In 2013 the Open edX® platform was released as open source software and is already powering more than 2,400 learning sites worldwide.

One of the latest learning sites to be powered by the Open edX® software is Open Learning from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the only United Nations agency with a mandate to cover all aspects of education. The Open edX® software is well aligned to the learning needs of the platform; it’s open, customizable, highly scalable, and provides a user-friendly experience for learners, course developers and instructors.

The Open Learning platform provides e-learning capacities for online course development and dissemination of topics that are aligned with UNESCO’s mandate. It is co-funded by the Flemish UNESCO Science Trust Fund (FUST) from the Government of Flanders in Belgium and already offers numerous online courses from its learning partners. These include the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), IHE-Delft and Waternet, with new learning partners being added regularly.

The first courses offered on Open Learning were by invitation only. One such course was titled Climate Risk Induced Decision Analysis (CRIDA), taught by global experts on water management from UNESCO, the Alliance for Global Water Adaptation (AGWA), the US Army Corps Engineers (USACE), and Deltares. Over 900 participants worldwide were invited to take this course in order to learn how to use the CRIDA approach, one of the latest methodologies for approaching water management-related projects in the face of increased climate change.

We reached out to Dr. Koen Verbist, Programme Specialist at UNESCO to get more insights into the UNESCO Open Learning platform. When asked about the goals of the platform, he explained:

The initial focus will be on science related topics, such as water resources management,   Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR), climate change adaptation, remote sensing, information and communications technologies (ICT) and other science related topics. Expansion of the focus will be done on a needs basis and in line with UNESCO’s mandate on Education, Social, Human and Natural Sciences, Communication and Information Technologies and Culture.

More recently the Open Learning platform offers free online courses that are open to the public, including Python Programming for Geospatial Hydrological Applications taught by Dr. Hans van der Kwast of the IHE Delft Institute for Water Education. In this course you will learn essential skills for researchers dealing with (spatial) data, such as file management via the computer’s command line tools, automating your procedures by writing batch scripts, and processing your data by making models using the Python programming language and its many useful libraries.

Empowering learners to become active global citizens is key to UNESCO’s overarching education goal of promoting a more just, inclusive, peaceful and sustainable world, based on respect for fundamental human rights. You can register a free account on UNESCO Open Learning here.