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Sustainability in MOOC Land

MOOC: Massive Open Online Course

If you’re wondering why I’ve been quiet lately, it’s because I’ve been involved with two big career-related events: My move into Academics (from IT) and preparation to teach my first MOOC, “Introduction to Sustainability,” through the Canvas network.

As a result of my new roles, my title has changed from Manager – Environmental Operations to Interim Dean and Program Chair – Ecotech. I’ve always been involved, to some extent, with Academics as part of my Environmental Operations role, but now I will be focusing the vast majority of my time directly on our biggest sustainability “lever” – our students.

Speaking of sustainability levers, despite all the hype, I am convinced that MOOCs (or whatever supersedes them in the future) offer tremendous potential to educate, inspire, and empower citizens to improve their lives and the planet. MOOCs offer education to the masses, with no barriers to entry. No longer will education be denied to citizens due to lack of fiscal or physical accessibility factors.

Of course, the downside is that many folks signing up to take MOOCs are unable or unwilling to commit the time to this free education opportunity. (I must admit; I’ve been guilty of this myself.) For every 1,000 folks who sign up for a course, less than 100 actually complete it.

This is akin to the many public opinion polls that consistently show that we profess a much higher level of sustainable lifestyle than our measured actions reflect. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. This is why one of my main goals with the Intro to Sustainability MOOC is to get students to define a personal picture (vision) and statement (mission) of sustainability in their lives, as well as their top three actionable goals. These goals must be SMART, that is, Specific, Measurable, Accountable, Realistic, and Time-bound. I want to give students not just knowledge, but tools to help them apply that knowledge in practical ways.

This all relates to something we are calling the “Ecotech Lifestyle” – watch for it. Like Ecotech Institute itself, we’re all about practical, hands-on sustainability. The Ecotech Lifestyle will help you live sustainably. Did I mention that it’s free? Of course, by “free” I mean price. The cost will be your time – and commitment to leave a positive environmental and social legacy.

TANSTAAFL: “There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch”

Kyle Crider is Program Chair at Ecotech Institute and Education Corporation of America. He holds a Master of Public Administration degree with a double-emphasis in Urban Planning & Policy Analysis. He is also a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Accredited Professional, Neighborhood Development (LEED AP ND). He is currently in the Interdisciplinary Engineering Ph.D. Program at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and not necessarily those of Ecotech Institute or Education Corporation of America. Email Kyle at