UN Promoting Sustainable Development with Free Online Courses

Free courses will be offered beginning this fall by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) as a part of its education program, SDSN.com.

The courses will be offered to the company's more than 200 member institutions at the request of United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon in an effort to promote sustainable development.

The first course, The Age of Sustainable Development, will focus on the global challenges surrounding the title issue. The course will come through cloud-based technology supplied by EdCast allowing for social interaction and collaboration throughout the 38 participating institutions across the world.

The course will also be offered to online students. When it was first offered this past January, it attracted 50,000 students worldwide.

"Solving the world's greatest challenges in climate change, poverty, hunger, disease begins with a solid analytical foundation," said Jeffrey Sachs, who is an advisor to the UN on climate change negotiations. "The launch of SDSN.edu, a free online education platform, will help advance the field of sustainable development in all regions of the world. Through connectivity and information technology we are making breakthroughs in higher education by connecting leading academics with students and the general public worldwide, in order to expand access to cutting-edge information, new research findings, and best practices. Free online education will tremendously democratize higher education and accelerate problem solving for sustainable development."

The next course, Climate Change Science and Negotiations, will arrive in October, offering a closer look at how countries may transition to a low carbon economy. Planetary Boundaries and Human Opportunities, which will look at environmental changes caused by humans, will be offered in November.

More courses will come soon to cover such topics as global public health, education, human rights, and urbanization.

Sachs hopes to have students participate in online negotiations, drafting a treaty on climate change in the spring of 2015, in time for the Conference of Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which is scheduled for December 2015 in Paris.

Sachs' goal is to create a "multiversity," allowing students to pick and choose their own curriculum through courses offered on EdCast from the best institutions around the world.

EdCast merges an online education platform with expertise in social, mobile, e-commerce and data-mining, which allow students from different institutions the capability to work together through a partnership with OpenEx, an online open source course platform. This partnership allowed EdCast to create their Knowledge Cloud.

"We have universities across the developed and developing nations that are using it," says Karl Mehta, founder of EdCast and chief executive. "There is tremendous demand from universities in the developing world. And we can bridge the gap between a developed and a developing country's educational system. This public, private, and multi-institutional platform can bridge this gap."

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