Course Developers, Instructors and Student Feedback
As the ALN Project wrapped up in early 2022, we asked some of our course developers, instructors and students to share their feedback about the experience and impact of ALN on their work.
This summary from Shanti Besso, Director, Leadership + Community Building Programs at Simon Fraser University, offers a powerful final reflection of the impact of ALN on capacity-building for climate adaptation at her institution:
“Support from and collaboration with the ALN has been of critical importance to advancing SFU’s professional development offerings focused on climate action. Seed funding from the ALN sparked the development of two courses at SFU, and now a full climate action programming stream is under development.
Over the coming decades, the climate emergency will radically alter every part of our lives. Climate literacy will quickly become a core competency in almost every sector – from health to education, to social services, to urban planning, to public policy, to finance, to tourism, to settlement, and so on. This early framing of the new programming stream intentionally builds on SFU’s partnership with the Adaptation Learning Network (ALN), and the competency framework that the project leads for the ALN have developed, as well as on the extensive work of the Action for Climate Team (ACT) and others at SFU and in the community.
The urgency of the climate emergency, made more obvious this year in Canada than perhaps ever before, means there is growing pressure on all levels of government, on communities, on the private and social-profit sectors, and on individuals to act. Against this backdrop, it is of critical importance that adult learners have ample opportunities to develop the key human (sometimes referred to as ‘soft’) and technical skills that will position them for success in a rapidly changing job market and policy landscape and help them contribute in a positive way to the most critically important challenge of our time. Our partnership with the ALN has been a catalyst for our growth in this area.”
Here’s another reflection from Dr. Stewart Cohen, who developed and taught one of the most popular ALN courses, Climate Change Adaptation Fundamentals.
The purpose of my 4-week online course was to establish an entry point for working professionals, so as to enable them to become familiar with climate change information and its potential applications within various fields of practice and to feel comfortable about accessing more advanced levels of training being offered within the ALN and elsewhere.
Climate change was framed as a risk to be assessed and managed through planned adaptation, so participants had the opportunity to explore recently completed climate change risk assessments and adaptation plans, as well as to consider how to incorporate adaptation within their own fields of work. There was diverse participation, and the wide-ranging perspectives that were brought into the online discussion fora and live sessions were a great addition to the course experience. Participant feedback was quite favourable.
I’m a retired climate change researcher, now working independently. I was recruited to create and offer this course as a contractor for Royal Roads University, so my comments are my own and do not necessarily represent those of Royal Roads University. That said, I would like to express my appreciation for the opportunity to participate in the ALN and my support for future educational programs on climate change adaptation.”
This thoughtful reflection from Susan Todd, course designer and instructor for the ALN Course, Climate Change Perspective for Project Management highlights the future potential of these innovative courses.
“Working with ALN, I developed a course for people with project management responsibilities, to help them incorporate climate change perspectives in their projects. We tapped the experience of several professionals with climate change expertise to produce short videos and a case study about a public transit project. The course was highly interactive with opportunities to contribute through discussion forums, apps and a synchronous meeting each week.
We had approximately 30 participants over two offerings in 2021 who came from all over Canada and beyond. They represented a wealth of experience in various sectors and functions with the commonality that they were all grappling with climate change. The disastrous flooding that affected BC last fall coincided with the second offering of my course. We quickly moved to incorporate it into the discussion as a real-world example of climate change affecting the work of our participants.
Participants were generous in sharing perspectives, tools and advice with others in the group and some expressed a desire to keep in touch, which the ALN network will provide. I am confident that the participants left the course with some new perspectives and approaches to incorporating climate change thinking in their project management responsibilities.
As the facilitator for each course, I also benefited from the exchange of views and experience and will bring it into my professional practice. The course has also led to an unexpected opportunity as the Ban Ki-moon Centre for Global Citizenship approached me to develop a similar module in their executive program for young women in Africa.“
And finally, here are a few comments from students who participated in ALN courses:
- Participants in in Climate Change Adaptation Fundamentals:
“This course will allow me to both better explain the fundamentals of climate change risks and impacts in Canada, but also explain how mitigation and adaptation priorities interact. I will apply this through the training courses offered at my place of work, as well as internally with colleagues to provide a broader and deeper understanding of the science of climate change and scenario modelling.”
“This course has given me a new way of thinking when solving problems at work. So generically, I will use the climate lens to solve problems. Specifically, I I learned where to find climate data and where to access lots of other pertinent information and tools.”
“I think the information with the powerpoints is very useful as was all the primary reports. I have already used this to talk to people about the scale of the climate crisis.
“It will make me better informed in the teaching of my own courses where in part I deal with environmental security.”
“Risk assessments were excellent – a practical/tangible outcome of the scientific modelling. Pointing to publicly available resources in Canada was excellent – even if I had interacted with these sites before this course helped me better understand how to use the information to my advantage.”
2. a landscape architect who participated in University of Victoria’s Ecosystems for the Future course:
“I enjoyed the course very much! It met and exceeded my expectations and has given me so many leads in terms of where to look and apply these approaches and knowledge.”
3. a government employee who participated in Introduction to Climate Policy for Climate Change Adaptation Professionals
“I was able to take the introduction to Climate Policy course through VIU last year. I think that while it was designed for professionals in the private sector, most of the students were from governments across the country – PEI, the Yukon, BC – who were actively creating policies related to climate adaptation. Since the course work included online submissions from each student that we all reviewed and commented on, we could see different initiatives that are happening in various jurisdictions. It was great to see. One of my main takeaways, beyond the interesting information on, for example, coastal erosion issues in PEI and habitat protective strategies in BC, was reinforcing the need to collaborate with other sectors across government, Indigenous nations and the public. It is going to take cooperation in order to see change. I was very impressed with the course, the interviews with experts and people in the field and with Indigenous Nations who are working on their own climate change strategies. While this course may have been initially geared towards professional organizations, government policy analysts would learn a lot as well.