Participatory online environmental education at the Open University UK

Simon, Sandrine (2002). Participatory online environmental education at the Open University UK. In: Leal Filho, Walter ed. Sustainability - towards curriculum greening. Environmental Education, Communication and Sustainability, 11. Frankfurt, Germany: Peter Lan Scientific Publishers, pp. 121–150.



The role of education in helping our societies put sustainability into practice is crucial. The motivation, awareness and empowerment, necessary for citizens to understand the concept and take part in its operationalisation, ought to emerge from environmental education, since we might encounter some difficulty when trying to teach, or impose these notions in a theoretical way. In developing environmental courses, we therefore ought to progressively replace pedagogical approaches based on (relatively 'authoritarian') transfers of information with more interactive and collaborative learning processes: citizens' participation can start with the creation of communities of learners. This paper describes the construction of two web courses: a first level teaching module on environmental systems and a third level interdisciplinary environmental course, both developed at the Open University, specialised in distance and open learning. The themes of the course include participatory processes in decision-making, the perception and representation of environmental systems, alternative leadership, biodiversity, climate change and integrated water management, environmental action and governance. The concepts focused on include sustainability, complexity, uncertainty, globalisation and 'systemic problem solving'. In both courses, the overall pedagogical process is based on the notion of environmental governance. This means that the web has been chosen as a learning platform, because
- it provides various types of up to date information as well as archives,
- it allows various types of users to communicate between different countries, and also
- it encourages collaborative and interactive learning.
This paper describes the experience of the author in creating web environmental courses at the Open University. Components of the courses such as interactive activities are discussed, as well as the pedagogical focus progressively shifted towards more participatory processes of learning.

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