I recently did a little experiment to get a sense of what is being taught in on line courses and probably to the same extent in our universities. I signed up for and took 2 courses from Coursera. One course was titled Energy 101 taught by Dr. Sam Shelton from Georgia Tech, and the other was titled Energy and the Environment taught by Dr. Richard Ally from Penn State.
Both of the courses were very basic, introductory survey level courses requiring very little background or previous knowledge. I would categorize these courses as the type that might be offered to English Majors in undergraduate school.
I had two reasons for doing this. First, I wanted to brush up on some stuff that I haven’t studied for some time and second I wanted to see how objective the material being offered would be.
Energy 101 (Ga. Tech) was pretty straight forward and dry. It was a good factual summary presented by an engineer’s engineer. Kind of dry, a bit disjointed but on the whole a good summary of energy sources, technologies and issues. I say on the whole because there was virtually no mention of nuclear energy in the course. There was quite a bit of discussion about CO2 and greenhouse effect without significant value judgement. The discussion was more along the lines of these are the CO2 implications of these technologies. All in all I felt the course was worth the 5 or 6 hours I spent taking it.
Energy and the Environment (Penn. St.), taught by Dr. Ally, on the other hand was a collection of made for TV vignettes presented by Dr. Ally in a very lively “Mr. Rodgers” style. There was an explicit message that the science is settled (he even used an iPhone analogy that was perfectly ridiculous) and that we had to do something and do it now to prevent potential future disasters. I guess this is what I expected/feared I would find. Frankly I found it insulting.
I guess as a follow up I would ask if anyone knows of any courses offered either on line or in a University that discuss climate change objectively.