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Climate change and e-Learning: a virtual success story

Neeraj Prasad's picture
Computer class at ENA school for distance learning in Cocody, Abidjan.
Photo: Ami Vitale / World Bank

The past month was full of climate-related stories in the media, including speeches by the Pope in Washington DC and New York, the joint China-US statement, and the announcement of China’s cap-and-trade scheme starting 2017.

We may still hear about differences of opinion on what is causing climate change and what needs to be done and by whom, but it is happening, and that efforts to resolve these differences are made in conventions and meetings, in houses of Congress, in media or public debate.

Using a collection of online e-learning programs that are available to anyone, anywhere, anytime, at no charge, we at the Knowledge and Partnerships Unit of the Climate CCSA are finding ways to explain what climate change means for us and for generations to come, how the world is responding, and what action is possible; our hope is that the more people know about these issues, the more serious will be the response.

When we started developing and delivering e-learning programs from the Climate Change Practice in WBI 5 years ago, we had a small suite of e-learning courses on cities and climate change, on the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism, and initial thinking on low carbon development.

The transformation in this space has been nothing short of dramatic: over three years of developing delivery mechanisms for e-learning, our annual curriculum has increased to ten facilitated courses (i.e., with real-time expert facilitation of courses) and 18 courses in a self-paced format.

Participants from across the globe learn and share their experiences; courses on climate change are offered ranging from the basic concepts to high level planning tools, and are attended by national level policy makers, planners, economists, sector  specialists, research scholars, and staff from NGOs etc.  We also aim to customize our curriculum to address the growing and changing demands of market instruments, low emissions development, and climate finance.

The materials are well researched and draw heavily on the expertise of the World Bank and its partners. With expert facilitations and guidance throughout the course, participants are well equipped with the necessary knowledge and skills.  Survey participants have reported very high levels of satisfaction with content, giving us consistently high marks for course material quality and usefulness.

The numbers behind these courses are exciting. We celebrated when we topped 200 participants for the first time in 2011. This year, the Pilot launch of the e–Course on ‘Climate Finance Essentials: Innovative Finance for the Climate Change Challenge’ received a staggering registration of 1200+, with 717 participants successfully completing the course.

As word spread, the demand was so high that we ended up delivering the course three times in the year, with more than 2,000 registered participants.  Similarly, the pilot delivery of ‘Estimating GHG Emissions and Carbon Sequestration in Agriculture, Forestry and Other Land Use with EX-ACT’ registered 1020 participants in its very first delivery.

And then it got bigger. After moving to the Climate Change CCSA last year, we also started to explore new territories: working with the Climate Policy team and the Learning, Leadership and Innovation (LLI) Vice-presidency, we brought forward the first ever WBG Massive Online Open Course (MOOC) that built on the report, ‘Turn Down the Heat: Why a 4 Degree Warmer World Must Be Avoided’ to explore the science, impacts, risks, and opportunities for climate action.

It used rigorously prepared material vetted and delivered by experts. Our combined effort sent the numbers through the roof, with registrations touching 20,000.  This year we again delivered the MOOC in English and tested a pilot delivery in Spanish, with similar results; participants for the English version came from as many as 179 countries.

Our association with LLI’s Open Learning Campus (OLC) is in fact deepening, and we together strive to bring together development practitioners and climate change stakeholders in virtual classrooms for high-quality learning and knowledge resources.

The OLC, when fully launched in December 2015, will be a one-stop shop for development learning.

Our courses are open, and free. We do not try to filter participation; everyone is welcome to get the best climate change learning experience, join us and find out more: or contact Ms. Chandni Dinakaran at