It’s been a long time and a lot of production and writing effort since our first water MOOC (massive open online course) launched back in 2014. Back then the MOOC was only available to take in one scheduled cohort. Now the online platform, Coursera, has developed and it’s possible to take these courses ‘on demand’ – basically whenever you have the time, rather than waiting for a scheduled session.

The newly re-launched Water Supply and Sanitation Policy in Developing Countries Part 1 looks at Understanding Complex Problems in the global water world.

This MOOC is free-of-charge to take, and will help you further develop your skills to examine critically, and in quite a lot of depth, current conditions and trends in water supply and sanitation services primarily in low and middle-income countries around the world. There’s some great data discussed in this MOOC, and we really tease out the political, economic, and technical reasons why a billion people still lack access to improved water supplies, and why about two billion don’t have improved sanitation services.

Part 1 has a really challenging ‘policy memo’ style assignment too. This has been developed with the former WASH chief at UNICEF, and is an assignment we used to run inside our universities. It’s all about getting you to think about, how would you develop and justify practical and measurable performance indicators, if you had to evaluate the success or failure of large-scale water supply and sanitation programs in Africa?

If you’d like some more info about this first MOOC, here’s a trailer:

The second MOOC, Part 2, is all about Developing Effective Interventions. This is taking a positive and proactive look at what can be done to solve global water supply and sanitation problems. This second MOOC addresses the main strategies that national governments and donors have tried to improve water and sanitation conditions, and the lessons learned from these experiences. Part 2 also addresses some really quite deep-rooted reasons why communities may resist even well-meaning and well-designed water and sanitation interventions. Water pricing and tariff design issues are also covered, as well as what it means to go about changing water institutions with more controversial interventions like privatisation and regulation of water utilities around the world.

The assignment for Part 2 will challenge you just as much as the Africa performance indicators one in the first MOOC. In the second MOOC you’re asked to write an ‘information strategy’ assignment on water tariff reform in the difficult setting of Egypt. Once again we also have a trailer for Part 2:

Across these two MOOCs we’ve managed to interview a really rather stellar array of fascinating thought-leaders and action-oriented professionals from the global water and sanitation sector. In the MOOCs you’ll find interviews with CLTS pionner, Kamal Kar and with architect/activist Arif Hasan. You’ll hear how regulatory pioneer Stephen Littlechild developed RPI-X price controls, and how former head of economic regulator Ofwat, Regina Finn spearheaded reforms in the UK. There’s a history of the invention and development of anaerobic digestion in Davyhulme, Manchester, with video and photos presented by a leading engineer from United Utilities. And there are more interviews with Clive Agnew, Eduardo Araral, Leong Ching, Barbara Evans, Marc Jeuland, Don Lauria, Diana Mitlin, and Wu Xun.

My colleague Professor Dale Whittington also has quite the track record to be instructing on these MOOCs… Dale is a Professor at our Alliance Manchester Business School, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in the United States, and is a Visiting Professor at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore. Dale has worked on water and sanitation policy and planning issues for over 40 years in many low and middle-income countries. He’s worked with the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, OECD, and United States Agency for International Development (USAID). He has served on the Technical Committee of the Global Water Partnership and is the Chair of the Board of the Environment-for-Development, a network of research centres in Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia, South Africa, Costa Rica, Colombia, Chile, India, China, and Vietnam.

We’ve put a lot of effort into making these MOOCs, with support from our universities, e-learning and media teams. They’re open-to-all to take, and are available completely free-of-charge… so please do feel free to sign up for one or both of them!

Duncan Thomas

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