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ClimateX by Team MITACAL

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ClimateX is a platform where MIT Alumni can learn climate-related science, technology and policy while transitioning into a green career


Description

Summary


Check out the ClimateX website! 

edX - spearheaded by MIT - is a wildly successful online learning platform which reaches many students worldwide. Climate education needs to ramp up at breakneck speed if we are to address present and future systemic challenges. edX can help us reach exponentially more people than we could through traditional education platforms and train them to be the “Climate Corps” of the future: scientists, technologists, policy makers, engineers, designers and other key  players.

Along with the Climate Corps, whom we see as future instructors and mentors, there's a need for a green career platform for the many job seekers, whether current students or alumni, who want to align their work with their concern for the future of the planet. There’s been an explosion of training-cum-career platforms for people in the computer industry in the last five years (e.g. Pluralsight, Udacity, TeamTreehouse and others), but there’s no comparable venue for green careers even though the opportunities for climate-related careers with specializations in energy, finance, technology and policy are enormous.

Further, the challenge of climate change (unlike the computer industry) needs more than updated skills training; it needs a shift in outlook that can only come from marrying technical understanding with a liberal-arts perspective. MIT students have been educated in this interdisciplinary format for decades. edX is an ideal base for such an interdisciplinary learning and mentoring platform for green careers that brings the diverse and extensive expertise of MIT alumni to the rest of the world. We call that platform ClimateX, and foresee not only climate-smarter alums and students, but also faster and better climate solutions that might not otherwise be generated and implemented in the timeframe needed to stay within a 1.5℃ increase in global warming.

ClimateX is a personalized platform for green learning and careers at a scale needed to address the climate crisis.


What actions do you propose?


Proposed Actions for MIT Alumni

By putting together Green Learning and Green Careers into a single platform,  we envision significantly increased capability for tapping both the expertise and the interest of MIT alumni in making substantial contributions to addressing the climate crisis. We are proposing actions in two related areas:

Action Area 1: Create the ClimateX Foundation

A search for “climate” on edX gives 28 hits: courses and specializations available to the world for free. These courses have tens of thousands of students each, spread across the world. More courses will surely be added in the future, covering the gamut from the basics of climate science to specializations in water policy. These courses need to be brought under a single umbrella for training the Climate Corps.  The proposed actions to create the Climate X Foundation include (we hope in collaboration with edX):

  1. Demarcate ClimateX as a separate climate specific interface to edX.

  2. Create a Climate Corps track in collaboration with edX.

  3. Create a cadre of Climate Corps mentors/trainers. Recruit MIT alumni with relevant domain expertise from across the world to be climate mentors/trainers. Request trainers to commit five hours a month of online interaction. Expand the mentor network to include current MIT postdocs/graduate students as needed.

  4. Create a dedicated ClimateX hub for trainers and trainees - a dedicated social network. Use the hub as a training enhancer by providing links to green employers and related resources. Involve industry, nonprofits and governments to create career conduits for climate corps trainees.

  5. Evaluate ClimateX processes and performance after the first round of mentoring and use feedback to modify the ClimateX platform and delivery mechanisms.

  6. Finally: open the Climate Corps  track to qualified students throughout the world. Assign trainers to small groups of students - one trainer to 25 students.

Action Area 2: Build the Network of Green Career MIT Alumni

We propose taking steps to recruit and support the Climate Corps (starting with MIT alumni) so that they can create and deliver specialized content and act as mentors on the “ClimateX” platform. These are the graduate students, postdocs, practicing engineers, economists, policy experts and others in the MIT alumni pool who have specialized knowledge to impart. We will provide them the platform for communicating and hosting their expertise and also (assuming edX agrees) act as Teaching Assistants for edX courses. The Climate Corps would serve as mentors of other MIT students and alumni (and eventually students across the world) who want to transition into a green career. The network of MIT alumni dedicated to promoting green careers would help by

  1. Encouraging students to consider environmental credentials while searching for a suitable career.

  2. Coaching students on how to best prepare for a green career.

  3. Creating resources to help students and alumni identify green careers and employers.

  4. Assisting alumni in making career transitions.

Actions in this area would also be focused on enhancing recruiting of MIT students by verifiably green companies, by:

  1. Developing and circulating in advance of MIT career fairs a sustainability report card for participating employers. This would help distinguish between companies that are green but work in orthogonal fields (e.g. Biogen, Apple) and companies that are directly working on climate change relevant solutions (e.g. SunPower).
  2. Identify companies and organizations that are especially impactful in reducing our future greenhouse gas emissions (e.g., Toyota, Tesla, SolarCity) and get them to recruit more actively at MIT.

 

Impact of Proposed Actions

 

We believe that our climate learning platform provides value to edX as well as its current students. The creation of a Climate Corps addresses a limitation of edX and other MOOC providers. The current nature of MOOCs is such that there’s little scope for personal interaction between faculty and students. MOOCs are also broad overviews of their respective topics, since they have to serve large audiences.

Students need mentoring, peer support and an understanding of career and life prospects, all of which are hard to deliver at scale. They also need to develop expertise that differentiates them from others. This is where MIT alumni (as well as current students and postdocs) can contribute - we are among the largest concentrations of climate-related expertise in the world. That collective expertise could be used to create specialized content that sits on top of edX’s MOOCs. We will be responsible for sourcing and creating that content from the Climate Corps. The Climate Corps will also act as mentors and navigators for students and alumni throughout the world who want to work toward a climate-friendly career (or life) that makes the world better for all of us.

ClimateX will also benefit MIT students and alumni directly. This can be done by enhancing the MIT Alumni Association’s career guidance offering. MIT alumni can also help facilitate more active recruiting by such companies and organizations of MIT students and graduates by working with the MIT's Global Education and Career Development office to bring these companies to campus. Further, as we have found out in our preliminary research, many alumni are hired throughout the year by small companies - such as start-ups and small design and architectural firms - that aren’t represented in the twice-yearly career fairs.

While MIT does have volunteer programs through the Energy, Environment and Sustainability toolkit, we believe that we can provide further support by creating a user-friendly online interface; like other matchmaking opportunities, it’s the design of the platform and its ease of use that makes it compelling for users. MIT alumni can provide vital support and information to help students and alumni become aware of opportunities to work for companies and organizations that are actively and verifiably combating climate change. Equally importantly, the ClimateX platform will help students and alumni self-organize in order to create content and improve each other’s career prospects long after they have graduated from MIT.

A Call to Action for MIT Alumni

We believe that President Reif’s Climate Action Plan was a wake up call for MIT alumni who want to support the Institute in its efforts to become a global climate leader.   

Path-breaking research and education of current MIT students on climate-relevant topics is already proceeding apace.  These essential components  are joined by cross-cutting initiatives  such as MITEI, the ESI and Office of Sustainability and the ClimateColab itself.  Our hope is to connect them with the world-wide alumni community in partnership with the Alumni Association, Global  Education and  Career Development and others who are tasked with reaching out to MIT alumni (e.g, at the Alumni Leadership Conference and the Tech Reunions). An energized and engaged alumni community will bring enormous value to MIT and to the world at large.

We believe there’s an opportunity for systemic intervention with significant impact at scale. With ClimateX, MIT alumni will be ready to join hands with the rest of the MIT community in becoming climate leaders.