Sustainability Education in Massive Open Online Courses: A Content Analysis Approach
- Current status: What is the current status of sustainability education in MOOCs across different massive open online learning platforms?
- Learning content: What kinds of sustainability-related topics and learning contents are most frequently taught in MOOCs? What are the most frequently used reading materials and textbooks in the field?
- Pedagogical methods: What are the most popular pedagogical methods when teaching sustainability-related open online courses? How do sustainability educators get the most out of MOOCs? And how do they overcome the shortfalls?
- Interaction and discussion: How do instructors facilitate learner interaction and communication in MOOCs?
2. Literature Review
2.1. Learning Contents in Sustainability Education: What to Teach
2.2. Pedagogical Methods in Sustainability Education: How to Teach
3.1. Data Collection
3.2. Coding Scheme
- Course Status coding: A list of selected MOOCs with basic information such as course title, URL, platform, instructor, learning fees (if applicable), number of students, class available period, country, course length in weeks, hours needed per week, number of instructors, gender of instructors, title of instructors, institute, language used.
- Reading Materials coding: We want to find out the most popular textbooks and learning materials in sustainability education. Thus, coders collected all the textbooks and reading references in a file, and then counted the appearance of each reference by frequency.
- Content Outline coding: We wanted to know about the hot topics that are taught most frequently in MOOCs about sustainability. Thus, coders would code the course content outlines and syllabus text and extract the topics that appeared. We then finalized the results based on the sustainability-related terms proposed in previous research by Wu et al. (2010) .
- Pedagogical Method coding: We wanted to know what kind of teaching methods instructors used most frequently in MOOCs. Thus, coders identified the pedagogical methods that had been applied in each course, and coded them by means.
- Interaction Coding: We want to find out the interaction status of current sustainability-related MOOCs, thus we coded the title of the sub-forums and threads, calculated the number of threads within one sub-forum, and further calculated each thread’s number of posts, votes, and views.
3.3. Coding Reliability
4.1. Current Status of Sustainability Education in MOOCs
4.1.1. Open Course Platforms
|CourseSites by Blackboad||1||2.0%|
4.1.2. Participating Countries
4.1.3. Participating Universities
|Delft University of Technology||5||9.8%||SAP open platform||1||2.0%|
|University of Florida||4||7.8%||School of Nursing Duke University||1||2.0%|
|Clemson University||2||3.9%||Stanford University||1||2.0%|
|Columbia University||2||3.9%||The Cloud Institute for Sustainability Education||1||2.0%|
|Harvard University||2||3.9%||The University of Illinois||1||2.0%|
|Queen’s University in Belfast||2||3.9%||The University of Nottingham||1||2.0%|
|Rice University||2||3.9%||The University of Sheffield||1||2.0%|
|UBCx||2||3.9%||University of Alabama||1||2.0%|
|University of Pennsylvania||2||3.9%||University of Bath||1||2.0%|
|International Monetary Fund (IMF)||1||2.0%||University of Central Florida||1||2.0%|
|Copenhagen Business School||1||2.0%||University of Geneva||1||2.0%|
|Cornell University||1||2.0%||University of Illinois||1||2.0%|
|DartmouthX||1||2.0%||University of Manchester||1||2.0%|
|ETHx||1||2.0%||University of Minnesota||1||2.0%|
|Fanshawe College||1||2.0%||University of Reading||1||2.0%|
|Harvard University||1||2.0%||University of Toronto||1||2.0%|
|Leuphana University Lüneburg||1||2.0%||UTArlingtonX||1||2.0%|
4.1.5. Recommended Time Spent on Learning
|Standardized learning hours per week||hours||5.0||1.9||2||9|
4.1.6. Course Prerequisites
4.2. Learning Contents
4.2.1. Hot Topics
|natural resource management-water & land management||6||11.8%|
|disaster prevention and mitigation||5||9.8%|
|What is sustainability?||5||9.8%|
|sustainability and innovation||5||9.8%|
4.2.2. Reading Materials and Textbook Selection
- Stavins, Robert N. Economics of the Environment: Selected Readings . This textbook appeared in our sample courses five times. This book has established itself as the standard student reader for environmental economics courses, and provides a balanced selection of classic and contemporary readings to firmly ground students’ understanding in this field as primary literature. This book grabs readers’ attention and serves to combine environmental fervor with economic reality. It is a good introductory text on environmental policy and its shortcomings.
- Tainter, Joseph A. The Collapse of Complex Societies . This textbook appeared in our sample courses four times. It is an interesting textbook that modifies some of our views about early states and their collapse mainly by using data. It shows how archaeology in alliance with social sciences and provides a framework for organizing and evaluating the evidence of collapse.
- Sachs, Jeffrey. The Age of Sustainable Development . This textbook appeared in our sample courses twice. It is a new textbook and the author presents a compelling and practical framework for how global citizens can address the seemingly intractable worldwide problems of persistent extreme poverty, environmental degradation, and political-economic injustice. It offers readers the tools, metrics, and practical pathways they need to achieve sustainable development goals.
- Allenby, Braden R. (1998). Industrial Ecology: Policy Framework and Implementation . This textbook appeared in our sample courses twice. It takes a multidisciplinary approach and provides the first integrated view of industrial ecology and sustainability policy issues through actual case studies that incorporate real-world multidisciplinary examples.
- Meadows, Donella H. The Global Citizen . This textbook appeared in our sample courses twice. It views the world as an interconnected system for which we are all responsible, and discusses complex issues such as population, poverty and development, and solid waste disposal in a clear, concise and engaging way for a wide audience.
4.3. Pedagogical Methods
|Self-assessment and reflection||4||7.8%|
4.4. Interaction in Discussion Boards
|Sub-Forum Categories||Threads M (SD)||Replies M (SD)||Votes M (SD)||Views M (SD)||Votes/ Thread||Views/ Thread|
|Welcome and introduction||208.4 (331.4)||1046.5 (1651.8)||188.8 (278.3)||12,647.5 (17,076.26)||0.9||60.7|
|Weekly assignment||182.0 (304.8)||831.8 (1225.6)||104.8 (174.0)||4032.2 (3619.8)||0.6||22.2|
|Lecture reflection||555.9 (1388.9)||2326.1 (4657.3)||420.8 (812.5)||12,734.4 (24,633.9)||0.8||22.9|
|Technical issue||39.4 (29.6)||167.0 (140.0)||11.2 (10.3)||1533.0 (1208.2)||0.3||38.9|
|General discussion||80.5 (70.5)||507.2 (551.4)||56.7 (57.7)||3996.9 (4590.4)||0.7||49.7|
|Course feedback||24.5 (16.1)||157.9 (147.8)||34.3 (41.0)||1139.6 (905.0)||1.4||46.5|
5.1. Current Status of Sustainability Education on MOOCs
5.2. Learning Contents
5.3. Pedagogical Methods
7. Implications and Future Research
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© 2015 by the authors; licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).
Zhan, Z.; Fong, P.S.W.; Mei, H.; Chang, X.; Liang, T.; Ma, Z. Sustainability Education in Massive Open Online Courses: A Content Analysis Approach. Sustainability 2015, 7, 2274-2300. https://doi.org/10.3390/su7032274
Zhan Z, Fong PSW, Mei H, Chang X, Liang T, Ma Z. Sustainability Education in Massive Open Online Courses: A Content Analysis Approach. Sustainability. 2015; 7(3):2274-2300. https://doi.org/10.3390/su7032274Chicago/Turabian Style
Zhan, Zehui, Patrick S.W. Fong, Hu Mei, Xuhua Chang, Ting Liang, and Zicheng Ma. 2015. "Sustainability Education in Massive Open Online Courses: A Content Analysis Approach" Sustainability 7, no. 3: 2274-2300. https://doi.org/10.3390/su7032274