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A MOOC in plant identification and field botany…?

Dr M has a dream: The University of Reading has just launched a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) in plant identification and field botany…

No of course it hasn’t, it’s all just a dream, but why shouldn’t it? 😉

MOOCs are certainly real enough and the University of Reading’s first MOOC, Begin programming: build your first mobile game, filled up all its places within 24 hours of applications opening, but a second-run with unlimited numbers is due to start again early in 2014.

The second MOOC, A Beginners’ guide to English for university study, will go live on 17 February 2014 – and students can sign up online now.

So why not the third MOOC in field botany?

Could we get thousands signing up to learn how to ID plants?

Well probably not, but that’s thousands missing out on the chance to learn the plants in their neighbourhood, the chance to appreciate the variety and beauty of plants, the chance to see their world from a different angle and the chance to find a new connection with their local environment.

Dr M has a dream, Dr M is on a mission. Maybe field botany won’t be the third Reading MOOC, not even the fourth or fifth.  But Dr M’s dream is of a better, more plant-centred world, where field botany is as naturally appealing as… well as building your own mobile game, or learning to write a decent essay in English.

If not the 3rd MOOC, maybe, just maybe, plant identification for all could be the the 20th or the 30th MOOC?  Some things are worth waiting for…




  • Louise Marsh

    A botany MOOC sounds adorable – I think I’d like one as a pet. BSBI has launched an on-line botany course http://www.identiplant.co.uk/plantwp/ and there will be an exhibit about it at our AEM on 23rd November. Looking forward to showing you around the exhibit, Dr M, and hearing more about botany courses at University of Reading. Maybe some of your MSc students would like to come along? They’d all be very welcome!

  • DrM

    Yes! I will check out the BSBI on-line botany course. I have certainly invited all our MSc students to the BSBI AEM and asked them to bring eXtreme botanical challenges to puzzle, perplex and entertain! Looking forward…

    • Connie Brown

      I would LOVE, LOVE a MOOC on Identifying Plants. I can’t be the only one. Think about it. Thanks.

      • DrM

        My original post was a bit tongue in cheek, MOOCs are massive (by definition) and we would need a lot of demand, but maybe there IS more demand than I thought, I will certainly look into it. Dr M.

  • Jack Radcliffe

    I’m a very otherwise-busy Conservation Commissioner. I’d love to see this happen.

    • DrM

      Jack, OK, I know there are online plant ID modules offered by the FSC amongst others. I will do some research and write a post soon! But I would love to design the first field botany MOOC and if I felt there was sufficient demand I ll be there! Dr M

  • Biff Vernon

    I’ve just started my fourth MOOC and, looking for a fifth, took you post seriously. Bother. Let me know when one starts and I’ll be there.

    • DrM

      Awe sorry! You’re clearly a Mooc-aholic! I’ll have to prove the demand to get the University to back this, but if we can I’m up for it for sure, tell your friends!

  • Sharon Keenan

    I’d love to do a field botany MOOC!

  • Georgia

    I’m interested in taking a mooc class in field botany. I haven’t taken any other mooc classes but feel I have enough of an understanding of plants but would love to perfect my knowledge of identification.

    • DrM

      Georgia, I wd love to run a MOOC in field botany, the issue is persuading the powers that be that this topic could really generate massive interest (i.e. Massive Open Online Course) and that we could attract not just hundred but thousands, if you have any bright ideas on how we could get such interest let me know and I’ll be onto it! Dr M

  • Helen

    I live in Australia and would love to enrol in a MOOC in Botany! I have a postgrad qualification in another discipline and have always wanted to learn more about Botany. Please consider creating one.

  • Victoria Chanin

    Too unkind! I saw the heading and though I’d found my perfect MOOC! Please make it happen. Pleeeeease.

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