Professor Richard Alley travels the world talking about the science behind climate change. But the prize-winning scientist won’t have to leave his office to reach more than 28,000 people around the world who have signed up for Energy, the Environment and Our Future, Penn State’s latest massive open online course, or MOOC. The eight-week course began Jan. 6.
“This is a way to interact with a lot of people in a lot of different places,” said Alley, the Evan Pugh Professor of Geosciences in Penn State’s College of Earth and Mineral Sciences.
The course will look at how “the unintended consequences of energy use are affecting people around the world and changing the climate in ways that will make life much harder,” and explore options for developing sustainable energy systems. More information is available online.
Part of a scientist’s job is to “take what we know and help people get good from it,” Alley said. “On the issue of energy and environment, the scholarship is very clear: If we use this information we end up better off.”
“The scholarship is also very clear that right now the information is not being used very much, so this is part of my effort to get the good word to a lot of people,” Alley said. One course can’t change the world, he added, “but if a lot of people in a lot of places are working on it, eventually you may win.”
Alley was one of the authors on the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, whose members shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with former Vice President Al Gore.
The course is the fifth of Penn State’s initial offerings through its partnership with the MOOC platform Coursera. April Millet, the learning designer who worked with Alley to design the course, said three teaching assistants and two instructional designers will help keep the course running for the 28,000 students, who come from every continent except Antarctica.