University of Illinois Tackles Global Sustainability


The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is offering one of the most useful courses available for free online. As open educational resources, or OERs, are gaining more and more popularity, creating classes on subject matters that affect everyone globally is a sure way of increasing an OER’s audience.

Introduction to Sustainability is taught by Dr. Jonathan Tomkin, a man with as much research experience as any top university department could wish for. He has studied the interaction between climate change, glaciers, and landscapes in areas such as the Swiss Alps, Patagonia, Antarctica, and the Olympic Mountains.

The 8-week-long course which starts on March 11th will debunk common myths on the future of the earth’s survival and discuss ideas on how science, the economy and societies can alter the future. The concepts of this course provide the foundation for furthering our understanding of sustainability through cross-disciplinary studies. With a comprehensive education on population growth, engineering, ethics, global change, resource limitations and cultural history, students in this class will develop a clearer vision of the different options humanity has for the foreseeable future.

Environmental ideology is becoming a more influential part of our lives. Whether for policymaking in the Western world or teaching farming methods in a third world country, sustainability techniques are as unique as the people who use them. What works in America obviously wouldn’t have the same effect in India or even New Zealand. The 8 weeks of study will cover topics ranging from temperature statistics and trends to the idea of the “disappearance of the third world”, and even the role of ethics in sustainability.

For those who may not have the time to manage the 8-10 hour weekly workload, Dr. Tomkin has made the course textbook, which he co-authored, available online for free (and yes, even in tablet-reader format). Such open-access resources can benefit people globally and drive a more informed and educated response to critical global issues such as environment and sustainability.

In order to understand what changes need to be made to level the playing field for all humans, whether they live in poverty or comfortably in a Californian suburb, universities need to dedicate more class time and teaching positions to such topics and also make them widely available through the dozens of technological mediums for people living in any part of the world.

– Deena Dulgerian

Source: Coursera
Photo: Palm Beach Schools