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Creative Climate Learning: common resources on environmental change

Creative Climate is a long-term online environmental communications initiative that gathers accounts of people’s understanding and action on environmental change issues. These accounts have been drawn together in TV, radio and web media, all of it appearing on the OU’s main public service site OpenLearn. This report covers both the achievements of the project as a whole and the work supported by eSTEeM & EDIS over the last 18months that has been more focused on sharing resources across the OU learning system.

The project is inspired by considering what the pioneers of the Mass Observation movement would have made of environmental change issues and the Internet. Mass Observation (still ongoing) catalysed the documentary movement and transformed public and professional understanding of the social sciences in Britain. This feels like a similar moment of opportunity at the point where scholars, media and public meet. This is a territory that the OU’s social scientists and media commissioners might be expected to lead in.

Unusually we can afford to take a decade long approach to building the project because the materials are being used in OU modules that will last that long. Creative Climate offers a space within which to experiment with new practices made possible by digital scholarship. It grew out of a conviction that there are some deep failings in the dominant ways in which environmental issues are being communicated, as well as some great opportunities opening up with the web to address these.

For the OU the project offers an opportunity to experiment with the blending of broadcast and web-based content and the holding of professionally produced and user-generated content side-by-side. Another side-benefit is that it offers a chance to test new ways of holding qualitative data ‘in public’. One of the goals is to express interdisciplinary environment and development research and policy as unfolding processes rather than a body of finished results. We think this helps to take some of the unproductive conflict out of, for example the 'climate wars'.

Creative Climate was commissioned as a means of piloting the thinking expressed in the 2009 Open University Broadcast Strategy Review. That review concluded that the OU must find means of splicing together investments in broadcast, learning and outreach more effectively. The project remains the only initiative within the University that has sought to do this on a substantial scale in one area of the curriculum. Its innovations have included: 

  • The first OU-initiated commissions on BBC World Service (9x28 mins) and BBC World TV (6x28mins), with advertisers accepting viewing figs of 70m on the TV transmissions in those slots
  • Use of full OU/BBC co-production broadcasts directly in OU modules (for the first time on this scale since 2000)
  • The first combined professional and public posting of content on openlearn (including over 200 video items produced via micro-commissioning on a budget of £70k)
  • Micro commissioning of web video shorts by students at leading film schools. These sit on three web platforms and also in use in an OU module.
  • Piloting of a shared teaching resources site for the whole OU teaching community (held on the VLE).
Related Resources: 
PDF icon Joe Smith, Creative Climate. eSTEeM final report.pdf47 KB

eSTEeM final report.

PDF icon Joe Smith, Susan Fawssett and Christine Pearson poster.pdf42.29 KB

Project poster.