From SIT to the World with a ‘MOOC’
Publish Date: Monday, 21 November 2022
From SIT to the World with a ‘MOOC’
Dr James Savage, SIT Research Co-ordinator, is a key designer and instructor for a Massive Open Online Course on Animal Behaviour in Conservation; he will be educating learners from all over the world for the next five weeks.
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A Dutch university internationally renowned in the field of life sciences has teamed up with SIT to create a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) on ‘Animal Behaviour in Conservation’ that will reach learners across the globe over the next five weeks.

Wageningen University & Research (WUR) is a specialist university in Life Sciences based in the Netherlands. Widely regarded as the world’s top university for agricultural sciences, WUR is also renowned for its animal and environmental sciences programmes. Since 2015, WUR has developed many online courses to broaden access to education and keep pace with changes in how people engage with learning. MOOCs are designed for large numbers of online learners, and are ‘open’ courses, available to everyone, anywhere. The new course focuses on  applications of animal behaviour to improve conservation actions, and will initially run from November 16 2022 to January 11, 2023.

Dr James Savage, Research Co-ordinator at the Southern Institute of Technology (SIT), business division of Te Pūkenga, is a lead designer and instructor of the new course. Teaching in his own research area of animal behaviour, Dr Savage is joined by two instructors from WUR: Assistant Prof. Lysanne Snijders, an expert on conservation behaviour, and Prof. Marc Naguib, Chair of the Behavioural Ecology group. This MOOC is a sequel to an introductory course created by the same team in 2016, which still runs in 2022 and has attracted more than 50,000 enrolments over that time.

Dr Savage’s contribution to the course was facilitated by a grant from WUR to SIT to cover his time. He stressed the significance of a high-calibre university requesting the involvement of SIT staff.

“It reflects well on our organisation that one of the best universities in the field approached us to collaborate on work that they are putting out there as an example of their expertise.”

Dr Savage said universities often use MOOCs to signal their strengths, for example Harvard and business, or MIT and data science, “... those looking to learn about conservation will now see our MOOC on the edX platform alongside offerings in other fields from other top universities”.

‘Animal Behaviour in Conservation’ will seek to provide answers and solutions to the question, “How can we coexist with wildlife in our rapidly changing human-dominated world?” Dr Savage said he has filled the course with many New Zealand case studies and examples, and encourages anyone interested in the topic to enrol and take a look.

The course and all its material is completely free to access, and for those interested in formal recognition, you can pay to have a final assignment graded by staff and receive a certificate from WUR,” he said.

“It’s fantastic that these courses can reach so many people who might otherwise not have access to this kind of tertiary course. We have learners from 84 countries signed up for the course already!”, Dr Savage added.

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