Open Online Course on Transdisciplinary Research

The next tutored run of the course on FutureLearn will start 22. February 2021.
The inscription is open now

Until the start of the course, we present the the content on our webpage.

Download suggestions to integrate the MOOC into your curricula, lectures, courses and projects.

Tobias Buser, project leader or Theres Paulsen, head of td-net

Swiss-made innovative co-produced massive open online course

How can we address societal challenges with research? Investigate principles, processes, and applications of transdisciplinarity

Partnering for Change: Link Research to Societal Challenges

About the course
In today’s world, we face many complex societal challenges. Projects addressing these challenges often involve actors and stakeholders from different fields and disciplines bringing together their own perspectives or knowledge on a topic. Accordingly, collaborative transdisciplinary approaches are crucial for the success of a project.

The course presents transdisciplinary research as a living experience. With a basis on sound theoretical and methodological background, five outstanding projects illustrate promising different ways of dealing with complex societal challenges. The projects address a) health care for mobile pastoralists, b) water scarcity in the Alps, c) coping with decline in a mountain village, d) labour migration, and e) governance of antimicrobial resistance. Starting from these challenges, the course will take learners on a journey through the main phases and steps of transdisciplinary research projects.

The course consists of six weeks totalling 30 hours’ workload for learners. Each week consists of a mix of formats, including videos, articles, discussions and quizzes. After the first course run, all material, except the interactive parts, will be available year-round and can be integrated in lectures, courses, and self-studies.

Download Course Information Overview

The first run of the course is over, there will, however, be a second run. When signing up for the second run learners have 8 weeks free access to the course (from the date of the course start or their inscription respectively).

Who is the course for?
Students and researchers from all backgrounds, policy makers and practitioners involved in searching solutions for complex societal challenges.

The course - as a whole or in parts -  can nicely be integrated into seminars, courses, lectures, inversed classrooms and other formats. We are convinced, that students, researchers and practitioners from all backgrounds should have the opportunity to learn how to do research that helps to overcome societal challenges.

What topics will you cover?
  • Research skills needed in order to produce relevant outcomes for society and academia
  • Transdisciplinarity: principles, research processes, and application
  • Guiding questions, phases, and steps in transdisciplinary projects
  • Pitfalls and opportunities in transdisciplinary projects
  • Ethical implications of co-production processes
  • Examples of transdisciplinary projects on sustainable development, migration, and health topics

What will you achieve?
By the end of the course, you'll be able to...
  • Develop your research skills as you investigate how to co-produce knowledge for society and academia.
  • Reflect transdisciplinarity – its principles, its research processes and the context in which it is promising.
  • Apply transdisciplinary approaches to societally relevant questions.
  • Identify guiding questions, phases and steps of transdisciplinary project.
  • Apply the principles and steps of transdisciplinary research to examples in order to reflect the implication for your own projects.
  • Reflect the role of scientists and stakeholders in society and consider the ethical implications of co-producing processes.

ECTS Recommendations
Course duration: 6 Weeks
Estimated study time: 30 hours in total
Proposed ECTS: 1-1.5 points for following the course

The course offers many opportunities to explore the topics more in depth, e.g. additional publications, case documents, videos and links, or taking the discussion prompts as basis for written exercises. This may justify to increase ECTS to 1.5 – 2 points or higher.

To reduce study time, you may choose only two cases out of the five presented and follow only those.

ECTS points, including the respective tests have to be handled by the responsible lecturers according to their institutional regulations.


Co-producing the course

A partnership brought together the Network for Transdisciplinary Research td-net, the Commission for Research Partnerships with Developing Countries, the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute, Swiss Universities of Basel, Bern and Geneva, Universities of Applied Sciences Northwestern Switzerland and Luzern, ETH Zurich, University for Teacher Education Zug, to produce this Massive Open Online Course. The concept and its content were designed through intense co-production processes by experts of the above-mentioned institutes.

The MOOC was also supported by Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC).

Read also Tobias Buser's text about the MOOC on LinkedIn


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