Professor Tim Lenton

Lift off for MOOCs

The University is one of those involved in an exciting new learning initiative launching today.

FutureLearn, a multi-institution provider owned by the Open University, announced the details of 20 massive open online pilot courses (MOOC) including the schedules for eight which are set to begin between October and December this year. 

The University of Exeter is offering an online course focusing on climate change - its challenges and solutions.

Most of the FutureLearn courses will last six to ten weeks and are aimed at large-scale interactive participation and open access via the web.  The first eight courses include building mobile games, human psychology, dental photography, ecosystems and web science.

The University of Exeter’s MOOC is presented by an interdisciplinary team of academics from the University of Exeter and the UK Met Office led by Professor Tim Lenton, who is the Chair of Climate Change and Earth System Science at the University.  Professor Lenton explained: “Over the eight weeks, I’ve gathered together leading experts – from mathematicians to marine biologists – to explain the science behind climate change, explore the challenges it presents to us and to our planet, and how we might reduce the risks it poses. This course is an exciting opportunity for students to examine climate change from a fresh new perspective.

The course will set contemporary human-caused climate change within the context of past nature climate variability. Then it will take a risk communication approach, balancing the ‘bad news’ about climate change impacts on natural and human systems with the ‘good news’ about potential solutions. These solutions can help avoid the most dangerous climate changes and increase the resilience of societies and ecosystems to those climate changes that cannot be avoided.

The course is aimed at a wide audience but, in particular, students about to enter university and seeks to provide an inter-disciplinary introduction to what is a broad field. 

Available until early next year in “open beta” format, the MOOC will be optimised for mobile devices and encourage “social learning”.

FutureLearn chief executive Simon Nelson said: “MOOCs present real learning opportunities and universities are keen to ensure their first MOOCs represent the best of what each university could offer”.

FutureLearn was set up in December 2012 and includes 23 university partners as well as the British Library, British Museum and British Council.

Date: 18 September 2013