FEATURE: An online community for innovative education on climate change
An online, open-access Master’s curriculum platform aims improve innovation and education around climate change and sustainability in Southern Africa. HEMA’s Botha Kruger and CDKN’s Nkulumo Zinyengere share their thoughts on the process.
A few months after the launch of the SARUA Curriculum Innovation Network (SCIN), Higher Education Management Africa (HEMA) and CDKN embarked on an exercise to identify potential ways to broaden its impact. Concurrently, a regional Master’s curriculum in climate change and sustainable development was beginning to take shape, led by seven collaborating universities in Southern Africa.
SCIN is comprised of a multi-stakeholder network, which brings together academics, university leadership, civil society and practitioners in various sectors linked to climate change and sustainable development in southern Africa.
Among the options considered for broadening the impact of the network included developing, customising and hosting an online platform for the network and the Master’s curriculum. This online platform would provide easy access to the Master’s curriculum and support collaboration across regional Universities centred on it.
What makes the regional network unique is open access and participation by anyone who has an interest in climate change and sustainable development in southern Africa. Yet, it is aimed at ensuring that lecturers in the region teach and produce labour market ready practitioners in the fast-paced and ever-changing field of climate change and sustainable development. By contributing to the development of a fully-fledged regional Master’s curriculum, the SCIN network ensured that lecturers would have access to an innovative inter- and transdisciplinary curriculum they could use in their own institutions.
Establishing this online curriculum hosting and collaboration platform would ensure continuity and sustainability going forward, and that the curriculum becomes a “living curriculum” that continously evolves with the changing landscape of climate change and sustainability.
The platform would not only allow lecturers in the region to access the curriculum and its related supporting materials, but to also build upon network relationships established during the process of the development of the Master’s. The platform would also provide an opportunity for lecturers to share and to engage each other on issues of curriculum innovation.
The platform was designed and developed to ensure maximum use through: a repository for lecturers; forums for discussion; functionality for new contributions to the curiculum; multi-lingual functionality; and device and platform responsiveness (e.g social media platforms).
It was clear, in its development, that the SCIN online platform was not only innovative, but ahead of the curve. Platforms of similar nature with the envisioned functionality are only starting to emerge in the field. This makes the launch of the online platform an exciting opportunity for academics and various stakeholders in climate change and sustainable development in southern Africa. They are not only trailblazers on the continent regarding the collaborative development of a timely and salient curriculum itself, but also through their participation and contribution to its continued evolution.
SARUA will host the platform through a service provider. The core curriculum development team (across all seven Universities) will be central in providing leadership and mentorship to regional lecturers across SADC who wish to engage with the Master’s content through the platform.
What is even more exciting is the next phase of the platform as it enters into use. Various stakeholders in SADC continue to sign up and participate in the network. Partnerships and collaborations are already taking shape through the network. This includes invitations to SADC teacher educators to join the SCIN network as part of a SARUA and UNESCO Regional Office for Southern Africa (ROSA) partnership to implement the “Sustainability Starts with Teachers project”, which will train educators from the SADC region on how to develop secondary school curricula incorporating the principles of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD). Leadership, training and course development oversight will be provided by key members of the SCIN Master’s development team.
This is an example of the potential of the SCIN online platform to bring together different networks of specialists and practitioners in the SADC region around the themes of climate change and sustainable development.
Curriculum innovation is after all about developing and applying new ways of teaching, and in the process, the person doing the teaching should also be a learner who benefits from the interaction with regional peers. While the SCIN online platform is in its early days, it has the potential to forge new connections and to build upon the legacy of the collaborating teams who worked on the establishment of the SCIN network.
Join the SCIN online community by signing up to http://www.sarua-online.org/