How to talk about climate change? How to manage sustainability change? How does circular economy work? How can students and companies solve climate and sustainability challenges together? The Finnish network of higher education institutions called Climate University offers sustainability and climate courses produced in cooperation by 11 higher education institutions. The courses are available on a single website at www.climateuniversity.fi.
The courses provided by the Climate University are open to everyone, and they are perfect for teachers interested in climate change and sustainability topics, students at higher education institutions, and everyone in the workforce. The courses are either in English or both in Finnish and English. More translations will be available in the future, and the first translation into Swedish is currently being prepared.
Independently or for credits
The cooperation model of the Climate University and the courses provided by the University have been under development for two years at eight universities and three universities of applied sciences.
The fruits of the labour are now available for everyone on a single site. The Climate University elevates the education in climate change and sustainability globally to a new level, especially with its multidisciplinary approach.
‘The contents of our courses have been refined during several multidisciplinary workshops and through the joint efforts of dozens of experts from different fields of research’, says Laura Riuttanen, postdoctoral researcher of atmospheric sciences at the University of Helsinki. She has been leading the project, and Aalto University has been a partner in the project.
The materials of the courses are freely available online and can be studied independently. If students want credits for the courses, they must register for the Climate University courses organised by one of the higher education institutions included in the network or by the Open University.
Systems thinking and a multidisciplinary approach
Aalto University participated in the implementation of the SystemsChange.now course that looks at climate change from a systemic perspective.
‘The course combines climate change and systems thinking in a new way. Only by looking at climate change and sustainability from a systemic point of view can we find workable solutions to this wicked problem. In producing the course, we at Aalto University also got to share our system analysis expertise with other higher education institutions’, says postdoctoral researcher Sanna-Liisa Sihto-Nissilä.
Three open courses provided in cooperation by several universities will begin at the start of January: SystemsChange.now, Leadership for sustainable change, and Statistical tools for climate and atmospheric science. The central idea of the courses is to bring students from different fields together to learn about sustainability and climate, and many courses include work in small groups.
Climate course to upper secondary school as well
In addition to higher education, the Climate University also has a basic course that is suitable for upper secondary school. The cooperation included the Otaniemi upper secondary school, where the first Lukiolaisen ilmasto.nyt course was taught last spring.
‘In the new curriculum, upper secondary schools have an obligation to cooperate with higher education institutions, and I think that this course is great for that purpose. The course can be used as such in upper secondary schools, but it can also be used as an introduction to higher education. The course may involve researcher interviews and visits to your partner university, or laboratory and research station visits. We also organise training for teachers for using the materials in upper secondary education’, says Laura Riuttanen.
Teachers in both higher education institutions and upper secondary schools can freely use the online teaching materials of the Climate University. All materials include a teacher's guide that has instructions on how to organise teaching, how to use different types of assignments, and how to evaluate the assignments.
‘There is still room in our network for more universities, universities of applied sciences, and upper secondary schools. With the CC-BY-SA licence, we can create a course copy platform and assign coordinators for each new higher education institution.’
Many courses are also being held in cooperation between several higher education institutions and by teachers from different fields. So far, 18 higher education institutions in Finland have joined the Climate University network.
Postdoctoral researcher Sanna-Liisa Sihto-Nissilä, School of Science, Aalto University
Postdoctoral researcher Laura Riuttanen, Institute for Atmospheric and Earth System Research, University of Helsinki