The birth of the Sustainable Healthy Diets MOOC
Picture the scene: ScHARR common room, on a cold and wet autumnal day in 2012, Michelle
Holdsworth and myself deep in dual brainstorming mode; our conundrum was unique: how could
we reach a wider audience with the essential information on diets which were both healthy and
sustainable? Colleagues at Universities and NGO’s all over the UK and Europe were conducting
exciting research, highlighting new findings every week, but these were mainly being published in
scientific journals, never to be read by ordinary folk. It would take ages, literally years for this info to
be written into policy (if anyone at No. 10 was ever interested!) and even longer for the public to be
able to make changes to their eating habits…….
“Excuse me?” I answered, a little confused to say the least, thinking I must have misheard or maybe Michelle was referring to some scientific term that I had not yet come across.
“Yes a MOOC – these new types of courses, stands for ‘Massively Open Online Course’. They have been done by a few of the American Universities.” Michelle explained a bit more to me and it soon became apparent that we would at least have to give this a try: it was too good an opportunity to miss out on.
A few months later and we are about to convene our first MOOC group meeting. Although I am really excited about getting started, I am also very nervous on a number of fronts!
Firstly, the technological learning curve is going to be very steep for me: reassuringly I am surrounded by experts, so I’m hoping this should ease the climb!
Secondly, I am concerned about including ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING that needs to be said on
healthy and sustainable diets, as I know the academics and NGO professionals working in this field
are passionate and will not be all that forgiving of any errors or omissions! Therefore I am going to
try to showcase as much of this fantastic work as I can fit, within learning objectives, to ensure that
this doesn’t happen. This should make for some lively debate! Although we will be covering some of
the basics, which may be ‘old hat’ to some, it should be possible to include cutting edge projects and
Finally, I am hoping to have real engagement from my fellow MOOCsters: that’s any and all who sign
up to take part in the course. Previous MOOC’s have shown a number of ‘lurkers’, and I would like
this MOOC to be engaging and stimulating in order to generate some meaningful output that can be
used for the future, in particular thinking about how we can communicate this information to even
Please be encouraged to sign up and take part, I promise it will be fun! If you wish to contribute to
any of the content or tell us about what is healthy and sustainable for you, then I would love to hear
from you. Angie.firstname.lastname@example.org
(Posted on behalf of Angie Clonan)