Online Learning

In fall 2019, we plan to offer these online courses:

Register by visiting the course pages!

Our online courses include: Civic Ecology, Introduction to Environmental Education, Nature Education, Global Environmental Education, Urban Environmental Education, Environmental Education Outcomes, and Climate Change Science, Communication, and Action.

We will offer the Cornell Climate Online Fellowship in fall 2019.

Follow us on our Facebook page see future course announcements.


Environmental Education, Civic Ecology, and Online Learning

Whereas early conceptions of MOOCs centered around providing universal access to high-quality education, Krasny and her colleagues intend for MOOCs to be key actors or springboards for spurring local sustainability practices…design factors enabling MOOCs to contribute such public goods include facilitating and supporting online social networks and local groups as well as final projects where MOOC participants apply what they have learned to a local sustainability practice or action. It also includes recognizing participants’ local practices such as through inviting them to co-author journal articles and e-books and facilitating ongoing social media after the course ends. In terms of social change and impact, this ambitious team has designed one of the most exciting initiatives in the history of MOOCs. Their assorted efforts demonstrate that what is learned via MOOCs can quickly impact local practices and actions.

– Zhang, K., Bonk, C., Reeves, T., Reynolds, T., (2020) (Eds.). MOOC and Open Educational Resources in the Global South: Opportunities, Challenges and Success. UK: Routledge.


The Civic Ecology Lab offers online courses and networking opportunities for sustainability, education, youth and community development, and other environmental professionals and volunteers of all incomes and nationalities. We also conduct research to understand equitable models for online and hybrid sustainability education and professional networking. Civic Ecology Lab online courses integrate content, peer-peer, and project-based learning.

Online Learning Philosophy

Our learning model reflects our commitment to equity, addressing sustainability as a wicked problem, and promoting action for the public good.

Equity. We charge a $60 fee for most courses, which is used to pay instructors. Students who cannot afford to pay can register without paying the course fee. We also offer an option for students with more financial resources to pay a higher fee, which helps support students unable to pay. All students get the same services (e.g., instructor responses to questions, PDF certificate upon completing course) regardless of ability to pay. We also welcome discussion about ways to address other barriers to accessing online courses, including limited English.

Sustainability as a wicked problem. A wicked problem has no one right answer or expert solution. Instead it requires ongoing “re-solutions” generated by the sharing of knowledge across disciplines and sectors. For this reason, in addition to providing research-based content, the Civic Ecology Lab facilitates sharing practice, knowledge, ideas, lessons plans, and other resources among course participants. Whereas course content is delivered through short lectures and readings on the Canvas Learning Management System, we use social media for exchanging ideas and other resources (e.g., Facebook, WeChat, Telegram, KakaoTalk).

Action for the public good. We believe all students should apply what they learn to make a positive difference in the world. Our courses include a project where students apply the course content and peer-to-peer learning to a local sustainability practice. Student projects may be shared through student-generated eBooks and other means. This enables public access to innovative sustainability actions generated by online students from around the world.

To address these triple challenges–equitability, “wickedness,” and creating public good–the Civic Ecology Lab ascribes to four principles. Online courses and professional networks:

  1. are accessible to anyone regardless of ability to pay;
  2. include transdisciplinary content;
  3. include instructor-facilitated opportunities for students to share their experiences and learn from each other;
  4. include a hands-on project in which students integrate course content and apply it to their local context.

 In short, our online courses integrate content, peer-peer, and project-based learning and are open to all regardless of ability to pay. By providing platforms for students to share experiences, practices, ideas, and other resources, our courses create and share knowledge about local innovations in sustainability practice from around the world.

Who Are We?

Leaders: Marianne Krasny (US), Yue Li (China), and Alex Kudryavtsev (Russia)

 Collaborators and supporters:

  • Alibaba Foundation
  • Engaged Cornell
  • Cornell International Programs
  • China Ministry of Environmental Protection Center for Environmental Education and Communication
  • Cornell University Center for Teaching Innovation
  • Cornell University Press
  • North American Association for Environmental Education
  • Paradise Foundation, Hangzhou, China

We welcome inquiries about collaboration, including ideas for future courses and research. Direct inquiries to Marianne Krasny, mek2 at


Current research projects

Li, Y, M Krasny, Z Liu, R Baker. MOOC interactive online learning to engage the public in environmental protection action in the US and China. China Ministry of Education, Research Center for Online Education

DuBois, B and M Krasny. Community group outcomes and barriers bbin a MOOC. USDA NIFA.

DuBois, B, M Krasny and A Kudryavtsev. Comparing learning and social outcomes on a MOOC discussion board and Facebook group. USDA NIFA.


eBooks created by online course participants

Krasny, ME and K Snyder, eds. 2016. Civic Ecology: Stories about love of life, love of place. Civic Ecology Lab. Ithaca NY.

Russ, A. (Ed.) (2015). Urban Environmental Education. Ithaca, NY and Washington, DC: Cornell University Civic Ecology Lab, NAAEE and EECapacity.

Russ, A. (Ed.) (2014). Measuring Environmental Education Outcomes. Ithaca, New York: EECapacity, Cornell University Civic Ecology Lab and NAAEE.

Refereed journal articles


Krasny, ME, B DuBois, M Adameit, R Atiogbe, L Baih, T Bold-erdene, Z Golshani, R González-González, I Kimirei, Y Leung, L Shian-Yun, Y Yao. 2018. Interactions to Address Access Barriers in Self-identified Small Groups in a Social Learning MOOC (slMOOC). Online Learning Journal. 22(2):

Li, Y, ME Krasny, and A Russ. 2016. Interactive learning in an online urban environmental education course. Environmental Education Research. 22(1): 111-118.

Krasny, ME. P Silva, C W Barr, Z Golshani, E Lee, R Ligas, E Mosher, and A Reynosa. 2015. Civic ecology practices: insights from practice theory. Ecology and Society. 20 (2): 12.

Blogs and magazines

Krasny, ME and B DuBois. 23 February 2016. Will Online Courses Make Education a Human Right? Zocalo Public Square.

Krasny, ME. 2015. Civic Ecology Meets EdX: An Experiment in Online Social Learning and Action. The Nature of Cities.

Krasny, ME. 2015. Cultivating MOOCs One Learner at a Time. Inside Higher Education.

Guide for others developing online courses

Silva, P., ME Krasny, B Hutchison, B DuBois, E Takaki, Y Li, A Armstrong, AU Ferguson, A Russ. (forthcoming). Courses for a Cause: Online learning for environmental education professionals.


Alibaba Foundation, Cornell University, Cornell Engaged Learning, and US EPA have provided funding for course development and teaching, and Tsinghua University and USDA NIFA have provided funding for research.