Karen Sudmeier, Udo Nehren, Simone Sandholz M.Eng, Marwa A. Khalifa, Wolfram Lange, Lars Ribbe, and Harald Sander

Disasters and Ecosystems: Resilience in a Changing Climate

  • Early 2015
  • 12 weeks
  • 3-4 hours/week
  • English
  • Interdisciplinary

About this course

offered by the United Nations Environment Programme

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and the Cologne University of Applied Science

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Course Summary

This MOOC enhances knowledge and skills for tackling complex issues such as resilience and transformation, sustainable development, ecosystem management, disaster risk reduction, climate change adaptation and how they can be operationalized. It will benefit disaster managers and practitioners, climate change adaptation professionals, development planners, project implementers and policy makers. The course will be delivered through a series of lectures and case studies, quizzes, peer-reviewed exercises, along with additional study materials provided to the students. Lectures will be available through videos as well as online documents and will be geared for students who may not have access to high speed internet so they can follow the course. Students will be provided the opportunity to enhance their critical thinking through real life and fictitious problem solving exercises. Each week will feature an international expert who will be available to respond to questions and interact with students.

What will I learn?

After completion of the course, the participant will be able to:

  • Define basic concepts of disasters, disaster risk reduction, climate change adaptation and resilience.
  • Recognize key linkages between ecosystems, disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation.
  • Recognize the linkages and overlaps between ecosystem based disaster risk reduction and ecosystem based adaptation.
  • Identify various ecosystem based tools in reducing disaster risk and climate change adaptation.
  • Identify key international agreements, organizations and initiatives related to disaster risk reduction, and climate change adaptation.
  • Apply concepts and tools of ecosystem-based disaster risk reduction (Eco-DRR) and ecosystem based adaptation (EbA).
  • Evaluate costs and benefits of different type of measures for reducing disaster risks.
  • Design your own ecosystem-based project for increasing resilience and reducing climate risks.

What do I need to know?

There are no prerequisites, just some willingness to learn about this innovative topic! It is however true that it will help if you have heard about disasters and climate change before starting.

Course Structure

The course is structured in two parts:

The leadership track, which is tailored for busy professionals or students curious about the topic. The leadership track will run three weeks.

The expert track is for professionals and students who seek more in-depth learning and skill development in applying ecosystem-based tools for disaster risk reduction and adaptation. The expert track will run 12 weeks with 3 weeks for the final assignment, peer review process and course wrap-up. Each unit has several quizzes, a concise background document for further reading, a discussion forum, supplementary videos with interviews with international experts and short documentary videos from around the world. In addition, world leaders were interviewed for our MOOC.

Course Outline and Schedule

Chapter 1. Leadership track – introduction (Week 1. Jan 12-18)
Unit 1. Disasters and Ecosystems: Resilience in a Changing Climate - why take this course?
Unit 2. Introduction to disasters, risk reduction and climate change

Chapter 2. Leadership track – linking disasters, climate change and ecosystems, Part 1 (Week 2. Jan 19-25)
Unit 3. Links between disasters, disaster risk reduction, adaptation and key international actors
Unit 4. Principles and challenges of ecosystem-based disaster risk reduction (Eco-DRR) and adaptation (EbA)

Chapter 3. Leadership track – disaster management, resilience and ecosystems (Week 3. Jan 26- Feb 1)
Unit 5. Ecosystem management contributions pre- and post-disasters
Unit 6. Managing resilience and transformation

Chapter 4. Expert track – linking disasters, climate change and ecosystems, Part 2 (Weeks 4&5. Feb 2-15)
Unit 7. Linking ecosystems and humans to disasters
Unit 8. Principles of systems thinking and using natural systems for disaster risk reduction
Unit 9. Putting Ecosystem-based disaster risk reduction (Eco-DRR) into practice

Chapter 5. Putting theory into practice (Weeks 5 & 6. Feb 16-22)
Unit 10. Linkages between Eco-DRR and EbA
Unit 11. Putting Ecosystem-based adaptation into practice & peer review assignment

Chapter 6. Ecosystem-based tools for disaster risk reduction – introduction (Week 7. Feb 23-Mar 1)
Unit 12. Incorporating ecosystems in risk assessments
Unit 13. Ecosystems and spatial tools for risk reduction

Chapter 7. Most common Eco-DRR tools (Week 8. Mar 2-8)
Unit 14. Principles of spatial planning and community-based tools for Eco-DRR

Chapter 8. Most common Eco-DRR tools (Week 9. Mar 9-15)
Unit 15. Sustainable land and water management tools for Eco-DRR
Unit 16. Ecological engineering for disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation

Chapter 9. Economics, valuation and policy issues (Week 10. Mar 16-22)
Unit 17. Economic tools for Eco-DRR Unit 18. Principles of mainstreaming ecosystem based disaster risk reduction into national policies, strategies, plans and projects

Chapter 10. Resilience and transformation & final assignment (Weeks 11 -13. Mar 23-April 12)
Unit 19. Approaches for operationalizing resilience
Unit 20. Problem solving assignment – peer review of assignments
Unit 21. Course wrap-up and forum discussions

Who is teaching this course?

Instructors include international faculty members from Germany, Egypt, Austria and Switzerland, supported by a line-up of expert guest lecturers and exclusive interviews with world leaders in the field of climate change, disaster risk reduction and environment:

• Dr. Achim Steiner (Executive Director of UNEP) • Ms. Margareta Wahlström (Special Representative of the Secretary-General of the United Nations for Disaster Risk Reduction) • Dr. Rajendra Pachauri (Chancellor of TERI University) • Ms. Julia Marton-Lefèvre (Director General of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature 2007-2015

Some FAQs

How much time do I need to put in taking the MOOC?

In total, we estimate that a total of 40-50 hours is needed to complete the MOOC (taking both the Leadership and Expert Tracks), which will also depend on your background and English fluency. The MOOC is roughly equivalent to a 1 –week in-class training course. This estimate is based on completing the video lectures, guest video lectures, reading materials and exercises. Do I have to be online at specific times? No. While new modules will be released sequentially on specific dates, you need not come online simultaneously. The lectures are not webcast real-time and you can choose the time you wish to watch them. However, there will be some deadlines for assignments and peer-to-peer reviews.

Will there be exams involved?

The Leadership track has quizzes so you can self-check your knowledge level as you go. This is, however, not a precondition for progressing to the next module. And you may, however, choose to revisit a module if you feel you did do not perform satisfactorily in a module. The Expert track has two short peer-reviewed assignments and one final peer-reviewed exercise where you will be designing your own project! The peer reviewed exercises will provide an environment for interaction between course participants. You are welcome to use any other communication tool to facilitate group assignments.

What are the interactive features in this MOOC?

Iversity has a community discussion forum that will be followed by course instructors and a roster of international “Experts of the week”. The Iversity platform offers all participants the chance to give feedback on the MOOC itself but also to start discussions on any topic related to the MOOC. During the enrolment stage of the MOOC, you will be asked to fill out some basic information about yourself and be invited to actively participate in the community discussion forum. You can also post notices on the MOOC “meeting point” or to join discussions that others have started. There will thus be ample opportunity to connect with other participants for information exchanges

In cooperation with the Global Universities Partnership on Environment and Sustainability

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and the Center for Natural Resources and Development

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Contributions by eye on earth

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Supported by the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development

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exceed - Excellence Centers for Exchange and Development

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and the DAAD - German Academic Exchange Service

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