New CPD status as Big Data open online course re-opens

Posted March 25 2019

By Sally Stevens, Marketing & Communications Manager of the IEA

Our open online course ‘Big Data and the Environment’ launches for the fourth time this week.  We have had more than 5,000 learners sign-up to the course so far and we’re  excited to welcome another cohort who, for the next three weeks, will explore big data, environmental data, data science and citizen science.  We will guide you through the contemporary world of environmental data, a glimpse behind the scenes on the skills and data, using video, quizzes and plenty of real-life case studies, and no programming skills or complex mathematical formulae needed.

Today, we are excited to announce that ‘Big Data and the Environment’ is CPD certified.  Continuing Professional Development (CPD) is for everyone, but especially for professionals who wish to remain up-to-date in their subject area or upskill in a related discipline.  In addition to the high standards of the FutureLearn platform, the CPD Certification Service provides independent quality assurance on learning activities.  The CPD Certification Service assessed the course and concluded that ‘Big Data and the Environment’ is:

‘a detailed and comprehensive online course with clear learning value, a variety of learning content and excellent sources for further information.’

Who will you meet and what will you learn?

We have an inspiring line-up of renowned experts contributing to the course.  Dr Victoria Bennet, Director of the Centre for Environmental Analysis, talks about the big data needs of environmental work, describing how they support environmental scientists in their ever-increasing needs for data storage and computer processing.  You will hear Professor Ed Hawkins, of the University of Reading, talk about his work in climate science, including his exciting work in both climate data visualisation and engaging citizen scientists to recover hand-written historic weather records, from remote weather observing stations, including logbooks of whaling ships of the Southern Ocean.  Professor David Wallom of the University of Oxford talks about the contemporary landscape of making data as open as possible.  Dr Tom August and Dr Fredi Otto share their work using citizen science to solve environmental challenges in ecology and climate change.

We have many contributors from the IEA.  Dr Debbie Clifford shares her knowledge on satellite data and Dr Ben Lloyd-Hughes gives an overview of the steps that data scientists go through to first discover and then turn raw data into usable and insightful products.  Barbara Percy demonstrates her user interface and data visualisation for urban land use and planning.  Alan Yates describes how business applications can be developed by environmental analytics, by working closely with customers to combine datasets, model environmental processes and then effectively visualise, to provide succinct, actionable information to customers.

Meet the expert mentors

Throughout the three-week course we have three expert mentors on hand to join in with learners’ sharing questions, comments and thoughts.

Dr Jon Blower is the CTO of the IEA. He says: “It has been fulfilling to see how many people around the world, from all backgrounds and interests using data have already gained so much from this course. I personally find it inspiring to see all the discussions taking place and the diverse activities that learners are taking part in.”

Vicky Lucas is the Training Manager at the IEA and will dip into the course to share her experiences, having been a weather forecaster and air quality scientist, and enjoying a passion for lifelong learning and professional development.

And we have Tom Eldridge, a PhD student at the University of Reading, an expert in big data computing and satellite meteorology, who is currently exploring the cloud climatology of the 1970s using Nimbus satellite data (summary article on Nimbus here).

Our learners have a wonderfully diverse background and come from every corner of the Earth.  They share their experiences and challenges in data collection and analysis, some are totally new to big data, but all share a respect and awe of the environment and how its secrets can be digitally unlocked with environmental analytics.  Our learners are inspirational, from those who protect and model the ecosystems of tigers in Sumatra, to citizen science initiatives of colleting litter in the Thames21 project to determine which types affect the watercourse.  We have shared questions and learning with city planners looking after forests, those studying tsunami impacts with satellite data and researchers mapping soil moisture for improving crop production.

Still time to join

If you have not signed up yet and don’t want to miss out on this great learning opportunity – don’t panic! You have up to three weeks from the launch date (March 25 2019) to register and start learning but to take advantage of interacting with mentors and other learners, join in as soon as possible. Follow this link. 

You can hear from some of the course tutors and get a taste of the course – including our methane data visualisation – by watching the IEA’s Big Data and the Environment YouTube channel.

Big Data and the Environment Mooc trailer
Ed Hawkins in front of a camera against a backdrop of a video wall showing climate data
Prof Ed Hawkins, Professor of Climate Science, University of Reading

What is CPD?

(taken from

CPD stands for Continuing Professional Development and is the term used to describe the learning activities professionals engage in to develop and enhance their abilities.  Engaging in Continuing Professional Development ensures that both academic and practical qualifications do not become out-dated or obsolete; allowing individuals to continually ‘up skill’ or ‘re-skill’ themselves, regardless of occupation, age or educational level.

CPD combines different methodologies to learning, such as training workshops, conferences and events, e-learning programs, best practice techniques and ideas sharing, all focused for an individual to improve and have effective professional development.

Accredited CPD training means the learning activity has reached the required Continuing Professional Development standards and benchmarks. The learning value has been scrutinised to ensure integrity and quality. The CPD Certification Service provides recognised independent CPD accreditation compatible with global CPD requirements.