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Reflecting on a multidisciplinary collaboration to design a general education climate change course

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Courses designed through multidisciplinary collaboration represent an opportunity for curricular innovation, but require a larger investment of university resources. This paper describes lessons learned from designing and pilot testing a general education course on climate change as a multidisciplinary team. The course will be required for undergraduate students to fulfill core requirements in natural science beginning in 2017 at a research university in the southeastern USA. This narrative study allows us to share our perceptions of best practices, challenges, and lessons learned based on participant observations and open-ended questionnaires completed by students during three semesters of pilot testing. We describe trade-offs involved in our decisions and propose that our design, which takes advantage of reusable learning objects and a hybrid format with online and in-class components, is an innovative way to create and deliver core curricula to large groups of undergraduates. Compared to an individual designer or designers from a single discipline, multidisciplinary design teams have advantages in creating activities that integrate disciplines, incorporating a diversity of scientific perspectives, and considering instructional design choices. Challenges included ensuring connectivity and calibrating the complexity of content and activities created by different designers. Given the trend toward interdisciplinary teaching and instructional design, this qualitative work may provide useful information to those undertaking similar projects.

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This research was funded in part by the University of Florida Office of the Provost and College of Liberal Arts and Sciences as part of the Grand Challenges Core.

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Correspondence to Eric A. Stubbs.

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Stubbs, E.A., Zimmerman, A.R., Warner, L.A. et al. Reflecting on a multidisciplinary collaboration to design a general education climate change course. J Environ Stud Sci 8, 32–38 (2018).

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