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Open AccessArticle

Sustainability Education in Massive Open Online Courses: A Content Analysis Approach

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Center of Educational Information Technology, South China Normal University, Guangzhou 510631, China
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Department of Building & Real Estate, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong 999077, China
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School of Economics & Management, South China Normal University, Guangzhou 510006, China
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Scientific Laboratory of Economic Behaviors, South China Normal University, Guangzhou 510006, China
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School of Economics & Management, Tongji University, Shanghai 200092, China
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Department of Tourism Management, South China Normal University, Guangzhou 510631, China
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Authors to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editors: Ian Thomas and Sarah Holdsworth
Sustainability 2015, 7(3), 2274-2300; https://doi.org/10.3390/su7032274
Received: 28 November 2014 / Revised: 12 February 2015 / Accepted: 13 February 2015 / Published: 25 February 2015
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainability Approaches in Education)
The purpose of this study was to investigate the current status of sustainability education in Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). Sample MOOCs were searched for from seven popular platforms and three search engines. After screening, 51 courses were identified as the final sample. Course description, content outlines, reading materials, recommended textbooks and discussion threads were coded to obtain insights into sustainability education learning contents, pedagogical methods, and interaction situations. Results indicated that: (1) Edx and Coursera are platforms that incorporated the most sustainability-related courses, and most instructors were senior academics with the title of professor. American and European countries outperformed other English speaking countries as early birds in sustainability education using MOOCs. The average course length of our MOOC samples is 7.6 weeks, which is much shorter than a typical face-to-face college course; (2) Current MOOCs provided mainly introductory-level courses without prerequisites. Fourteen sustainability-related hot topics and five most popular textbooks were identified; (3) The pedagogical means used most frequently were discussion forums and lecture videos, while pedagogies such as team-based learning were not used to a large extent; (4) Learner interaction flourished in MOOCs, and sub-forums regarding Lecture Reflection, Welcome and Introduction were posted with most threads, replies, and votes. Our findings suggest that the MOOC is an innovative method in sustainability education and research. A variety of information and strategies could be used when preparing sustainability-related MOOCs. View Full-Text
Keywords: sustainability education; MOOC; open educational resource; open courseware; content analysis; learning content; pedagogical methods; interaction pattern sustainability education; MOOC; open educational resource; open courseware; content analysis; learning content; pedagogical methods; interaction pattern
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Zhan, Z.; Fong, P.S.; Mei, H.; Chang, X.; Liang, T.; Ma, Z. Sustainability Education in Massive Open Online Courses: A Content Analysis Approach. Sustainability 2015, 7, 2274-2300.

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