What you will study
The course draws on insights from sciences, technology, social sciences and humanities to make sense of contemporary environmental changes, with particular emphasis on the:
interdependencies of environments and human activities
role of natural processes and human activities in causing and responding to environmental changes
relevance and consequences of these environmental changes for human societies, and for other living forms
existing and possible responses of contemporary societies to environmental changes
difficulties faced in understanding environments, and in taking appropriate environmental actions in conditions of appreciable uncertainty.
The course approaches current environmental issues by using the World Wide Web in three complementary ways:
for communication with and among students
as a source of teaching resources on selected environmental topics
as a metaphor for the web-like interrelationships that link environmental issues and different approaches to them.
The course is organised into four blocks and the end-of-module assessment (EMA). Each of the blocks are supported by web-based activities and take up an important environmental issue. The block titles are: Block 1 Environmental changes: global challenges, Block 2 Biodiversity and ecosystems, Block 3 Climate change: from science to sustainability, Block 4 Sustainability and water management.
At the end of the course you will complete the EMA, which is divided into three parts. For Part A you will research a chosen environmental topic using the resources of the web, and then present your findings through web pages that you will design, using the U316 wiki. Part B is a project review reflecting on your own progress, and Part C will be a report on a topic that will be posted on the website near the end of the course.
The web lends itself especially well to a course dealing with current environmental issues because it is used by business, intergovernmental, governmental and non-governmental organisations, and by individuals, to publish environmental data, to transmit and implement environmental policy, to debate issues and to promulgate particular views. The course aims to show you how to navigate through the huge amount of environmental material available on the web. You will learn how to: acquire information and data from a variety of sources; analyse, integrate and summarise that information and data; use the information/data acquired to test hypotheses; determine where uncertainties lie; and evaluate different approaches to environmental issues and the reliability of online resources.
You will use the internet as a means of communication, collaborating with others in planning and carrying out tasks and debating environmental issues with other students in online discussions moderated by your tutor. A few of these online discussions will be assessed. Your skills will be developed gradually so that, by the end of the course, you will be fully equipped to complete the EMA, in which you will plan, research, and write about an environmental topic in a form suitable for presentation on the web.
Much of the teaching and assessment for this course is online. You will need a personal computer with internet access, plus some experience of using the internet. The course requires about 18 hours of study time per week and it is necessary to complete certain parts of the course, such as online discussions and other collaborative activities, in particular weeks of the year.
The course should appeal to students from many backgrounds and will be of particular interest to you if you enjoy interdisciplinary study. It is suitable for you if you are interested in the environment, and/or following a degree in environmental studies or (the planned) environmental science.