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About Coasts and Communities Open Online Course

Coasts and Communities is a free and open online course by the School for the Environment and College of Advancing and Professional Studies at University of Massachusetts Boston. The course introduces participants to fundamental concepts in coastal environmental science and shows how to collect and evaluate data to solve real-world local environmental problems. Participants are introduced to a range of coastal environmental science topics by real-life scientists, environmental stewards, teachers and community members.

Video Introduction

Mailing List

Join our mailing list to be notified of future offerings of the course.

Course Format

The course consists of brief video lectures, readings, discussions and assignments that aim to encourage citizens to get to know their living environment and get involved in its preservation. The course consists of six main weekly topics.


The course is open to everyone interested in learning about the environment. It is suited for both high school students and learners interested in enrolling in an environment science college program as well as community members concerned about the environment.

Credit and Badges

Participants will be able to earn milestone badges for their work in the course and publish them to a Mozilla Backpack.
This course provides a glimpse into environmental science programs at the School for the Environment at UMass Boston and does not award any credit.

Online Platform

The course is delivered on the “UKnow, UMassBoston” space on Blackboard’s online platform for open education at

Get a Glimpse

See below for a sample of the topics explored in the course with video lessons from the fall 2013 and summer 2014 offerings of the course.

The Natural History of Your Place

Learning about our local natural history helps us understand how everything is connected within our natural community.  The species within our diverse coastal habitats ‘collaborate’ by sharing water, energy, food… This allows them to adapt to environmental changes.

The Human History of Your Place

Humans are one of the most influential drivers of change through urban coastal-development and pollution. Therefore, many ‘by-products’ of human driven change are undesirable, like polluted water bodies and biodiversity loss. Understanding how and what we’ve changed in the environment is an important step toward minimizing and mitigating human impacts — both locally and globally.

How Healthy is Your Living Environment?

Measuring environmental changes and determining their health level is an elaborate and important process.

Global Change and Variation

Understanding our past helps us  understand our future. The past teaches us about resilience and susceptibility of various environments, which can be assessed and predicted in future scenarios.

How Can We Scale from Local to Global to Local?

By looking at the larger picture we gain more knowledge about the interconnection between natural and human systems, and understand better how our local community works and depends on global changes, and vice-versa.

How Can We Respond and Adapt to Changes?

We study and understand our past and present to better plan for a sustainable future.

From our Participants

Below are a few course reviews from previous participants.

I loved the class format of videos (introductory and informational) and readings this MOOC offered.  The wealth of resources was and will be great to draw upon.  The topics were varied, the quick responses from Deniz (course TA) appreciated and the freedom and flexibility of an online course was particularly what drew me!  Oh, and it was free!

Participant, fall 2013

Inspiring course – thank you very much.

Participant, fall 2013

I had an extremely positive experience with the Coasts and Communities MOOC and would highly recommend it to others.  Bravo ALL!!!”

Participant, summer 2014

This is one of the most enjoyable and informative courses I have ever taken, including many, many courses taken in both undergraduate & graduate school. It was a lot of work in a short time, but learned a tremendous amount and loved it. I would definitely be interested in any other courses offered through SFE @ UMass Boston in the future.

Participant, summer 2014