Review of the 3rd edition of the “Energy Transition” MOOC

IFP School’s 3rd edition of the MOOC dedicated to the "Energy Transition: innovation towards a low-carbon future" ran from 8 March to 10 April 2021 with the support of the TotalEnergies Foundation and in partnership with the Fondation Tuck.

Jean-Pierre Deflandre, project manager, looks back at this successful initiative.

Portrait de Jean-Pierre Deflandre

1.    This 3rd session attracted 11,430 participants. What is your assessment of this latest success?

We are delighted that the latest edition attracted so many participants. We are particularly proud of the diversity of learner profiles: 64% were professionals and 26% were students; and in terms of international reach, more than 137 countries were represented. France and Nigeria were the two countries with the highest number of participants, with more than 2,000 each, followed by Argentina, Colombia, Brazil and Mexico, with participant numbers varying between 450 and 700.

In addition, the number of French-speaking participants increased by 70% compared to the 2020 edition, while the number of Spanish-speakers also increased by 17%, meaning these two communities combined matched the size of the English-speaking community. I would remind you that the MOOC is delivered in English with subtitles in French and Spanish. These results are significant since they show that IFP School is reaching and interacting with an ever wider international audience.

The MOOC also recorded a remarkable completion rate (number of learners who finished the course) of 30.5%, a significant increase compared to 2020 (+20%), and well above the average for a MOOC, which varies between 5 and 10%. The figure is especially significant given that this MOOC is totally free (higher  “no show”  risk). It also reflects a strong interest in the program and the educational approach, among both students and young professionals.

Since the launch of the first edition of the MOOC in March 2019, more than 49,000 participants have learned about energy-related issues and the technical challenges to be overcome to contribute to a more sustainable world. 

2.    For this 2021 edition, you offered new content focusing on hydrogen. Why did you decided to tackle this theme?

This MOOC covered sustainable solutions and innovations for a low-carbon mix within the framework of the scenario contained in the Paris Agreement (<2°C). Its content reflects the new priorities of IFP School’s training programs. While not exhaustive, it covered many of the potential solutions under consideration, including the development of renewable energies, the increasing role of gas, the significant reduction in CO2 emissions caused by human activities, energy storage, decarbonization and the energy efficiency of processes. 

From the time of the first edition, we had always planned to incorporate the industrial production of low-carbon hydrogen as being directly related to the subjects covered, irrespective of color (green or blue). We decided to tackle it within the original structure of the MOOC as a potential georesource that can play a central role as an energy vector alongside the development of large-scale offshore wind energy.  Ultimately, it could well be that hydrogen will be a component in the development of gas and decarbonization, despite the fact that some scenarios still appear to be relatively futuristic in nature (on a large scale).

In the energy transition, the gas will probably play a major and long-term role this century after probable evolutions in terms of its origin and composition. The important thing is to develop innovative solutions that are not associated with any rebound effects that would paradoxically counteract efforts undertaken to foster sustainable development and tackle global warming.

Today, hydrogen is considered to be a promising clean energy technology. Numerous countries, such as Australia, the USA and Japan, have announced substantial investments. It was an obvious step to include it in our program.

3.   Learners are not the only ones who improve their skills from a MOOC. What lessons do you derive from it in terms of teaching?

From the launch of IFP School’s first MOOC in 2014, the Lab e·nov (IFP Energies nouvelles’ digital culture laboratory) team intended our MOOCs to also serve as experimental and evaluation platforms for new educational approaches. For example, we have supplemented our course videos with downloadable materials, introduced fun assessments and organized interactive forums aimed at the learning community. These forums are useful for examining some themes in greater depth or broadening their scope. Our researcher colleagues at IFP Energies nouvelles also contribute to MOOC content and, alongside course modules, we have added a variety of bonus materials: presentations illustrating an industrial sector technology, an interview with an expert or project manager, be it a young energy transition professional or a young researcher.

The idea is to enable learners to concretely prepare themselves for their future within the context of the energy transition.

From the outset, we have felt it important to monitor individual learners in order to keep them motivated. This year, once again, thanks to the efforts of my colleague Marie de la Villèsbrunne, we have significantly reduced the “no show” phenomenon, by encouraging participants to play an active role in their own learning; the MOOC’s content and follow-up did the rest to help us achieve this completion rate. Individual learners are motivated by being part of the wider learning community with its associated support. Completing the program thus becomes a realistic objective.

These initiatives, viewed within the context of our teaching programs, complete and enhance more conventional educational approaches. They are now expected by our students, particularly against the backdrop of the vital role played by online learning as a result of the health crisis. It is up to our team to ensure this new constraint becomes an additional arrow in our educational bow!

4.    Buoyed by this latest success, can we expect a further edition in the future?

The question comes up every year. Offering a free MOOC, accessible to all, has a financial and human cost. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the TotalEnergies Foundation for supporting our project from the outset, enabling us to share it and enhance it over the course of time.

The format of this MOOC is dense (nearly five weeks, each representing between two and three hours of individual work). We may, in the future, be able to structure it in the form of shorter, more frequently available modules. We are also asked to cover even more topics, including those not forming part of our programs, and to personalize them by adapting them to a given context. Moreover, by their very nature, themes are dynamic and constantly evolving. We have to remain relevant. In short, we have to evolve to survive. As for the format we will see, but we have no intention of stopping here in terms of disseminating knowledge surrounding a subject of concern to the whole of society. 

Interview conducted by Meyling Siu