Using MOOCs to Address Grand Challenges

grand challengesThis week I’d like to share with you the MOOC projects we are supporting in the coming academic year. These projects are aiming to help students to tackle real world challenges, and are linked to the University’s Grand Challenges project week.

Emma Jeanes – Gender Equality MOOC

Gender inequality is a global, pervasive and enduring challenge facing our societies. Tackling gender inequality requires fundamental changes at multiple levels, including enhancing understanding of the nature and effects

gender equality

of gender inequality alongside policy-led activity. It has received increasing attention recently through campaigns such as HeforShe, #MeToo and policy developments such as the UK’s Gender Pay Gap reporting making it timely to harness this interest and contribute to activities addressing this challenge. This project will involve working with students, colleagues, and organisations (employers and NGOs) with an interest in gender equality in co-developing a gender equality MOOC focused on broader understandings of gender inequality as they affect the home/family, workplace, governance/politics, and society more broadly (e.g. media).

Dan Bebber, Natalia Lawrence  – Future Food MOOC

How can we create a sustainable food system for the 21st Century?

This MOOC addresses the complex network of environmental, economic, social and cultural interactions comprising the global food system, providing a holistic overview of the challenges and opportunities on our road to a truly sustainable means of feeding humanity. Food production has transformed our planet, with 40 per cent of the land surface exploited for agriculture. Fresh water and soils are under threat, and many fisheries overexploited. While 800 million remain malnourished, 2.2 billion are overweight. Millions of smallholders face economic uncertainty, while just four transnationals control global grain supply. Solutions for social, economic and environmental sustainability require an interdisciplinary analysis based on the state-of-the-art research – Exeter University has the expertise, spanning climate change impacts and crop modelling to the psychology and economics of consumers dietary choices. We envisage three audiences: First, external students who may wish to pursue study at the University. Second, current undergraduates who wish to take part in the Food For Thought Grand Challenge (lead by Bebber and Lawrence). Third, students starting the MSc in Food Security and Sustainable Agriculture who require a quick-start in food system thinking. This MOOC will showcase Exeter’s expertise, open minds to interdisciplinary thinking, and prepare our students for further study.

Martin Robson, David Blagden, Peter Cox , Anka Djordjevic . Strategy and Security Institute Global Security MOOC.

The aim is to turn a very successful existing physical interdisciplinary SSI Grand Challenge (over 200 Undergraduates per year, 94% satisfaction, GC part of TEF Gold AWARD) into a MOOC. The intent for the Global Security MOOC is to have both potential internal and external audiences. The project would utilise the existing MOOCification of other Grand Challenges as a template for success using the FutureLearn platform. The MOOC itself will consist of the delivery of core skills and knowledge via content followed by users selecting to deploy those skills to a subject speciality selected from five key contemporary challenges: the future of nuclear weapons; the future of European security defence; the causes of war; terror and terrorism; the relationship between the citizen and the state. The option to make this credit bearing will be enabled by both formative and summative assessment. Content will take the form of videos of SSI academics and external speakers, online reading and discussion forums. Formative assessment will take the form of interactive quizzes and student uploads of their presentations. Summative assessment will be in the form of a piece of applied writing, such as a Ministerial Submission.

We are excited to watch as these projects develop. In future weeks we will ask the academic fellows on the project to update us on their progress via the blog.

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