February 10, 2014

MOOC Redux

Meg Burke

Meg Burke

Sr. Academic Program Coordinator

Center for a Livable Future

honeybeeLast week, the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future began its second session of our Massive Open Online Course (MOOC). If you missed the course last year, it’s not too late to sign up for this session!

In the summer of 2012, the Johns Hopkins University partnered with Coursera, an organization that aims to provide a first-class, free education to students around the world. JHU now offers 32 courses through Coursera – CLF’s was one of the first eight to be offered.

Approximately 10,000 students from around the world have enrolled in the second session of “An Introduction to the U.S. Food System: Perspectives from Public Health.” Taught by CLF director Bob Lawrence, MD, and Food Production & Public Health Program director Keeve Nachman, PhD, the course brings together experts from the fields of public health and agriculture to share and discuss stories about the food we eat every day, the path that food travels to reach our plates, and the impacts on public health. Specifically, students will hear from experts on topics like industrial food animal production, the current farm bill, and alternatives to industrial food systems. In addition, they’ll take a look at the Meatless Monday campaign and the Local Food Plus movement.

In the first week of class, students were asked to complete the Global Footprint calculator and then reflect on their scores in the discussion forums. Based on a poll of the class, more than a third of those who responded received a score indicating that we would need between 4.0 and 4.9 Earths if everyone on Earth lived as those people currently live. Only about two percent of the class received a score of less than one Earth. As more than 75 percent of the class received a score between 3 and 6 Earths, most students were shocked by their high score and expressed disbelief at their results.

Suddenly, threads with titles like “5.4…wow, I thought I was reasonably ‘green!’” and “4.1…did not expect that” appeared on the discussion forums. Students were soon pledging to eat less meat, use less water, fly less and take public transportation more often. They also began to compare their scores to those who live similar lifestyles in other countries, and they realized the implications of where they live on their global footprint. Simply by living in the U.S., their scores were often higher, which began several interesting policy discussions in the forums.

Although we are only two weeks into our course, we have been impressed by the caliber of the student discussions. We are so encouraged by the interest in the second offering of the course, and growing number of people eager to explore the complexities of the U.S. food system. We can’t wait to see how the course progresses over the next few weeks!

One Comment

  1. I took this class in 2012 and it changed almost everything about the way my family eats. Before taking the course, I considered myself a healthy eater. But once I really started looking at the way food is produced in the United States, I knew I needed to make some changes.
    Because I homeschool my children, I was able to take the course material and turn it into a health unit for them. If anyone is interested in how that turned out, here’s the link to the blog post I wrote about the process.


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