Climate Action

Living Edition
| Editors: Walter Leal Filho, Anabela Marisa Azul, Luciana Brandli, Pinar Gökcin Özuyar, Tony Wall

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) and Their Role in Climate Change Education

  • Paula Bacelar-NicolauEmail author
  • Sandra Caeiro
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-71063-1_32-1

Definitions

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are open, scalable eLearning courses, aimed to serve a large number of participants. Because they are open, these courses are intended for all individuals, without the requisition of any entry qualifications, and they provide the experience of a complete, totally free online course (EADTU 2015).

Climate change has been defined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) as “any change in climate over time, whether due to natural variability or as a result of human activity” (IPCC 2014). Following the fifth IPCC report, the future impacts of climate change, although in different degrees of severity, will affect societies all over the globe (IPCC 2014). Climate change is a key topic of sustainable development, where public awareness, literacy, and education are crucial.

Massive Open Online Courses, Their Impacts, and Challenges

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) have, since their origin, received particular attention for their potential to open education for everyone, and their number in all areas of knowledge, including sustainable development and climate change issues, is still increasing. We herein review and discuss the usefulness of MOOCs as an educative tool for climate change awareness and literacy, the so-called CC-MOOC (Climate Change-Massive Open Online Course, Mainsah et al. 2017). In the first part, we provide a summary of the definitions for MOOCs, including attention to their types and functionalities. In the second part, we review existing MOOCs for climate change, their main characteristics and roles as an educative tool within climate change.

MOOCs are quite a recent educational phenomenon, that has its origin in 2008, with courses designed by George Siemens, Stephen Downes, and Dave Cormier (Downes 2012; Daniel 2012; Watters 2012), that were based on the principles of the connectivist theory (Downes 2012; Siemens 2012; Cormier 2010). The characteristics of these original MOOCs were disruptive with the, then (and still now), dominant university context for online courses, both in the number of students (above 2000 enrolled students) and in their pedagogical approach, in which the learning process was characterized by (i) being autonomous, informal, regulated by the participants, (ii) being based on the exploration and analysis of the disseminated knowledge, and its connections/networking (between participants, and between participants and knowledge resources), and (iii) in which the participants interpreted, shared, and created knowledge themselves. Further initiatives followed these original courses, and MOOCs became a global phenomenon, after the success of the first truly open access course on “An Introduction to AI,” offered at Stanford University, in 2011 (Rodriguez 2012). On becoming truly massive open courses, the principles of connectivity were lost (e.g., García-Peñalvo et al. 2018).

Up to 2015, scientific literature recognized two main types of MOOCs: connectivist Massive Open Online Courses (cMOOCs) and the eXtended Massive Open Online Courses (xMOOCs) (e.g., Veletsianos and Sheperdson 2016). cMOOCs are described as being based “on principles of connectivism, openness, and participatory teaching” (Jacoby 2014), and on user participation, and creativity through a dynamic network of connections afforded by online technology (Ebben and Murphy 2014). On the other hand, xMOOCs are described as following a cognitivist-behaviorist approach (Hew and Cheung 2014) and similar to the traditional teacher-directed course, including learning activities and certification, yet automated, massive, and online (Kennedy 2014).

More recently, there has been a new trend in MOOC development, particularly in Europe, towards the emergence of hybrid MOOC models that aim to merge and accentuate the potential of open socially driven learning with structured learning paths of cMOOs and xMOOCs (Coelho et al. 2015; Osuna and Camarero 2016; García-Peñalvo et al. 2018). Among various mixed initiatives, two models are herein emphasized: the iMOOC model, designed at Universidade Aberta (Teixeira and Mota 2013), and the social and seamless MOOC – sMOOC, developed within the European “Elearning, Communication and Open-data: massive mobile, ubiquitous and Open Learning” (ECO) project (Osuna and Camarero 2016).

Both iMOOC and sMOOC are based on a number of socio-constructivist principles which combine autonomous learning with a strong social dimension, in a novel virtual learning environment (VLE) that facilitates/motivates interaction and inclusion (Coelho et al. 2015; Teixeira et al. 2018). In both models, learning is conducted through the interaction with materials, facilitators, and fellow participants. In both models, participants create their personal learning environments. In both MOOC models, participant numbers are similar to the original cMOOCs (up to 2000). In the iMOOC model, learning is based on the development of learning activities, i.e., the creation of open access products (texts, videos, presentations, etc.) that demonstrate the participants’ knowledge and skills in relation to the subjects under study. Also, in this model, participants take an active role in their own learning and in supporting the learning community through dialogue, collaboration, and inter-peers’ feedback (Coelho et al. 2015). The sMOOC model aims to improve the quality of the learning experience by strengthening the social component supporting participants, e.g., by promoting access from multiple learning platforms and mobile devices, hence ensuring universal, comprehensive, and contextualized learning. The sMOOC model also aims to promote the connection between learning and life experience of participants by contextualizing learning contents, and supporting adaptive strategies through the use of mobile applications and gamification (Osuna and Camarero 2016).

Besides their pedagogical model, MOOCs are also shaped by the existing technology and the virtual learning environments that underlie their function and globally by the used virtual platform. Different MOOC platforms are known to have different attributes (advantages and limitations) regarding the flexibility of the management and delivery of learning content, the communication features, or the support for quizzes, assessment activities, and course design (e.g., Totschnig et al. 2013) which, hence, contribute to the MOOC characteristics. Particularly, the most common MOOC features regard to the management and delivery of learning content (be it as text, video, audio, hypertext, etc.), to the setting off of the participants’ learning paths (using a variety of technological tools, such as quizzes, discussion fora, editing, and structuring tools), and to the support to a more or less collaborative learning community, all of which are platform dependent. Some of the major MOOC platforms include the north American-based Coursera (https://www.coursera.org) and edX (https://www.edx.org), the European-based France Université Numerique (http://www.france-universitenumerique.fr), FutureLearn (https://www.futurelearn.com), and iversity (https://iversity.org), or the Australasian-based Open2Study (https://www.open2study.com) (Chauchan 2014). In this context, while cMOOCs provided learner autonomy through the free use and selection of technology to accomplish learning objective, xMOOCs have been supported by similar technology to that used in formal academic online courses (in which student massification may impair significant connectivity; e.g., in Coursera or EdX), the more recent hybrid MOOC models combine the use of formal VLEs, content orientated (e.g., Moodle, https://moodle.org), and the social networks (e.g., Elgg; https://elgg.org; Coelho et al. 2015). Anyhow, either the MOOC aims at massified learning or at personalized learning, the design of the technological frameworks needs to be adaptable to the heterogeneity and diversity of MOOC participant profiles, in order to improve learning and participants’ engagement (García-Peñalvo et al. 2018).

In fact, it is well known that MOOC participants’ have a different profile than students enrolled in formal academic courses, in terms of their academic objectives, professional profiles, approach to MOOC contents (e.g., interaction, participation, preferences, or motivation; Milligan and Littlejohn 2017), age range, and geographic distribution. Hence, perhaps not unsurprising, MOOC participants are more heterogeneous, diverse, and multicultural (e.g., Veletsianos and Shepherdson 2016; García-Peñalvo et al. 2018; Zawacki-Richter et al. 2018). MOOC participants profile is a key issue in the MOOCs’ design and in its success as an educational tool for any educational subject.

MOOCs have, since their beginning, received particular attention for their potential to open education for everyone. Their evaluation, however, has not been clear-cut, and many arguments have been set for their success, but also many criticisms have been laid against them.

Therefore, MOOCs are viewed as successful as they (i) can open education to everyone (who has access to internet), (ii) can attract a substantially greater and diversified number of participants than formal university courses, (iii) may result in extra income from accreditation processes at university (when these are considered), (iv) may serve as a test for innovative eLearning resources, tools, and dynamics, and (v) may enhance brand image and help to disseminate training offers (Coelho et al. 2015; García-Peñalvo et al. 2018). Their potential and success is clearly shown by the continuous increase of MOOCs number, in universities (Porter 2015). However, on the other hand, MOOCs also have (i) a high drop-out rate (frequently 5-10% completion rate), (ii) little impact on recruitment from formal university courses, and (iii) dropping number of subscribers per MOOC (Coelho et al. 2015; Chiappe Laverde et al. 2015; Pilli and Admiraal 2016).

MOOCs About Climate Change

Climate Change-Massive Open Online Courses (CC-MOOCs) are educative tools for climate change awareness and literacy (Mainsah et al. 2017). CC-MOOCs aim to increase knowledge, literacy, and awareness on climate change issues, relating to topics such as the science of climate change, the economics of climate change, the politics of climate change, or the sociology of climate change.

A search was conducted with MOOC LIST search engine (www.mooc-list.com/). The MOOC LIST is an aggregator that finds MOOCs and free online courses, worldwide, from Coursera, edX, FutureLearn, OpenClassrooms, and other top providers and universities, using a wide range of criteria (e.g., providers, type of certificate, country, and instructor, categories, and subjects). It searches all MOOCs that are open at the moment of the search or opened earlier, or that are self-paced. The search was run using the keywords “climate change,” and a final list of MOOCs was selected that had the keywords “climate” or “climate change,” in their title or aims. The obtained list was assumed to be a representative sample of all MOOCs relating climate change issues.

According to this analysis on CC-MOOC (see Table 1), nearly 50 MOOCs or free on-line courses have been released in the last 10 years, developed worldwide for a big audience. The course’s duration varies from just 3 h up to 1 year, but in average they are short, with an average duration of 1 month. Only three of the listed MOOCs (Table 1) did not offer some type of certification, and four of them were self-paced. Universities were the main institutions that developed these courses, although some were developed by private companies and nongovernmental agencies, such as the United Nations Environment Program or the World Wildlife Fund. Within the countries category, the USA was the largest contributor of CC-MOOCs, which may not be surprising as MOOCs have been originated by North American Universities. Nevertheless, CC-MOOCs have also been developed by a large number of universities, and other institutions, from Europe (in France, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom), as well as from Asia, South Africa, Latin America, and the Caribe. It is noteworthy that 20% of the courses were developed by international institutions/agencies, showing the wide comprehensiveness of this topic. The most used eLearning platform was Coursera (around 30% of the listed MOOCs), followed by edX and Futurelearn (around 20%, each, for the listed courses). Other platforms developed within specific projects, regions, or institutions were also used (e.g., EMMA, FUNS, or EdCast). Most of these courses aimed at large and unspecified audiences and only a few specified their target population, namely, as undergraduate students, scientists, or decision makers. Some of the CC-MOOCs, curiously, indicated their target population as “the more septic about climate change.”
Table 1

List of MOOC and free online courses about climate change

Name/institution, country

Description, duration, platform

Web location

Act on Climate: Steps to Individual, Community, and Political Action

University of Michigan, USA

The course focuses on how to translate learning into action on climate change in the areas of food, energy, transportation, and the built environment (cities). Students designed it for students, faculty, and learning specialists. A range of academic climate change experts and professional leaders are featured

7 weeks

Coursera

https://www.mooc-list.com/course/act-climate-steps-individual-community-and-political-action-coursera

AGRIMONITOR: Agricultural policy, food security and climate change

Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), Latin-America and the Caribbean

The course focuses in learning how to analyse agricultural policies in Latin-America and the Caribbean, to learn their implications in food security, and to understand their close connection with the environment and climate change

Duration not available

edX

https://www.mooc-list.com/course/agrimonitor-agricultural-policy-food-security-and-climate-change-edx

Alterações Climáticas: Ligando Ciência e a Experiência da vida

University Aberta, Portugal

The general objective of the climate change course: the context of life experiences is to introduce the concept of climate change into the context of sustainable development, relating it to the experiences experienced by each of them, such as adapting and mitigating their effects, related to floods, lack of water, rise in sea level, coastal erosion, and others

6 weeks

EMMA

https://www.mooc-list.com/course/alterações-climáticas-ligando-ciência-e-experiência-da-vida-emma

As alterações climáticas nos média escolares

University of Porto, Portugal

This course is dedicated to climate change and the use of media to facilitate the learning of the theme in the classroom. It is aimed at professors from the scientific areas that focus on the theme of climate change, those responsible for the school media, and all those interested in these matters. The course aims to support teachers in developing the skills needed to teach climate change in an innovative and effective way

5 weeks

Miríada X

https://www.mooc-list.com/course/alterações-climáticas-nos-média-escolares-mir%C3%ADada-x

Causes et enjeux du changement climatique

Virtual University Environment and Sustainable Development (UVED), France

The MOOC “Causes and challenges of climate change” aims to draw a general picture of the problem of climate change, giving learners sufficient elements to be able to oppose a personal reflection to the multiple polemics that surrounded this problem. This course has no certification

3 periods

FUN

https://www.mooc-list.com/course/causes-et-enjeux-du-changement-climatique-fun

Causes of Climate Change

University of Bergen, Norway

This course provides the basis for understanding the underlying physical processes governing climate variations in the past, present, and future

The focus is on explaining the main external forcing mechanisms such as the sun, volcanoes, and changes in greenhouse gasses and aerosols, which can contribute to changing the global energy budget and initiate climate variations. It also describes the important role of internal feedback mechanisms and the energy transport in the atmosphere and ocean, in order to understand regional variations in climate

Duration not available

FutureLearn

https://www.mooc-list.com/course/causes-climate-change-futurelearn

Changing Weather and Climate in the Great Lakes Region

University of Wisconsin–Madison, USA

This courses aims to learn how the mid-latitude location of the Great Lakes Region and the influence of five fresh-water lakes combine to create exhilarating weather systems each season. Numerous observations demonstrate that the climate of the Great Lakes Region is changing. To slow the rate of future climate change, on this course it is shared actions participants can take that benefit them and everyone who loves the weather and climate of the Great Lakes Region

4 weeks

Coursera

https://www.mooc-list.com/course/changing-weather-and-climate-great-lakes-region-coursera

China’s Perspective on Climate Change

Tsinghua University, China

This course provides China’s perspectives, policies, actions, and effects on global climate changes to the international community. Participants learn about the challenges and opportunities we are faced with on global climate in the world and in China, and familiarize with main policies, technical routines, and international regulations. The knowledge presented in this course benefit the understanding of significant theories and practical problems such as the energy revolution, economic development transition, low carbon economy development, and the ecological civilization construction. The course is designed for the undergraduate students, high school students, and anyone who is concerned about climate change. This course is self-paced

Duration not available

edX

https://www.mooc-list.com/course/china’s-perspective-climate-change-应对气候变化的中国视角-edx

Climate change

Macquarie Graduate School of Management, Australia

This courses aims to learn how climate change will affect us, why we should care about it, and what solutions we can employ. The insatiable demand for energy from fossil fuels is changing the atmosphere, and in turn changing the climate. Climate change is already affecting the physical surface of the earth, the environment that provides the life support, the food supply, economy, and society

Duration not available

Open2Study

https://www.mooc-list.com/course/climate-change-open2study

Climate Change

University of Melbourne, Australia

This course offers you an introduction to different disciplinary perspectives on climate change to help participants think about how climate change affects us as an individual, as a member of a local community, as a citizen of a country, and as a member of the global community

Duration not available

Coursera

https://www.mooc-list.com/course/climate-change-coursera

Climate Change & Health for Policy-Makers

Centre Virchow-Villermé

Université Sorbonne Paris Cité, France

This MOOC is about the topic of climate change, tailored to senior policy-makers and negotiators of climate agreements, particularly as an input into United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change at the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) in Paris in December 2015. This course has no certification

1 week

iversity

https://www.mooc-list.com/course/climate-change-health-policy-makers-iversity

Climate Change and the Law

University of California, USA

This course highlights that climate change will be a core concern that will influence policy and economic activity for years to come. It raises profound policy issues, and regulatory responses will help shape business activity for decades to come, particularly in the clean technology sector and the energy sector more broadly. Despite the lack of federal legislation, climate change has been the subject of extensive legal developments at the state, federal (EPA and courts), and international level. These issues are taught on this course. This course has no certification and is self-paced

12 lessons

WMA

https://www.mooc-list.com/course/climate-change-and-law-wma

Climate Change in Four Dimensions

University of California, USA

This course views climate change from a variety of perspectives at the intersection of the natural sciences, technology, and the social sciences and humanities

Duration not available

Coursera

https://www.mooc-list.com/course/climate-change-four-dimensions-coursera

Climate Change Leadership

Uppsala University, Sweden

This course aims to learn how to apply climate change leadership in the business, municipality, or organization. Climate change creates a situation of unprecedented urgency, complexity, and uncertainty but also opens up new opportunities for innovation and leadership. Participants get a view of the leadership challenges associated with climate change, as well as the new arenas that are opening up for climate action

Duration not available

FutureLearn

https://www.mooc-list.com/course/climate-change-leadership-futurelearn

Climate Change Mitigation in Developing Countries

University of Cape Town, South Africa

This course explores the challenges faced by developing country governments wanting to grow their economies in a climate friendly way and addresses the complexity inherent in lifting societies out of poverty while also mitigating greenhouse gas emissions. The course covers facilitation process techniques, energy modeling, scenario building, innovation, and policy. Whether you are a climate change practitioner, work in development, or are simply curious about how climate mitigation is understood, this course give an insight into the complex process of how countries from the South pursue development goals while addressing climate mitigation

Duration not available

Coursera

https://www.mooc-list.com/course/climate-change-mitigation-developing-countries-coursera

Climate Change Policy and Public Health

University of Wisconsin–Madison, USA

This course explores the impact of human activities on climate change and consequently public health, as well as the many real benefits to climate change mitigation. Participants discover the multiple benefits – or co-benefits – provided by public policies and initiatives to reduce emissions. In addition to providing evidence for climate change’s impact on human health, this course explore three primary areas where co-benefits can be realized: renewable energy, agriculture and food, urban design, and active transport

Duration not available

Coursera

https://www.mooc-list.com/course/climate-change-policy-and-public-health-coursera

Climate Change Science and Negotiations

Sustainable Development Solutions Network, International

During the first semester, participants will learn about the climate change solutions and how they can be applied in different national contexts, based on the results from the Deep Decarbonization Pathways Project, a global initiative to show how countries can transition to a low carbon economy by 2050, and how the world can stay within the 2 °C limit. The second semester is a dynamic online climate change negotiation. The negotiation is modeled on the real negotiations under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change at the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21)

2 semesters

EdCast

https://www.mooc-list.com/course/climate-change-science-and-negotiations-edcast

Climate Change, Risks, and Challenges

SAP company, International

This free online course aims to meet climate change experts who discuss why the environment is changing, how global warming is affecting the world, and what can be done to slow it down

3–4 h

openSAP

https://www.mooc-list.com/course/climate-change-risks-and-challenges-opensap

Climate Change: Carbon Capture and Storage

EdinburghX, University of Edinburgh Scotland

This course explore the technology that can provide a long-term solution to protect the atmosphere from an excess of carbon dioxide, in the context of global energy, the use of fossil fuels, and climate change. This introductory course to the technology of carbon capture and storage is designed for a wider audience with an interest in energy, sustainability, and climate change

5 weeks

edX

https://www.mooc-list.com/course/climate-change-carbon-capture-and-storage-edx

Climate Change: Solutions

University of Exeter, UK

This course explores the potential solutions to climate change and how they relate to the UN’s sustainable development goals. Man-made climate change is one of the biggest threats to the world. The effects are already being seen through receding glaciers, ocean acidification, and an increasingly vulnerable food supply. It is vital to work to find solutions to climate change

Duration not available

FutureLearn

https://www.mooc-list.com/course/climate-change-solutions-futurelearn

Climate Change: Challenges and Solutions

University of Exeter, UK

This course aims to explain the science of climate change, the risks it poses, and the solutions available to reduce those risks. The course is aimed at the level of students entering university and seeks to provide an interdisciplinary introduction to what is a broad field

Duration not available

FutureLearn

https://www.mooc-list.com/course/climate-change-challenges-and-solutions-futurelearn

Climate Change: The Science

University of Exeter, UK

On this course participants explore the science of climate change, looking back across 4 billion years of Earth’s history to help to learn the difference between “natural” from “human” induced change; looking to the present to see how the impacts of climate change are already being felt; and finally looking to the future to see what it might hold for the planet

4 weeks

FutureLearn

https://www.mooc-list.com/course/climate-change-science-futurelearn

Climate Change: The Science

The University of British Columbia, Canada

In this course, participants discuss flows of energy and carbon in Earth’s climate system, how climate models work, climate history, and future forecasts. It also gives the knowledge needed and practice communicating about climate change. Participants meet people from around the world with a huge range of local and regional climate change issues. This course is self-paced

Duration not available

edX

https://www.mooc-list.com/course/climate-change-science-edx

Climate Justice: Lessons from the Global South

UNESCO, International

This course aims to understand how we can balance human needs with caring for the planet with this free online course about climate change. This course will deal with some of the key issues related to the ethical dimensions implied by climate change – learning especially from the problems faced as well as the resilience models formulated by the marginalized sectors of society or the so-called “Global South”

Duration not available

FutureLearn

https://www.mooc-list.com/course/climate-justice-lessons-global-south-futurelearn

Climate Literacy: Navigating Climate Change Conversations

The University of British Columbia, Canada

This course tackles the scientific and sociopolitical dimensions of climate change. This course introduces the basics of the climate system, models and predictions, human and natural impacts, mitigated and adaptive responses, and the evolution of climate policy

Duration not available

Coursera

https://www.mooc-list.com/course/climate-literacy-navigating-climate-change-conversations-coursera

Climate Science and Policy

University of Queensland, Australia

This course aims to understand climate science and the role of policy for transitioning to a low carbon energy supply. This course will help the participants to understand the size of the problem and policy options that could start to make a difference

10 topics

edX

https://www.mooc-list.com/course/climate-science-and-policy-edx

Climate Science Connections: Water in the West

CIRES, University of Colorado, USA

This course aims to discuss how climate changes affect the availability of water in the Western United States – where water is already the most precious natural resource? What water management challenges does the Western United States face? How do we manage natural disasters like drought, wildfire, and flooding? This course engages participants with cutting-edge science in exploring these and other questions about the intersection of climate change and water management in the West

Duration not available

Canvas.net

https://www.mooc-list.com/course/climate-science-connections-water-west-canvasnet

Disasters and Ecosystems: Resilience in a Changing Climate

CNRD (Center for Natural Resources and Development), Cologne University of Applied Sciences, GUPES (Global Universities Partnership on Environment for Sustainability), UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme), International

This MOOC enhances knowledge and skills for tackling complex issues such as resilience and transformation, sustainable development, ecosystem management, disaster risk reduction, climate change adaptation, and how they can be operationalized. It will benefit disaster managers and practitioners, climate change adaptation professionals, development planners, project implementers, and policy makers

Duration not available

iversity

https://www.mooc-list.com/course/disasters-and-ecosystems-resilience-changing-climate-iversity

Global Energy and Climate Policy

SOAS University of London

University of London, UK

This course offers an introduction to the theoretical and practical understanding of how energy and climate change policies are designed, shaped, advocated, and implemented. The main aim of the course is to provide this wide-ranging introduction in a self-contained, but in-depth form, alongside the important practical skills necessary to understand and discuss energy and climate policy, and lay the groundwork for greater engagement in the future – either through academic study, in the public, private, or not-for-profit sectors

6 weeks

Coursera

https://www.mooc-list.com/course/global-energy-and-climate-policy-coursera

Global Warming I: The Science and Modeling of Climate Change

University of Chicago, USA

This course describes the science of global warming and the forecast for humans’ impact on Earth’s climate. Intended for an audience without much scientific background but a healthy sense of curiosity, the course brings together insights and perspectives from physics, chemistry, biology, earth and atmospheric sciences, and even some economics – all based on a foundation of simple mathematics (algebra)

12 weeks

Coursera

https://www.mooc-list.com/course/global-warming-i-science-and-modeling-climate-change-coursera

Global Warming II: Create Your Own Models in Python

University of Chicago, USA

This course provides a series of Python programming exercises intended to explore the use of numerical modeling in the Earth system and climate sciences. The scientific background for these models is presented in a companion class, Global Warming I: The Science and Modeling of Climate Change. This course assumes that participants are new to Python programming but that will be able to pick up an elementary knowledge of Python syntax from another class or from on-line tutorials

5 weeks

Coursera

https://www.mooc-list.com/course/global-warming-ii-create-your-own-models-python-coursera

Global Warming Science 12.340x

MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), USA

This course is to learn about the physics, chemistry, biology, and geology of the earth’s climate system. Participants answer questions as, “What is the greenhouse effect?” and “How and why has earth’s climate changed through geologic history?” This science course is designed for college sophomores and juniors with some preparation in college-level calculus and physics

Duration not available

edX

https://www.mooc-list.com/course/12340x-global-warming-science-edx

Introduction to Water and Climate CTB3300WCx

Delft University of Technology, Netherland

This course is for students of engineering, climate science, and environmental studies. It offers a first introduction to the physics of water systems and their role in climate. In addition, we show you the state-of-the-art engineering interventions that can be applied to water systems. These can improve coastal safety and increase the availability of water supplies worldwide

Duration not available

EdX

https://www.mooc-list.com/course/ctb3300wcx-introduction-water-and-climate-edx

Klimawandel und seine Folgen

DKK (Deutsches Klima-Konsortium)

WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature), International

This MOOC prepares the scientific foundations of climate change and its consequences for nature and society. The basis is the 5th Assessment Report of the IPCC. Teachers and students can also introduce the topic into the classroom in the sense of education for sustainable development, and energy managers and consultants in municipalities and cities can use this course as an easy way to become climate-conscious and to deepen existing knowledge

Duration not available

iversity

https://www.mooc-list.com/course/klimawandel-und-seine-folgen-iversity

Making Sense of Climate Science Denial

University of Queensland, Australia

This course aim to alert that climate change is real, so why the controversy and debate? The aim is to make sense of the science and to respond to climate change denial. In public discussions, climate change is a highly controversial topic. However, in the scientific community, there is little controversy with 97% of climate scientists concluding humans are causing global warming. This course is self-paced

Duration not available

edX

https://www.mooc-list.com/course/making-sense-climate-science-denial-edx

Modeling Climate Change PS280x

UChicagoX, USA

Intended for nonspecialists, this course starts with basic principles and builds to more complicated, realistic models of the Earth's climate. Bringing together insights from physics, chemistry, biology, earth, and atmospheric sciences – and even some economics – this course is geared to curious enthusiasts, allowing them to work with real climate data and simulations of the earth’s changing climate

8 weeks

edX

https://www.mooc-list.com/course/ps280x-modeling-climate-change-edx

Monitoring Climate from Space

European Space Agency, European

This course aims to explore the planet from space and learn how Earth observation is used to monitor climate change, with this free online course. It is increasingly essential for us to study climate change across the planet at the highest level of detail possible. But how can we achieve such a comprehensive worldwide view?

5 weeks

FutureLearn

https://www.mooc-list.com/course/monitoring-climate-space-futurelearn

Our changing climate: past, present and future

University of Reading, UK

This course aims to explore how climate shapes the way humans live, the food we eat, the water we drink, and the cities we live in. It teaches from the fundamental science of the atmosphere to the social, economic, and political consequences of climate change

5 weeks

FutureLearn

https://www.mooc-list.com/course/our-changing-climate-past-present-and-future-futurelearn

Our Earth: Its Climate, History, and Processes

University of Manchester, UK

This course aims to develop an appreciation for how the air, water, land, and life formed and have interacted over the last 4.5 billion years

5 weeks

Coursera

https://www.mooc-list.com/course/our-earth-its-climate-history-and-processes-coursera

Pathways to climate change adaptation: the case of Small Island Developing States

University of Geneva, Switzerland

This course provides an overview of climate change adaptation for the Small Island Developing States (SIDS) with a focus on the environmental perspective. It will present the key concepts regarding the issues of adaptation to climate change and the methodological tools needed to analyze challenges faced by SIDS, in order to propose sustainable solutions

Duration not available

Coursera

https://www.mooc-list.com/course/pathways-climate-change-adaptation-case-small-island-developing-states-coursera

Planning for Climate Change in African Cities

Erasmus University Rotterdam, Netherlands

This course provides the foundation for understanding cities’ exposure and sensitivity to climate change, and how cities can manage these impacts in the face of growing uncertainty. It introduces the basic concepts of urban resilience and adaptation, by using illustrative case studies in different African cities. Furthermore, this module provides lectures on the different approaches for climate change planning, whether ad hoc, strategic, or mainstreaming; introduces the different steps in the planning cycle – from initial assessment to monitoring and evaluation; and presents the different decision support and assessment tools for prioritizing climate change actions.

Duration not available

Coursera

https://www.mooc-list.com/course/planning-climate-change-african-cities-coursera

Rise-up: Climate Change Education

Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), Latin America and Caribbean Regional

This course aims participants to learn how to work with primary- and secondary-level students to help them explore climate change topics through the use of interactive and engaging activities. This course explores the basic science behind climate change and presents the tools to teach it in a positive, engaging and participatory way. The course also introduces some of the ethical and social issues around climate change

7 weeks

edX

https://www.mooc-list.com/course/rise-climate-change-education-edx

The Future of Farming: Exploring Climate Smart Agriculture

University of Reading, UK

This courses aims to teach how can we adapt farming to an uncertain future and if the answer could be through Climate Smart Agriculture. The participants explore the principles and practical applications of Climate Smart Agriculture, like mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions, adaption to climate change and stable or increased food production in the context of European dairy farming and wine production

3 weeks

FutureLearn

https://www.mooc-list.com/course/future-farming-exploring-climate-smart-agriculture-futurelearn-0

The Impact of Climate Change on Public Health

EIT Health, KIC InnoEnergy, European

This courses aims to explore the impact of climate change on public health and discover ways to influence behaviors and policies at all levels. It shares knowledge of both the direct and indirect ways in which climate change is affecting health around the globe

Duration not available

FutureLearn

https://www.mooc-list.com/course/impact-climate-change-public-health-futurelearn

Tipping Points: Climate Change and Society

University of Exeter, UK

On this course, participants explore the concept of tipping points from an interdisciplinary perspective

A tipping point occurs when there’s a shift in the state of a system towards a new equilibrium, what is happen with climate system that could accelerate the dangerous effects of climate change. Examples like the collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, dieback of the Amazon, or droughts across the Sahel and also behavioral changes and regional warfare are discussed

Duration not available

FutureLearn

https://www.mooc-list.com/course/tipping-points-climate-change-and-society-futurelearn

Turn Down the Heat: From Climate Science to Action

The World Bank, International

This course presents the most recent scientific evidence, explains the different regional impacts and divulges climate action strategies, and some opportunities for participants to take action on climate change

4 weeks

Coursera

https://www.mooc-list.com/course/turn-down-heat-climate-science-action-coursera

Turn Down the Heat: Why a 4 °C Warmer World Must be Avoided

The Word Bank, International

This MOOC presents the analysis for the likely impacts of a 4-degree warming trajectory and stresses the need for decision makers and communities to take a firm look at their adaptation choices, while signaling the urgency for mitigation action. Participants also be introduced to the risks of triggering nonlinearity and tipping elements like the disintegration of the West Antarctic ice sheet and large-scale Amazon dieback. It ends with a discussion on the main policy choices needed to prevent warming to be above 2 °C

Duration not available

Coursera

https://www.mooc-list.com/course/turn-down-heat-why-4°c-warmer-world-must-be-avoided-coursera

The majority of the CC-MOOCs aimed for the participants to learn about the science of climate change and/or about the global or regional consequences of climate change. Other MOOCs were designed to elucidate the legal, political, or negotiation aspects of climate change, and a minor number addressed climate change health impacts, and climate change adaptation and mitigation measures. Among the CC-MOOCs, some were specifically designed to support the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change at the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21), where the Paris Agreement was signed in December of 2015.

MOOCs as an Educative Tool for Climate Change

There is a reasonable agreement about the importance of educating about scientific knowledge of climate change and climate systems conceptual perspectives and principles (Buckler and Creech 2014; Jacobson et al. 2017). In addition, the climate change learning process should also be based on our own lived experiences of climate change and on how can this knowledge improve climate change adaptation and mitigation measures (Teixeira et al. 2012). Also, there is an imperative need to educate and build awareness of climate change across multiple social and cultural locations. Different cultural insights can advance the knowledge base of the anthropogenic causes of climate change (Perkins et al. 2018).

From the large number of worldwide Climate Change MOOCs on offer, it can be assumed that these can have an important role on education for a wide audience coming from different cultures, on topics relating to climate change. Even though earlier studies have shown that a relatively small number of participants complete MOOCs in which they enrolled (e.g., Schuwer et al. 2015; Coelho et al. 2015; García-Peñalvo et al. 2018), other studies also have demonstrated that MOOCs stimulate learning and are able to increase knowledge and awareness of their participants, relating to the importance of climate change from an interdisciplinary perspective (e.g., Otto et al. 2018; Naunova 2018). Other authors have also highlighted MOOCs as a promising tool for open education on climate change literacy (Otto et al. 2019; Barteit et al. 2018) or science literacy awareness and discussion among the public (Shapiro et al. 2017).

CC-MOOCs are connected to the broader learning outcomes and goals of climate change education which aim at developing a base for learners to understand sustainability issues, emerging on a global level while adapting at the same time their behaviors and individual action in relation to everyday surroundings. CC-MOOC fosters the creation of such understandings by providing a mixture of generalized climate-related topics and assignments that incentivize local action (Naunova 2018).

The aims of MOOCs as an educative tool for climate change is to seek to efficient ways to address, build content, and disseminate climate change and sustainability issues to and with design students on a global scale across a variety of learning contexts and subsequently stimulate alternative public discourses and research engagement about our common futures (Mainsah et al. 2017).

Nevertheless, CC-MOOCs should not be seen as repositories of educational materials, from e-books to videos, but as collaborative tools for interactive group work, with paced instruction, supported by a creditable online system (Coelho et al. 2015) and based on quality and appropriate open education resources (Teixeira et al. 2012). CC-MOOCs should also have some type of certification (associated, e.g., with iris- or tipping pattern-recognition or face-to-face examination; Coelho et al. 2015). The European Credits Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS) can also be used as a robust system for formal recognition of accomplishments in MOOCs (Schuwer et al. 2015).

Final Remarks

Even though MOOCs are still discussed in the literature, mainly due to the need of a more adaptive business model which may improve their sustainability within universities systems, there have been a variety of learning experiences in all areas of knowledge, including sustainable development and climate change issues that show their success and potential as an educative tool, as stressed earlier along this entry.

Individual actions can make a difference in adapting and mitigating effects of climate change and global warming, and MOOCs – due to their characteristics – can indeed have an important awareness and educative role towards that aim and towards a more sustainable future according to the 2030 Agenda – Sustainable Development Goals.

Cross-References

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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Science and TechnologyUniversidade AbertaLisboaPortugal
  2. 2.CFE, Center for Functional EcologyUniversidade de CoimbraCoimbraPortugal
  3. 3.CENSE, Centre of Environment and Sustainability ResearchUniversidade NOVA de LisboaLisboaPortugal

Section editors and affiliations

  • S. Jeff Birchall
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Urban and Regional Planning, Department of Earth and Atmospheric SciencesUniversity of AlbertaEdmontonCanada