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Published April 23, 2016

Preparing online learning materials for climate education— testers now sought

Laura Riuttanen explains why addressing climate change is not just the responsibility of experts and scientists.
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Author's profile page: Laura Riuttanen
Laura Riuttanen is a postdoctoral researcher who coordinates climate education in the University of Helsinki at the Institute for Atmospheric and Earth System Research INAR.

Finland needs a new generation of climate experts. Climate change cannot be solved by technology alone; a wide-ranging social transformation lies ahead, which will need input from all academic disciplines. Wide-ranging expertise will be needed for this. That is why we are putting together open-course materials on the basics of climate change, which will be accessible to everyone.

On Friday 18 March, Sitra hosted a meeting between a multidisciplinary group of researchers, instructors and teachers from various universities and organisations, to co-develop climate education in universities. The course materials currently under preparation for “The basics of climate change” will be made available online to students and all those interested from autumn 2016. The learning package is being assembled by researchers and teachers from the University of Helsinki and the Lappeenranta University of Technology in co-operation with institutions including the Helsinki Metropolia University of Applied Sciences, the University of the Arts Helsinki and the Finnish Meteorological Institute.

In a workshop, Professor of Environmental Studies Harold Glasser of the Western Michigan University gave an introductory session on the kind of approach climate change will require of us. Glasser challenged us to reconsider resource use: do we want to try and make existing solutions low emission, or would we rather work on totally new solution types and ways of thinking? We followed this by working together on a learning concept to support the teaching of the course under preparation, then put the concept structure to the test and considered practical ways of implementing climate teaching in universities. The participants viewed the package under development as an important addition to their own courses and education materials – the proposed focus points are the quality, ease of use and availability of the content.

We have developed a new kind of course concept. Since the basics of climate change will be taught in a range of disciplines, the teachers will not necessarily have greater expertise on climate change than the students. Each teacher is an expert in his or her own subject area, providing the students with an important gateway to their future professions. Together with their teachers, students will consider the impact of climate change on the future of their own discipline and the types of discipline-specific solutions and measures that will soon be needed. Teachers will also show the students where and how to access the learning materials and will grade their performances.

Climate change is a physical phenomenon for which there is strong scientific evidence, and for which rapid mitigation measures and wide-ranging adaptation will be required. We are all pieces of the puzzle in solving this problem, both as emitters of carbon and problem-solvers. The objective of the course is to help students understand climate change from various perspectives and to see the links between the various sectors of the environment, economy and society. Another, somewhat ambitious, objective is to equip the students to seek diverse solutions to climate change and its challenges, and to assess the impact of such solutions.

We hope that the course materials will act as building blocks for improving the climate knowledge of experts in various disciplines and thereby help to turn Finland into a leading expert in solving the issue.

The co-operation project is based on round-table discussions facilitated by Sitra, and the report on the current state of climate education in Finnish universities. The report reveals deficiencies in the way in which the basics of climate change are taught and understood, despite being a thematic focus area in every Finnish university. We are now seeking teachers and instructors from universities, universities of applied sciences and organisations to participate in the testing and piloting of the teaching package currently under preparation.

To register as a test user and for further details, please contact Sitra’s Liisa Lahti.

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