The Climate Change Summit (COP21/CMP11) is being held in Paris from 30 November. 190 nations are coming together to discuss a new global agreement aimed at reducing global greenhouse gas emissions and avoiding dangerous climate change. The best scientific evidence indicates that there is still time available to achieve this although the window of opportunity is closing. Carbon dioxide levels have already exceeded the 350ppm threshold considered necessary for climate stabilization and the temperature of the Earth, already 1C above pre-industrial levels, is halfway to the 2C limit agreed by world leaders in 2009. (See, Everything you need to know about the Paris climate summit and UN talks)
What has Climate Change to do with online learning?
The obvious connection is that considerable expertise will be required for solving many of the problems caused by climate change. Scientists, engineers and skilled technologists are urgently needed to research, develop and maintain clean energy sources such as solar and wind power that do not depend on burning fossil fuels (See, '10 ways technology is fighting climate change') To meet these challenges, many learners will have to become familiar with the new technologies that are involved; for example, in the design of electric vehicles, the construction of energy-efficient buildings and the complex industrial processes for carbon or methane capture.
Unfortunately, many countries that are likely to be badly affected by climate change do not have higher education systems able to deliver the necessary expertise in good time. Fortunately, online learning can now make a significant contribution particularly Open Educational Resources (OER) such as, Open Courseware (OCW), open textbooks and Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCS). These are all freely available to anyone with Internet access, anywhere in the world regardless of age, or qualifications and at practically no cost. It's then up to the individual to take charge of his or her own learning in whatever way suits them best.
Influencing Public Opinion
A more indirect connection of climate change with online learning is to do with public opinion. Climate change and the necessary countermeasures will affect large numbers of people in ways that some will find difficult or even impossible to accept. Although climate change, caused in large part by human activities, is now accepted fact by an overwhelming number of scientists and educators, there are still 'deniers' out there with the power to persuade and influence uninformed public opinion. Go to YouTube, if you dare, and see some of the comments on '10 of the best YouTube videos on climate change'!
In democracies, misinformation can only be countered by effective education of the public but not just through formal education. Everyone should educate themselves, at least on the very basics of climate change. (See for example, 'A student's guide to global climate change'.) You can help to deny the deniers their disproportionate influence by friendly persuasion among family, friends and colleagues at work!
"Higher education shall be made equally accessible to all, on the basis of capacity, by every appropriate means, and in particular by the progressive introduction of free education." - Article 13: International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, 16th December 1966
iBerry's mission is to foster free and accessible Higher Education by every appropriate means but the appropriate means do change with time. Originally we tried to provide comprehensive lists of open education resources but now the focus is on supporting online learners in making their own choices and finding their own way through whatever open educational paths they wish to follow.
We can go so far in providing links to useful sources of information for most areas of academic knowledge but success in learning is much more than mere exposure to facts and figures. Learning with and from others of different backgrounds, cultures and levels of expertise is an education in itself and is also an enjoyable and very effective way to study. Thousands of learners from hundreds of different countries have already benefited from Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCS) and there are now numerous opportunities for interaction between self-directed learners.
The page on Science - is the last to be finished in iBerry's new format as discussed in iBerry and Open Education - Work in Progress. All the main topics listed in the Open Education Directory (see menu in the left margin) are now in this format with links to open access (free) textbooks, support for learners and the best resource sites etc all on the same page.
After studying for years in formal education you pat yourself heartily on the back when you land a job. School was boring, not much fun and you couldn't wait to give up studying math/ French/ science/ history/ geography/ ..... whatever - because you're not academically minded/ disliked the teacher/ not clever enough/ hated the exams/ easily distracted from study/ etc etc. University or college was better but mainly because of the socializing and the connections you made but you skipped or slept through the lecture courses and only scraped through by making a supreme last minute effort before the final exams.
But now all that's all behind you and you relax. You don't find your job very challenging but there's plenty of time to watch TV, keep up with 'friends' on Facebook or Twitter, glance at your favourite newspaper, even read a book. But things are not quite as they seem. For example, in your job clever people are promoted over your head because they're clever and you're not. They learn things more quickly than you do and pass these irksome professional exams your bosses harp on about. But wait ..... you've learned a bit about the job yourself. You've discussed it with others at work and elsewhere and some of these clever people, including the bosses, do pretty stupid and incompetent things at times. How can that be? You don't feel qualified to raise your concerns with management and you remember poor Fred who was sacked for discussing his boss's shortcomings on Facebook!
All iBerry's information is freely available on this website but there are no resources for offering detailed advice to individual learners. Higher Education is now going through a period of significant change and I doubt if anyone can keep track or understand how recent innovations such as MOOCs will impact on what we think of as 'courses'.
Who then is the best person to go to for advice? The answer is very simple - YOURSELF ! The future is with the self-learner. You know your own learning objectives better than anyone else and you probably have a shrewd idea of your own capabilities. iBerry's Open Education Directory or even Google will provide more than enough basic information on any subject you care to study. There is plenty OCW available to stimulate your interest and then why not join some MOOCs to experience study in your chosen field? You can take as much or as little interest in a MOOC as you like. From participating in discussion forums, doing all the assignments and earning a certificate to just watching a few videos, your level of participation is entirely up to you. Join as many MOOCs as you like to find out what you like and what is most useful to you. Unlike most traditional courses you will not be out of pocket!
Please enjoy whatever celebrations the end of the year may bring and have a happy and prosperous New Year !
iBerry was founded in 1999 when universities and colleges were just beginning to publish courseware and other educational material on the web. Listings of accessible courseware provided by iBerry were useful to students, self-learners and other academics and shortly afterwards MIT popularized open education by introducing Open Courseware (OCW). This consisted mainly of lecture notes and videoed lectures taken from courses given by MIT and other universities for their own students.
Now things are very different. Vast amounts of static OCW are available to online learners whenever or wherever they want to study and open education is becoming much more dynamic. There are open forums for debate and discussion covering most subject areas of Higher Education as well as Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) given by top universities and colleges connecting learners to experts and to each other for more effective learning.
While updating iBerry's MOOC Resource Page I had difficulty in deciding whether some online courses really deserve to be called MOOCs. Providers are always happy to jump onto the MOOC bandwagon but some 'MOOCs' now seem to have drifted a little too far from the original concept of a Massive Open Online Course.
For example, 'self-paced MOOCs' are apparently online courses consisting of Open Courseware (OCW) and maybe a discussion forum but with no formal start or end. In contrast with other MOOCs, participants cannot be focused on the same part of the course at the same time and so availability of mutual help and support is less likely. These open online courses may or may not be excellent for self-study but the term 'MOOC' seems inappropriate without a massive body of participants moving through the course together.
iBerry is delighted to help sponsor a poll run by Zaid Ali Alsagoff, (e-Learning Manager at the International Medical University (IMU) and author of the popular education site, ZaidLearn). Over 200 e-learning nominees from all parts of the world are now listed and more than 1,000 votes have been cast. The 'Top e-Learning Mover & Shaker of the Year (2013)' will be the nominee with the most votes but the more prestigious 'e-Learning Super Hero of the Year (2013)' will be chosen using a "gamified points system" devised by Zaid that takes into account who is voting as well as the number of votes. It also encourages nominees to show professionalism and appreciation of the other nominees - rather than shameless self-promotion! Voting will end on January 27, 2014 and the results (with prizes) are to be announced at the end of January.
Results - startling revelations!
1,861 people around the world voted giving 6,680 'Votes Up' to their favorite e-Learning Super Heroes (generating 33,000+ views) - the first result: Captain Zaid himself !! - ?? (disqualified from winning the awards!) - more here.