Concordia launches a free online course partnered with the United Nations

The goal of the course is to educate as many students as possible worldwide

Concordia is now offering a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) this fall, not only to Concordia students, but to students around the world.

The course, entitled Wicked Problems, Dynamic Solutions: The Ecosystem Approach and Systems Thinking, educates students on ecosystems and conservation theories, said director of the Loyola Sustainability Research Centre Peter Stoett. “[There is a necessity for thinking] about socio-ecological systems as we try to find solutions for some of the greatest challenges we face.”

“[The course] is an attempt to give widespread access to a course that teaches people some really necessary concepts and case studies related to the survival of future generations,” said Stoett. The online course is free and available to anyone around the world, as a part of the United Nations’ objective to make this course accessible to as many people as possible.

“The focus of the course, as the title implies, is on systems thinking and the ecosystem approach,” said Rebecca Tittler, coordinator of the Loyola College for Diversity and Sustainability & Loyola Sustainability Research Centre. “Systems thinking involves consideration of the various components of a system and the interactions between components.”

Tittler was on the core development team for the MOOC. She said the course discusses how to resolve colossal issues that result from climate change, ocean acidification, biodiversity loss, deforestation and forest degradation.

Stoett has connections with the UN, having previously worked with them, which prompted the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) to contact Stoett for the opportunity to create this course at Concordia.

Robert Beauchemin, CEO of KnowledgeOne, the company in charge of developing eConcordia online courses, described the MOOC as a web-based platform. Beauchemin said the course is accessible through any web browser available on any computer, tablet and mobile device.

“The main reason we do that is because more people in Africa have cell phones than laptops and in Asia, as well,” said Stoett. “You don’t need a computer to take this course in a day and age when almost everyone—even really low income groups—have telephones.”

He said the second aspect to the course is to help compensate financial difficulties using a blended learning course available to all Concordia students.

Half of the blended learning course is offered online and half of the course will be taught in a classroom. The blended learning course will be a course available to all Concordia students, said Stoett. The MOOC will be a part of the blended learning course, which will be offered under the department of geography, intended as a course for first-year geography students.

Stoett said he believes the MOOC would be interesting to recent high school graduates, students mostly in the southern hemisphere, students who are entering university, who cannot afford university or either live in a country where university is not a well-developed system.

The Concordian asked Stoett if the curriculum is focused on North America or studying ecosystems worldwide. “It’s definitely worldwide,” said Stoett. “We have really tried to hit a global note with this—many of the case studies we used [and] many of the videos we used are from Africa, quite a few from Asia and some from Latin America.”

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