implications of this paper are two-fold. Firstly, it describes how sustainability teaching on sustainable development has been affected by the lockdown. Secondly, it describes some of the solutions deployed to overcome the problem. Finally, the paper outlines the fact that the COVID-19 pandemic may serve the purpose of showing how university teaching on sustainability may be improved in the future, taking more advantage of modern information technologies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11257-11278
Number of pages22
JournalEnvironment, Development And Sustainability
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2021


  • COVID-19 shutdown
  • HEIs
  • Online teaching
  • Sustainability teaching


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