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New free course on permafrost thaw launches partnership with Woodwell and FutureLearn

Learners will be able to explore the effects of permafrost thaw, a huge climate change issue with impacts that are still poorly understood, thanks to a new course created by Woodwell Climate Research Centre in partnership with FutureLearn, a UK-based online social learning platform.

The first course created by the research centre on the FutureLearn platform, it’s been designed for a broad audience; from policy influencers to business leaders, teachers and activists; reflecting the many different challenges a warming Arctic presents.

FutureLearn is a global education platform that delivers learning through online courses, partnering with more than 260 universities and brands. It was also recently shortlisted for work on the Climate Action Initiative by the Sustainability Education Award, which is part of the QS Reimagine Education Awards.

Woodwell Climate, with more than two decades of studying the Arctic under its belt, will be using FutureLearn’s reach and wider learner base to develop additional future courses through the partnership that address other areas of their scientists’ expertise, such as forest carbon and risk assessment.

“Permafrost thaw is an underappreciated problem, which unfortunately means that its impacts continue to be underestimated,” said Dr. Brendan Rogers, an Associate Scientist at Woodwell and an educator on the course.

“It changes ecosystems in complex ways – as it thaws it releases carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere. Permafrost also covers 15 percent of the northern hemisphere, so we’re talking about huge impacts here.”

“While I’m excited for people to learn more about permafrost thaw through the course, my biggest hope is that all of those people will then share what they learned with someone else, and help expand the conversation across disciplines and industries. This is absolutely essential to find solutions that will work for everyone.”

The new course represents years of Woodwell scientists’ research and expertise in permafrost regions. It features Arctic Program Director Dr. Sue Natali and Associate Scientist Dr. Brendan Rogers, who also lead Woodwell’s Permafrost Pathways project, as well as Woodwell’s Chief Communications Officer Dr. Heather Goldstone.

Over the four weeks of the course, learners are introduced to advanced geology and climate science concepts relating to permafrost, made accessible by bite-sized modules learners can access at their own pace. 

“There has never been a more urgent time to delve into different aspects of climate change, and to make this learning experience as accessible as possible,” said Ian McIlwan, VP of Partnerships and Business Development at FutureLearn.

“Thanks to the way our courses are designed, insights and expertise can be shared with learners from all walks of life, and make the experience much more interactive. 

“This in turn is incredibly important as the solutions to the climate change crisis are so complex, and touch on so many different remits. The fact that this course is free to access will also encourage lots of people to explore this important topic.”

The course is open now for enrolment and on-demand learning.

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