27 June 2017

Utrecht University’s latest MOOC, made by researchers within Future Food Utrecht

'Unraveling solutions for future food problems': release of Future Food Utrecht MOOC on 3 July

Healthy food choices?

With this MOOC (a free web-based form of education) the Future Food researchers at Utrecht University aim to show their enthusiasm for sharing scientific knowledge and ideas with a large audience across the world. The MOOC will be offered through Coursera, one of the biggest platforms of Massive Open Online Courses. 

An interdisciplinary approach 

This course focuses on two themes: food shortage and healthy choices, each taking up two weeks of the course. The last week is reserved for an interdisciplinary assignment where students can integrate all their acquired knowledge and insights with their own opinion. Researchers from different disciplines at Utrecht University contribute to this course. This offers an excellent opportunity to look at current world food problems from an interdisciplinary point of view. 

Trailer of the Future Food Utrecht MOOC

María-José Rojo Martinez, coordinator of the focus area Future Food Utrecht, and Shirrinka Goubitz, Education Advisor, were leading the MOOC-making team. They hope that this MOOC will contribute to broadening the participant’s horizons on the world food problems. What are the main points this online course wants to convey? María-José: "The main point is to generate awareness for the need of a transdisciplinary approach for the food challenges. By 2050 there will be 9 billion humans populating our planet. Conservative estimates indicate that in order to feed this surging population we would need to grow 70% more food.

While many plant biologist will tell you that this is a matter of food production, historians will tell you that this might be more a matter of food distribution. The food challenges are too complex to be tackled just by one discipline or one sector. Sustainable food solutions will require science-based decisions that balance and integrate the views of the many disciplines and actors involved in the food chain."     

Professor Marca Wauben working on the future food MOOC
Professor Marca Wauben working on the MOOC


Interdisciplinarity is about creating something new by thinking across boundaries: that is what Future Food aimed to do with this MOOC!
We had a large team of people who cooperated in making the MOOC possible. We would like to thank EducateIT for their cooperation and of course special thanks to our wonderful team of teaching assistants:  PhD candidates: Tina Venema and Laurens van Gestel (Psychology), Paul Jochems (Farmacy) and Sander Biesbroek ( RIVM – UMCU) and dr. Roeland Berendsen and dr. Pauline Krijgsheld (Biology).

Tina Venema: "Working on the MOOC of Future Food Utrecht (FFU) was an interesting experience, due to its interdisciplinary nature. Things that you might consider to be very normal sometimes need extra explanation for someone with a different academic background. Apart from that, it was nice to think about how to test certain concepts that are discussed during the MOOC clips. For example, we came up with a nice assignment where the MOOC participant has to scan their own food environment for possibilities for eating healthy with a google maps tool. With these kinds of assignments terms like "obesogenic environment" will hopefully be come more vivid.

The important contribution of the MOOC is that is nicely demonstrates how all the research that is conducted concerning the theme "Food" at Utrecht university fits together. The real challenge was to limit the selection of the abundance of research(ers) that can be featured in the MOOC. But who knows... if this MOOC will become a hit we can make a MOOC FFU2.0."

The MOOC nicely demonstrates how all the research that is conducted concerning the theme "Food" at Utrecht university fits together
Tina Venema
PhD candidate

Rens Voesenek, one of the board members of Future Food Utrecht, is very content with all the effort that has been put into creating this MOOC. "To create a transition towards a more sustainable global food system calls for an integrated food systems approach. With this MOOC we have tried to integrate research from different disciplines to offer participants a broader view of the of the current problems and possible solutions related to Food shortage and healthy choices.

The MOOC will go online next July 3rd  2017. The course can then be found at the website of Coursera

Focus on Food research

Future Food Utrecht  is a focus area of Utrecht University that bundles its research potential on the grand societal challenges regarding food. It provides an integrated approach to address the development of sustainable future food concepts that have positive health effects and are acceptable and accessible for the human population. The themes Sustainable Innovation, Healthy Food and Smart Decisions are based on the existing expertise at Utrecht University in food related research and direct to the societal challenges. 

See the Future Food Utrecht website for more information