Adult learners across the globe can now access an award-winning Western course on climate change action for free.
Registration is now open for Connecting for Climate Change Action, an online asynchronous course being offered from Monday, Sept. 18 to Sunday, Dec. 10, through Coursera, a global platform offering access to online courses and degrees from leading universities.
The course uses a storytelling approach to braid Indigenous knowledge and Eurowestern science together to educate, encourage discussions and motivate action on climate change.
It was first offered to Western students in the fall of 2022, earning both the Vice-Provost (Academic programs) Award for Excellence in Collaborative Teaching and a Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education D2L (Desire2Learn) Innovation in Teaching and Learning Award.
The course came to be after geography and environment chair and professor Katrina Moser noticed a growing despair among students enrolled in Western’s previous and first dedicated climate change course. Although students were enjoying the course and learning the concepts, the consequences of climate change were leaving some overwhelmed.
Moser, a paleoclimatologist, consulted with experts across campus to reimagine the course in a way that empowers students to apply what they’re learning to take action to help mitigate climate change.
She assembled a course creation team that included herself, Beth Hundey, curriculum specialist and professor, geography and environment; Sara Mai Chitty, curriculum and pedagogy advisor, Office of Indigenous Initiatives; Serena Mendizábal, subject matter specialist, geography and environment and Hawlii Pichette, a Mushkego Cree (Treaty 9) artist/illustrator. The team grew to include students and contributors from the Centre for Teaching and Learning and Western Technology Services/ITRC.
Now Moser and her team are excited to share the course more broadly as an innovative and experiential online learning opportunity through Coursera.
‘Climate change is everybody’s business’
The 12-week course includes seven modules and will be delivered in an open course format, featuring videos, readings, interactive activities and reflection exercises.
Built on the core belief that “climate change is everybody’s business,” learners are invited to improve their climate change literacy, examine systemic inequities and promote discussion and action around what is one of the most pressing challenges of our time.
“The course will help adult learners understand the science behind climate change and, using an Indigenous perspective, develop a profound understanding of our responsibilities and relationship with the land, the ecosystem and to one another,” Moser said.
Respecting the rights of Mother Earth
The course, originally and still offered as a credit (Geography 2133A) for Western students across more than 10 faculties, has been well received.
Holden Kunde, a fourth-year student pursuing a double major in medical sciences and environmental science, was drawn to the course looking to learn more about the impacts of climate change and the steps he could take to help find solutions.
“I was looking to see what my place in this change could be and what I could do to help, and this course seemed to be right up my alley and what I was looking for,” he said. “It was an eye-opening experience and very well taught. I loved that the course was intersectional, in that it offered the Eurowestern perspective and science, which I was familiar with, along with the Indigenous perspective, which was so interesting and meaningful.”
When Kunde began the course, he knew no one, but soon became friends with Jimmy Yan, BSc’23. They connected over their shared environmental and extracurricular interests – and a class reading that resonated strongly for both of them.
“There was a phrase that read: ‘Placing the rights of Mother Earth before the rights to Mother Earth,’” Kunde said. “When we read that statement both of us immediately understood it. One of the ongoing themes of the course was ‘connecting to climate change,’ and it was important to us to symbolize and show we had made this connection in this class, and to celebrate our friendship.”
With a donated balsam poplar tree from Kunde’s local garden centre and a shovel borrowed from Western’s landscaping services, the pair planted the tree along a pathway of a forest behind Saugeen Maitland Hall residence. The gesture marked a “moment of celebration” and their commitment to do better by the Earth.
The course creators are hopeful future learners will also be inspired to connect and collaborate with others about ways to mitigate the climate crisis and address environmental injustices.
“Through education, we can drive momentum to take action and together, challenge the notion individuals can’t change the world,” Moser said. “With more people onboard, we can push for the changes we urgently need to see.”