My name is Oceane Merchiers, and I am going into my last year at Southampton for a BSc in Marine Biology with Oceanography. This summer I took an online summer class provided by UC Berkeley on Climate Change Economics. Climate change has always been a subject I am passionate about. While I understood the scientific background and processes of climate change, I still did not have a developed understanding of the economic perspective which is also equally as important as they work hand in hand. Taking this class really allowed me to see both sides and showed me there is a way in which we can keep the economy stimulated while lowering emissions. Having no other internship opportunities or travel plans, taking this class really helped in providing me with a daily routine and something to keep me busy while also expanding my knowledge on this topic.
The module I took was 8 weeks long in total, starting mid-June and ending mid-August. Lectures were scheduled on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and labs took place on Tuesday. On Thursday the professor and the teaching assistants held optional office hours for any extra help which I frequented often as this was a new topic for me. Starting in the third week we had quizzes every Friday that were put in place to check our progress. Classes were at 12-2pm in California time, but as I was in Belgium this meant that I was attending class from 9-11pm. This was definitely a challenge in the beginning, but soon it became routine. This class definitely took up more of my time than I expected for an online summer class, but I was grateful for a structured routine and something to work on every day. For the final week of class we had guest lectures that helped provide insight into the politics and policy of climate change economics which was very enriching.
Along with weekly quizzes and the final exam, we also had labs due every week along with an engagement log. The labs were based on excel and each week we worked on developing Integrated Assessments Models. We progressively built up our “base case” and practiced making different models of various factors in different climate scenarios. The engagement logs were a reflection on how much we personally engaged in the class and within our small groups. We were assigned a group that we kept for the whole “term” with which we would have discussions regarding assigned readings, and to work on our group project. The group project was a “poster” that we would have to present at the end of “term” for the whole class. This was definitely a weird experience as we had to submit individual recordings of our poster presentation to the professor as well as make a zoom room for our classmates to enter and ask questions regarding our topic. It was as awkward as it sounds, as people were going in and out of the rooms to look at everyone’s posters and most people had their videos turned off and muted, so me and another one of my group mates who were moderating the room at the time were mostly just sat there in silence waiting for a question. Having assigned groups was also a great way to make friends with people on the course, and my group ended up being a good mix of international students and American students that attended UC Berkeley.
The professor and the teaching assistants definitely did their very best at keeping this course engaging and interesting. I was worried about my motivation to attend these online lectures almost every day of the week and so late in the evening, but in the end I looked forward to them and genuinely enjoyed immersing myself in the content to develop a greater understanding. With all the time I had stuck inside and social distancing I was really able to understand the content and put all my focus into it as I had no other classes to worry about. The grading system they followed was also based mainly on engagement and participation rather than accuracy. The only properly assessed assignments were the quizzes and the final exam. The labs and the group project were graded on behalf of the effort shown. I think this played a big role in me being able to genuinely enjoy this class and focus on learning the content rather than getting the marks. As this is a subject that is genuinely an interest of mine, I was able to put my energy into learning the material and even going further into the subject rather than focus on making sure I was getting the grade.
I definitely recommend taking an online course, and especially at a different university, as it provides you with new knowledge on a subject as well as give you different perspective. The only possible hindrance would be the time difference, but otherwise I am very happy that I took part in this opportunity and would suggest it to anyone seeking enriching their knowledge on a new subject or simply something productive to do.