MOOC on Transboundary Freshwater Security Enters Second Year with More Language Versions

The Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) on transboundary freshwater security opened in August 2020. A year on, the MOOC has attracted over 2,300 participants from 150 countries, and the course is confirmed for another year on the same platform – with more language versions in the making to reach an even greater audience, and with more interactive events to engage participants. Chinese video subtitles are already available, and several other translations are under preparation.

An initial analysis of the pre-and post-course surveys show that over half of the enrolled participants found the course relevant to their current professional field. Over 40% said the MOOC was relevant for their studies or research, while approximately one-third signed up out of general curiosity or enjoyment.

The post-course survey indicated that 99% of the respondents agreed that the course was valuable to them, and 97% indicated they would recommend the course to others. 94% indicated the instructors were effective. When asked what they enjoyed the most about the course, responses varied from enjoying the broad range of interesting topics to engaging videos and speakers to flexibility in managing the time to study. When asked about the use of the learning from the course, respondents indicated that they would further develop transboundary water resources they are directly managing, reporting on Sustainable Development Goal 6, and future careers.

“I am happy to see that the MOOC has been a useful resource for a wide range of participants from all around the world. Our learners are important current and future leaders of transboundary water management, and I really hope that the MOOC can help boost their understanding, confidence and learning from each other. I hope that upcoming translations into various languages can boost further learning opportunities for many more water leaders to join”, says GWP Senior Network & Transboundary Water Cooperation Specialist Yumiko Yasuda.

The analysis will be used for proposing new event topics, making improvements to the content, and for planning actions to strengthen the transboundary water professionals’ network. For instance, most of the participants (86.5%) are interested in joining a community of practice on the topic.

Popular interactive events

The analysis also shows that one specific thing that boosted the number of enrolments and engagement in the course were the monthly interactive online sessions organised around topics related to the MOOC. A pilot event was held in October 2020 around the question, “Does the world need more International Water Law?” The success of that event led to the development of a series of six events called ‘transboundary freshwater security governance train’, all organised in collaboration with the Wuhan International Water Law Academy (IWLA).

Summaries and recordings of all the events are available, with the topics being: Transboundary Water Agreements, International Water Law & Protection of Ecosystems, River Basin Organisations and the Implementation of Treaty Commitments, International Water Law & Climate Change, International Water Law & Infrastructure Projects, and International Water Law & Groundwater.

Similar events are being planned for year 2 of the MOOC, with the first event starting in September on the topic of International Water Law and Dispute Settlement, followed by another on Water Diplomacy and Negotiation. These events are designed differently to conventional webinars, with emphasis on interaction between participants and speakers as a way of enhancing learning exchanges. More information will soon be available on

Positive feedback

Dong Yanfei, Deputy Secretary General of the Lancang-Mekong Water Resources Cooperation Center, said: "The MOOC sessions present multiple facets via an innovative channel. It is instructive and inspiring to me on both theories and practice of transboundary freshwater cooperation. The participation provided me with new opportunities for potential collaboration. I shall be keen to make a good use of knowledge and tools that I have learnt from the sessions for the sake of sustainable development, and management and conservation of water resources in the Lancang-Mekong River Basin."

Girmachew Addisu, Monitoring & Learning Advisor at the International Water and Sanitation Centre IRC in Ethiopia, said: "Excellent, well-conceived and executed MOOC courses. No hesitation in recommending it for those who wish to get a comprehensive understanding of transboundary water governance. I encourage the team to include more interactive sessions, i.e., face-to-face seminars, webinars, and more case studies."

Luca Jendrek, a newly-graduated International Relations expert from Hungary, who recently joined GWP as a young professional through the Blue Planet Climate Protection Foundation, said: “The 6-module course includes various topics connected to freshwater management. In the lectures you can find up-to-date reading materials while you are listening to video lectures. The main reason why I enjoyed this course was the passion and expertise of the professors and because transparent, widespread, well-structured information is provided in different languages. Upon successful completion of the final exam, a certificate is available that can be easily shared on social media sites or printed out."

Photo: Winding rivers and meadows in Xinjiang, China, by Fan.