Massive Open Online Courses, also known as MOOCs, provide a meaningful platform for personal storytelling and community discussion as a starting point for reflection, engagement, and action on the climate emergency.

As a global leader in digital education since the earliest days of online learning, the University of Edinburgh offers nearly a hundred online courses and has reached a global community of over four million learners. The University of Edinburgh MOOCs have focused on a range of climate-related issues from climate solutions to country specific approaches, such as those taken in India.

Sign with earth globe reading 'One World'

As one of the most successful courses offered by the University of Edinburgh, Learning for a Sustainable Future takes a creative and context-led approach to facilitating multiple perspectives and discussions: ensuring the emphasis is not solely on individual action but contextualised within the systemic injustices and practices that perpetuate unsustainability in all its many forms.

The course was developed in partnership with the British Council, the University of Edinburgh, and Learning for Sustainability Scotland in collaboration initially with Cornell University on their Environmental Education series. In 2021, the partnership expanded their course to include Learning for a Sustainable Future Live at COP 26.

Reflective online learning to influence action

The Learning for Sustainability courses aim to support learners to reflect, investigate, discuss and develop an informed response to global challenges. Taking a personalised issue-based approach, the courses provide an opportunity to further investigate the diverse causes, impacts, and multiple social, economic, ecological and political factors related to a sustainability issue of their choosing – whilst also examining issues of power and responsibility which may influence our steps towards action.

Complementing the 26th UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference of Parties (COP) in Glasgow, the Learning for Sustainable Future Live at COP course provided students with background, context and intention of both the biodiversity and climate conferences as well as offering insights, hosting community discussions, and streaming live updates. This remains open as a free legacy resource until November 2022.

Both courses have reached nearly 10,000 learners from 153 countries.

And the Learning for Sustainable Future event will be emulated at COP27 in Egypt, with an accompanying MOOC also being launched.

A community approach to curriculum

The community approach to designing and delivering these transformative learning opportunities is a testament to how partnerships can empower individual and collective action. By creating a learning environment that invites participants to share their perspectives and stories, the course is able to engage learners by working together to enrich the learning for everyone involved.

Name: Beth Christie