MOOCs and International Capacity Building in a UN Framework: Potential and Challenges
This chapter highlights the high potential and challenges involved with developing Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs) for capacity building and climate-friendly technology transfer within the United Nations (UN) system. The paper begins by providing a short introduction to the world of MOOCs and their rapid rise in recent years. The second section explores why sustainable development-oriented international organizations (IOs) have arguably not used this resource to its full potential. It does so with a case study of a MOOC proposal on ‘ecosystem-based climate technologies for adaptation to climate change’ that was discussed between representatives of academia at the UN, and executives from the UN’s Climate Technology Centre and Network (CTCN). A concept note from Oxford University academics, requested by the above-mentioned UN centre, had suggested a free and short MOOC (the standard format of a four- to six-week long course), focusing on high-visibility adaptation technologies. Despite several positive academia-/-UN exchanges, the MOOC never materialized as the funds needed were substantial and not immediately available. Additionally, a previous UNEP MOOC had shown that MOOC costs involving a UN organization—with heavy procurement and administrative constraints—could potentially run significantly higher than what MOOC platforms indicate for universities. Eventually, the UN’s CTCN chose to propose a series of webinars on climate technologies and host the recorded material on its website.
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