Distance Learning Provides Green Education Opportunities

old school computer keyboard, distance learning, learning key6 ways you can get an environmental education online. Some of them are completely free.

An unsustainable spike is driving up the cost of higher education, particularly the United States where tuition and fees have risen more than 400 percent since the 1970s, far outstripping both inflation and the housing bubble.  This discourages enrollment in the arts, humanities, environmental science and other subjects with lengthy or immeasurable financial payback.

Instead, students are persuaded into pursuing fad degrees and trade-school certifications and whatever else might pay back that enormous student loan in the shortest term.  Some universities are trending towards monoversities and preventing brilliant minds from reaching their full potential.  Others have fully embraced the financial caste system, turning themselves into exclusive four-year country clubs where learning is an afterthought.

The good news is that this education bubble triggered a renaissance in distance learning.  People from the far corners of the world can go to school together without leaving their culture, family and friends behind.

So who wants to study environmentalism with me?  Here are some of the offerings:

1. Khan Academy is a good starting point.  Bengali-American Salman Khan initially used Yahoo doodle notes to tutor his cousin in mathematics.  He eventually made his lectures public and formed this non-profit organization which includes lectures in diverse topics including ecology and sustainability:

2. Technology Entertainment Design (TED) talks were organized to spread great ideas around the world.  Many TED talks are on environmental and sustainability topics such as:

3. Coursera.org offers a wide range of full courses from multiple accredited US and UK universities including:

  •  Introduction to Sustainability an 8 week course beginning Aug 27th 2012.  It will be taught by Dr. Jonathan Tomkin the Associate Director of the School of Earth, Society and Environment and a research Associate Professor in the department of Geology at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.  The course textbook is freely available online here: http://www.earth.illinois.edu/sustain/sustainability_text.html
  • Energy 101 Will be taught by Dr. Sam Shelton, the founding director of the Strategic Energy Institute at Georgia Tech.  The next course session has not yet been announced.

4. Openlearn is a free offshoot of the UK’s venerable Openuniversity which has an entire course category for Environment, Development and International Studies.  The courses available include:

5. The University of South Africa also offers degrees in Environmental Sciences.

6. The Nature Conservancy founded ConservationTraining, “an open, online learning resource that provides high-quality educational content on a broad set of conservation issues.”  Their course catalog breaks these courses down into topic areas including climate, conservation management, Geographic Information Systems (GIS), Protected Areas and water.

Distance learning is not yet widely available at universities such as Masdar and Tel Aviv University, but as the number of courses increases and the efficiency of online education improves so will the average level of knowledge about our world.  And that could change everything.

Image of e-learning computer keyboard via Shutterstock.

About Brian Nitz

Brian remembers when a single tear dredged up a nation's guilt. The tear belonged to an Italian-American actor known as Iron-Eyes Cody, the guilt was displaced from centuries of Native American mistreatment and redirected into a new environmental awareness. A 10-year-old Brian wondered, 'What are they... No, what are we doing to this country?' From a family of engineers, farmers and tinkerers Brian's father was a physics teacher. He remembers the day his father drove up to watch a coal power plant's new scrubbers turn smoke from dirty grey-back to steamy white. Surely technology would solve every problem. But then he noticed that breathing was difficult when the wind blew a certain way. While sailing, he often saw a yellow-brown line on the horizon. The stars were beginning to disappear. Gas mileage peaked when Reagan was still president. Solar panels installed in the 1970s were torn from roofs as they were no longer cost-effective to maintain. Racism, public policy and low oil prices transformed suburban life and cities began to sprawl out and absorb farmland. Brian only began to understand the root causes of "doughnut cities" when he moved to Ireland in 2001 and watched history repeat itself. Brian doesn't think environmentalism is 'rocket science', but understanding how to apply it within a society requires wisdom and education. In his travels through Europe, North America, Asia and the Middle East, Brian has learned that great ideas come from everywhere and that sharing mistakes is just as important as sharing ideas.

One thought on “Distance Learning Provides Green Education Opportunities

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

seven + 7 =