One of distance learning’s – AKA online education – benefits is being able to reach a greater audience. Sustainability in particular is well suited to this format, as professionals in their field and those wanting to learn more, but unable to commit to a full degree program, can register and take one course.
Gaia Education, an outfit based in Scotland, “promotes a holistic approach to education for sustainable development by developing curricula for sustainable community design. While drawing upon best practices within ecovillages . . . worldwide, Gaia Education works in partnership with universities, ecovillages, government and non-government agencies and the United Nations.”
To the traditional three pronged approach of sustainability (economic, ecological, and social equity), the Gaia Education course includes “worldview”, which is drawn from “the four core pillars of the Ecovillage Design Curriculum.”
The course, offered in conjunction with Open University of Catalonia (UOC), is entering its fifth year. Last year, 46 students from five continents took part in the class with 34 completing the full course. Additionally, 16 students finished Gaia Education’s new Spanish postgraduate course, which will eventually become a masters degree offered in conjunction with UOC.
One way the program combats the potential pitfalls of online education (namely that students do not interact in person, sharing ideas) is by working collaboratively to accomplish projects in small groups.
For those looking to extend their understanding of sustainability, not just environmental issues, Gaia Education’s yearlong course offers a unique perspective.