Fostering sustainability competences through co-creation of digital storytelling: Effects of COVID-19 on higher education students’ reflective learning




sustainability competence, digital storytelling, reflective learning, higher education


During COVID-19, online collaboration became more accessible than before, enabling higher education students and teachers to organize virtual mobility experiments and run projects with stakeholders across cultures. In this paper, we focus on three blended intensive programs, two in Finland and one in Hungary, to explore how the pedagogical approach of project-based digital storytelling combined with reflective writing contributed to students’ sustainability competence development during the pandemic and after. In these programs, multicultural teams of students worked on real-life digital storytelling projects aimed at driving sustainable changes in people’s thinking, behaviour, and lifestyles. Digital storytelling has proved effective in fostering students’ 21st century skills through engagement and co-creation with the wider world. Based on qualitative content analysis of 67 semi-structured learning journals, we explore students' developments in values-thinking, collaborative, and self-awareness competences during their digital storytelling projects. With insights from student reflections on their virtual, online, and blended learning, we discuss challenges and successes of project-based, collaborative, and reflective learning and propose best practices for using collaborative digital storytelling as a transformative method to foster sustainability competences across cultures.


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Author Biographies

  • Dr Tanja Vesala-Varttala, Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences, Finland

    Tanja Vesala-Varttala (PhD) works as Principal Lecturer in Marketing and Communication at Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences, Helsinki, Finland, since 2003. She teaches international marketing and acts as a researcher and project manager in European-funded RDI projects at the Research Unit of Entrepreneurship and Business Development. Her research interests include education for sustainable development, sustainability marketing, and practice-based and collaborative teaching and learning.

  • Dr Ágnes Pál, Budapest Business University, Hungary

    Ágnes Pál (PhD) is an associate professor and the director of international affairs of the Faculty of Commerce, Hospitality and Tourism of Budapest Business University where she teaches at the Department of Foreign Languages for Business Communication since 2009. She has created and coordinated, in cooperation with her colleagues, several European strategic partnership projects in the framework of the Erasmus+ programme.  Her research interests include intercultural communication, skills development, language teaching methodology, learner autonomy and interdisciplinary collaboration.

  • Dr Rita Kóris, Budapest Business University, Hungary

    Rita Koris (PhD) is an associate professor at the Department of Leadership and HR Development at Budapest Business University (Hungary) where she teaches courses in business and management in the EMI program of the university. Her research interests lie primarily in innovative teaching practices of business education, internationalization of HE, transversal skills development and teachers’ academic development.



Data Availability Statement

The qualitative learning journal data used in this research has not been made publicly available by the authors.

How to Cite

Fostering sustainability competences through co-creation of digital storytelling: Effects of COVID-19 on higher education students’ reflective learning. (2024). Journal of University Teaching and Learning Practice, 21(3).