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Innovative online sustainability course breaks barriers to learning
Okanagan College Media Release

Two Okanagan College professors have developed a groundbreaking new course in applied sustainability and protecting the local environment.

Business professor Arnica Rowan and political science professor Rosalind Warner, along with Okanagan College education technology specialist, Ross McKerlich, created a course that differs from traditional online learning on several levels. First off, it’s not for credit, just for fun. It’s also free and open to anyone regardless of whether they are an Okanagan College student. And, unlike similar open online courses, it’s locally focused.

“We wanted a deep learning experience that was centred on the Okanagan but open to anyone in the world who wanted to learn how to apply sustainability concepts in their everyday lives,” says Warner.

The online course runs over a six-week period starting on Feb 17. The material covers what’s important to people right now—such as food delivery systems and GMOs, how the environment impacts health and wellness, conservation and ways to live more sustainably, and local consequences of political policies—and offers something new for all level of learners from novices to experts.

Another innovative feature is that it uses game theory, which means students complete tasks to earn virtual badges. At each bronze, silver and gold level they can earn three types of badges: Connection Facilitator, Resource Specialist, and Change Agent. The elusive Topic Master badge is awarded to learners who complete every challenge in each section.

“The badges enable people to apply what they’ve learned to their daily lives and be rewarded for their efforts,” says Warner. “The added benefit is that the tasks participants complete create interaction between like minded people.”

These badge-earning assignments are action-oriented rather than academic and include tasks such as buying locally grown organic produce and posting pictures to the course’s online discussion forum, writing a letter to your local MP about a climate change policy, performing a waste audit at your home or workplace, and supporting a habitat restoration project in your area.

The idea for the course came from the subject matter expertise of the co-creators and the passion they all share for learner-centred education.

“This course is about learning on your own terms,” says Rowan. “How much you want to be involved and the way in which you want to engage is completely up to you.”

The course starts Feb. 17. To register, visit www.okanagan.bc.ca/opencourse. Registration is now open and students can register any time during the course’s six-week duration.