Have you ever heard of Massive Open Online Courses?


Maybe you heard of them back in 2012, purportedly the ‘Year of the MOOC’. But the top platforms have come a long way since 2012, with new partners and great new classes that can interest almost anyone. Interested in Science, Computing, Satellites or Math? Surely you must take a peek at the course catalogue, because there are dozens of interesting offerings. But here I would like to highlight a few current and upcoming classes that focus in and around topics associated with Permaculture.

These massive courses are free and open and offered by accredited and respected universities. Although most now do offer to sell you an official certificate, you can access and review the materials for free. Many (all at edx.org) still offer free Statements of Accomplishment, printable certificates for those that get passing grades on whatever assignments and exams the professors invent for that course. There is a lot of variability even today between courses, ranging widely in length, depth, and production quality. The two main sites, edx.org and coursera.org, will both require you to create an account with them, and then will let you register for as many courses as you want.

The ethics of openness and how it is beginning to be reflected in education is a topic for another post, but for now here are my selections. Feel free to follow the links and read more about any of the courses, and if they interest you, by all means, sign up and meet people from around the world interested in the same topic. I personally have taken more than fifteen online courses, and in my opinion the discussions are a lot better with more perspectives involved. The more conscious people there are involved, the more people that can potentially wake up, and become conscious.


IEEE – Introduction to Metrics for Smart Cities (starts March 23, 2015) (https://www.edx.org/course/introduction-metrics-smart-cities-ieeex-scmtx-1x)

An intense four week course designed for professionals and students looking to measure the ways in which we can make cities smarter. Taught by a team from the IEEE, who traces their roots back to some of the founding men in electricity engineering. Expect to learn the how’s and why’s behind resource usage and key performance indicators in urban environments.

MITx and Poverty Action Lab – Evaluating Social Programs (starts April 1, 2015) (https://www.edx.org/course/evaluating-social-programs-mitx-jpal101x-0)

What sorts of social programs work in delivering benefits to those in need? This course looks at the powerful tool of Randomized Evaluations, used around the world to figure out exactly which social programs are working and how much benefit we are really seeing per dollar cost. Lasting six weeks, this course will shine a light into the future of development aid and social spending.

ETH Zurich – Future Cities (starts April 1, 2015) (https://www.edx.org/course/future-cities-ethx-fc-01x-0)

This course gets into the inner workings of the city, in order to comprehend how they could be sustainably managed. From the ETH Future Cities Laboratory in Singapore, this course offers cutting edge research results and developments from leaders in the field. Led by a group of seven, this course lasts 10 weeks.

Cornell University – The Ethics of Eating (starts April 15, 2015) (https://www.edx.org/course/ethics-eating-cornellx-phil1440x)

Exploring the philosophical and ethical perspective behind eating, this course deals with many of the issues that may have led your interest into permaculture in the first place: local food movements, farm to table food, genetically modified crops. Led by a team of three from Cornell’s Philosophy department, and featuring an array of field experts and industry leaders, this course lasts six weeks.

University of Queensland – Making Sense of Climate Science Denial (starts April, 2015) (https://www.edx.org/course/making-sense-climate-science-denial-uqx-denial101x)

This course is about how people view Climate Science, and is led by a huge team from the University of Queensland. It lasts seven weeks and promises to tackle the gap between the public and the scientific community by addressing scores of myths. According to them, Denial101x is a course about the science of climate science denial.

University of British Columbia – Urban Water – Innovations for Environmental Sustainability (starts May 5, 2015) (https://www.edx.org/course/urban-water-innovations-environmental-ubcx-water201x)

Focusing on Vancouver, this course takes a look at the water element behind all urban design. Looking at water from all different angles, this course gives an interdisciplinary look at this essential element. Led by Karen Bakker, this course lasts six weeks.

Chalmers University – Sustainability in Everyday Life (starts May 25, 2015) (https://www.edx.org/course/sustainability-everyday-life-chalmersx-chm002x)

This interesting course dives into the decisions we make in our everyday lives and how they affect our ecological footprint. Led by a team of three from Chalmers University, this course offers an appreciation of the complexity behind sustainable development. This course lasts six weeks.

Adelaide University – The World of Wine – From Grape to Glass (starts April 2, 2015) (https://www.edx.org/course/world-wine-grape-glass-adelaidex-wine101x)

All about wine, as the title suggests, this course takes us from growing the grapes to fermenting the fruit, and all their effects on the flavor and the experience of wine. Lasting six weeks, this team from Adelaide promise to look into new technologies and the future sustainability of the market and production of wine.

Inter-American Development Bank – Liderando el Desarrollo Sostenible de las Ciudades (Leading Sustainable Development in Cities) (started March 17) ( https://www.edx.org/course/liderando-el-desarrollo-sostenible-de-idbx-idb4x)

A course taught in Spanish (with English subtitles), the Inter-American Development Bank focuses on Latin America and the challenges it faces to development. With a focus on urban methods, this course promises an academic look at the framework for sustainable future development. This course is run by a huge team of 24 from the IDB, and lasts six weeks.


Columbia University – Introduction to Sustainable Development – with Jeffrey Sachs (at your own pace!) (https://www.coursera.org/learn/sustainabledevelopment1)

This is an open course, which features three modules of a longer, in-person course that Jeffrey Sachs teaches at Columbia University. Discussion forums in courses that are at your own pace are generally not nearly as robust, but it does feature five hours of video and questions for you to answer.

Northwestern University – How Green Is That Product? An Introduction to Life Cycle Environmental Assessment (starts March 30, 2015) (https://www.coursera.org/course/introtolca)

Focusing on Life Cycle Assessment, this longer, nine week course will dive into the applications in engineering and analysis for new technologies, systems and products. Led by Eric Masanet, this course does recommend some background in spreadsheets and environmental issues as a prerequisite. This course is offering a free Statement of Accomplishment.

University of Edinburgh – Chicken Behavior and Welfare (starts April 2, 2015) (https://www.coursera.org/course/chickens)

This short little course examines general principles behind raising chickens in ‘hobby flocks’. The focus is primarily on production, but many of the topics should be interesting to anyone with an interest in chickens. Led by Dr. Victoria Sandilands, this course lasts five weeks, and is eligible for a free statement of accomplishment.

University of Florida – The Horse Course: Introduction to Basic Care and Management (starts March 16, 2015) (https://www.coursera.org/course/thehorsecourse)

Horses, donkeys and mules; this course will walk through their history with humans, behavior, best care practices, training and breeding. Led by Chris Mortensen, this course promises an in-depth look at everything equine. This course lasts six weeks and will offer a free statement of accomplishment.

University of Pittsburgh – Epidemics, Pandemics and Outbreaks (started March 16, 2015) (https://www.coursera.org/course/panprevention)

Focusing on prevention, laws, regulations and the like, this course offers a four week, deep dive into the world of global health security. Led by a team of four at the University of Pittsburgh, this course offers tiered instruction, with both basic and fun videos and more in-depth, advanced instruction on each topic. Eligible for a free Statement of Accomplishment.

Johns Hopkins’ Bloomberg School of Public Health – Chemicals and Health (started March 9, 2015) (https://www.coursera.org/course/chemhealth)

Chemicals! Maybe the most propagandized word in some current movements, chemicals are all around us; even water is a chemical. This course takes a look through the chemicals in our environment, their toxicology and biomonitoring and closes with a look at some policy solutions on the issue. The course lasts six weeks and will offer a free Statement of Accomplishment.



6 thoughts on “Have you ever heard of Massive Open Online Courses?

  1. MOOC’s are great! I’ve signed up for the chicken course and have done more than a dozen other courses in the past year.

  2. I’m a teacher at Silkwood school in Qld (www.silkwood.qld.edu.au), my students use MOOCs all the time for thier projects. Monday and Fridays at Silkwood are ‘Big Picture’ days (www.bigpicture.org.au ) where the kids can pusue their own passions. I’ve got kids using MOOCs for studying permaculture, physics, Photoshop, writing code, novel writing, all kinds of things. MOOCs rock!

  3. Thanks for posting this Alex – very useful. I like posts like this that save people valuable time in doing a whole heap of searching. Cheers

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