On Sunday, September 23, the SDG Academy welcomed Lee Rubenstein, VP of Business Development at edX, to join a panel on SDG4 at the SDSN Leadership Council. Hosted in New York City during the United Nations General Assembly, the SDSN Leadership Council is an annual convening of academic and world leaders to guide the work of SDSN in implementing and monitoring the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The panel was co-hosted by Rubenstein and Chandrika Bahadur, President of the SDSN Association and the SDG Academy, and moderated by renowned sustainable development leader, Jeffrey Sachs. It followed on the heels of the newly-announced partnership between edX and the SDG Academy.
The panel focused on the central role of online education in achieving SDG4, which ensures inclusive and equitable quality education and the promotion of lifelong learning opportunities for all. Rubenstein touched on two critical ways in which edX, one of the world’s largest online learning platforms, is working to achieve both tenets of SDG4:
- In pursuit of inclusive and equitable quality education, online education breaks down barriers to access. The edX platform reaches beyond the walls of traditional brick-and-mortar universities, with over 18 million learners around the world taking over 60 million courses from 140 accredited universities. With platforms like edX offering free MOOCs and low-cost certificates, students are not constrained by barriers to higher education such as cost or transportation.
- In pursuit of promoting lifelong learning opportunities, edX courses and partnerships are curated with the goal of empowering global learners to create pathways to a better life. They focus on building of knowledge and skill-sets to obtain jobs and career changes into fields like sustainable development and sustainability.
The edX commitment to the SDGs goes beyond SDG4 and includes an embrace of sustainable development as a holistic and activist pursuit. “We need to get involved in this as stewards of the planet,” Rubenstein stated. He went on to remind the former world leaders and policymakers at the panel that students, once equipped with knowledge and skills about the the SDGs, “…will look to you to solve these problems globally.”
SDG Academy Director Chandrika Bahadur, joining via webcast, highlighted the ways in which edX is well-positioned to support and drive two major directional shifts the SDG Academy is undertaking. First, the SDG Academy is moving toward a shift in scale. While prior learner engagement through SDG Academy courses topped 170,000 students, it is hoped that the massive scope and reach of the edX platform will enable SDG Academy MOOCs to reach 1 million learners by 2020.
Second, the SDG Academy is shifting toward implementing the SDGs, which requires a blend of both knowledge and skills. By partnering with edX, with its focus on helping people to create pathways to jobs and career changes through skill development and practical training, it is anticipated that SDG Academy MOOCs will become channels for both knowledge transfer and skill development for SDG implementation.
The partnership between the SDG Academy and edX revolves around a shared commitment to empowering learners around the world to create channels for a better life and a better world through sustainable development.