A new open online course offered by the U of S looks to answer how innovation and technology can improve life for people in the North.
This February, Ken Coates, director of the International Centre for Northern Governance and Development (ICNGD), will teach Circumpolar Innovation¾a truly open online course (TOOC) that anybody, anywhere can take through the Canvas Network.
With the course, Coates hopes to answer the question of how innovation and technology can better improve life for those in Northern communities, which, he explained, have not benefitted as much as other parts of the world.
“It’s a numbers game,” explained Coates. “In global terms the greatest investments go to wealthy nations and then to the issues affecting the poorest two billion people—water in Africa, cell connectivity in South America, or food security in India. A million people in Africa or 1,000 people in the North?”
Coates, who is also Canada Research Chair in Regional Innovation at the Johnson-Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy and Chair of the UArctic Thematic Network on Commercialization of Science and Technology for the North, is clear that innovation and technology does make its way to the North, just at an uneven pace. And he stressed his goal is not to celebrate technology but rather to have students analyze its impact and implications on such northern realities as job loss and quality of life.
Coates said the important message he wants students to take away is that a “circumpolar innovation ecosystem needs to be created that brings together the needs of the North, the technology and skills to address those needs, and the entrepreneurial spirit to create usable products and services.”
The non-credit course based on a for-credit class, developed by the ICNGD with the help of Gwenna Moss Centre for Teaching Effectiveness, is the first of this kind to be offered at the U of S, he explained. “It’s available to everyone. We use copyright-cleared material and it is all open source. We open this knowledge up online to the biggest group possible.”
Coates is also excited that any university in the world can adapt the course and its materials for other purposes. The long view for Coates is that other universities will begin contributing content, in “recognition of the fact that learning constantly changes and is continual. We can add new content and update the material easily and on an ongoing basis. It’s flexible learning.”
While everyone is welcome to take the course, Coates really hopes that Northern people will be interested in it. “When communities are part of the discussion around technology and innovation, they can steer it to best fit their needs. You can shape the future more if you do it yourself.”