Lessons learned from the first worldwide accessible e-learning in Landscape Ecology


  • Felix Kienast Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research WSL https://orcid.org/0000-0002-3812-3124
  • Selina Gosteli intosens ag, Zurich
  • Thomas C. Jr. Edwards U.S. Geological Survey, Utah Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, and Department of Wildland Resources, Utah State University, Logan, UT https://orcid.org/0000-0002-0773-0909
  • Gregor Martius Gemüseackerdemie, Zürich




distant learning, MOOC, Landscape Ecology


Massive open online courses (MOOCs) are distance learning tools for individualized learning. They allow students to learn at their own pace in a virtual classroom. We describe success and pitfalls of the MOOC Landscape Ecology, designed as an undergraduate University course taught by an international consortium of Professors covering theory and application of the field. The paper describes course performance with summary metrics, illustrates contents and didactic tools, and provides a list of suggestions for instructors who engage in distant learning. We identify the following five key success factors for this and related MOOCs: (1) commitment and passion of an international consortium of lecturers; (2) a sound mixture of theory and practice; (3) numerous field-videos; (4) content and skill-oriented practicums (here using R, GIS, remote sensing); and (5) interactive formats where students discuss and share their opinions. In all runs of our MOOC we experienced some difficulties with peer-assessed writing tasks due to widely differing “review cultures”. The instructor-paced MOOC attracted over 3500 students in 2018 and 2019, and had comparably high completion rates (14% and 11%, respectively), compared to typical MOOC completion rates ranging from 5% to 15%. Completion rates in our self-paced run in 2020 were 8-9% only.


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How to Cite

Kienast, F., Gosteli, S., Edwards, T. C. J., & Martius, G. (2020). Lessons learned from the first worldwide accessible e-learning in Landscape Ecology. Landscape Online, 83. https://doi.org/10.3097/LO.202083