Timetable information in the Course Catalogue may be subject to change.

University Homepage
DRPS Homepage
DRPS Search
DRPS Contact
DRPS : Course Catalogue : Edinburgh Futures Institute : Edinburgh Futures Institute

Undergraduate Course: Currents: Understanding and addressing global challenges (EFIE08001)

Course Outline
SchoolEdinburgh Futures Institute CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 8 (Year 1 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThis course is about reimagining the future and seeing ourselves as part of this future. Each year, this course will examine a single, highly current global event or challenge. It will explore the broader social, economic and environmental issues which have driven the challenge and how the impact of the event or challenge is shaping the future. From COVID-19 in 2020, it may move in later years to the currents of climate crisis, financial recession, democracy or unrest, allowing students to explore and identify sustainable solutions to complex global challenges.

Alongside stimulating lectures given by leading academics and other professionals from industry, government and third sector, it will include threads on the role of data in understanding and responding to complex challenges. At the heart of this course is seeing how a globally significant event or challenge changes who we are, what we are, how we live, and what we believe. We will look at how different types of data, and the ways in which data is represented from different disciplinary perspectives to offer critical new insights into how we respond collectively. We will focus on the challenges and opportunities posed by the revolution in data, digital and artificial intelligence, and the role of data for social good.

The course will be contextualised by the UN Sustainable Development Goals Agenda (2015-2030), and its vision of a world shaped by the common good, where no one is left behind and in which the needs of humanity are balanced with the preservation of the Earth.
Course description Academic description:

'Currents' will examine the current happenings and events that profoundly shape our lives for better or worse, exploring through different data sets and data approaches the ways in which the world is being reframed and reimagined. Students will learn how different academic disciplines approach complex challenges and wicked problems, and how different theories, data and methods from these disciplines are used to understand the current, while mapping a path for the future. The course will reflect on the causes and drivers of these challenges - the sparks that lead to global fires that change world outlooks and shake world orders.

The course not only explores the journey of multiple sets of knowledge and actions as they come together to respond to a global event or challenge, it is a journey of rethinking what this means on an individual, community, societal level for the future.

By examining different data sources through interdisciplinary approaches and multiple lenses, the course will provide opportunities to understand the events of the immediate moment, and the currents that drive the systems in which we live. Students will learn about the different types of insights that different types of data provide, helping to develop the skills and knowledge needed (e.g. creative capacities, data and inquiry skills and critical thinking) to successfully navigate a rapidly evolving and technologised world.

The course will take a transnational perspective, exploring why, how and what drives an event from the local to the global. It will seek to understand the intended and unintended consequences of global and local interactions and examine the associated risks, drivers and impacts.

Outline content or syllabus:

Each instance of the course will explore different content from various disciplines - linking the arts, humanities and social sciences together with medicine, natural sciences, engineering and data science. The course will examine the effects and the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, the various global strategies that were put in place to manage it, the ways that society and planet responded, and the ways in which the pandemic shaped the global response to climate change. Indicative themed weeks, subject to change, are as follows:

Week 1: Introduction - Our planet, our health, our future and COVID-19
Week 2: Why pandemics happen and how and why societies respond differently
Week 3: The history of the climate crises
Week 4: The systemic nature of risk: how the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change have changed the way we understand risk
Week 5: The geopolitics of the climate crises
Week 6: Rebuilding a wellbeing and green economy
Week 7: Representation of crises in the arts - COVID-19 and the climate crisis
Week 8: Inequity and Inequalities - what COVID-19 and the climate crisis reveal about systemic inequity
Week 9: The gendered face of global challenges
Week 10: Imagining the future - why we need to focus on children and young people post COVID-19
Week 11: Our place in the planet - our reimagined future

Student learning experience:

Through this course students will encounter live issues impacting the world. They will have the opportunity to listen to weekly key addresses from global and national leaders, offering students insights from many different disciplines, professions and traditions. In addition to these keynote lectures, students will listen to a weekly discursive lecture from two or more colleagues at the forefront of their field from disciplines across the University.

A series of short podcasts on methods of using and analysing data will accompany the lectures, to enable students to better understand different data types and disciplinary methodologies, the different types of insights that different types of data provide, and how these differences underpin decision making processes.

Each week students will meet in online tutorial groups to discuss the topics and questions raised in the lectures and podcasts. Discussions will look at the multiplicity of information, and the exciting ways that information can be channelled and used to bring about change. Students will be encouraged to see how their own disciplines contributes to the way the future can be reimagined and how a major global event or challenge is a moment of change. Tutorial groups will have around 10 students, and they will prepare for these in autonomous learning groups by sharing readings and other resources.

The assessment will take the form of a created object, an 'asset', in a medium of the student's choice through which they reflect on their experience of the theme covered, in the context of the global response to the theme explored during the course. This asset may be written, coded, painted, recorded, made or built. Students will have the opportunity to discuss their asset ideas with peers and teaching staff during a dedicated feedback session. Where appropriate these assets will be published and made available to the wider University and Edinburgh community. The asset can be viewed as an initial marker of the student's university journey, a gift to the wider community but also something that can be reflected back on during their time at Edinburgh. Alongside the asset students will write a short series of blogs (up to 2,000 words in total) reflecting on key issues or topics covered, and detailing the development and delivery of the asset. Blogs will be submitted at various points throughout the course, allowing for feedback to help inform the ideas behind the asset.

By the end of the course, students will have developed a critical understanding of a current world event and will have built knowledge and skills to help them better understand the complexities of their relationship to it.

Currents: An Exhibition

We invite you to visit the online exhibition of creative assets made by students on the 2020 EFI Currents Course which explored the impacts of coronavirus on the world in real time.

EFI is delighted to present this selection of work from the first ever Currents Course, one that will continue and which will serve as an example for many courses being designed at the Institute now and in future courses that will tackle other global challenges and ask students to learn and create in new ways; embracing data, interdisciplinarity and their own infinite creativity.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2023/24, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  80
Course Start Semester 1
Course Start Date 18/09/2023
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Lecture Hours 25, Seminar/Tutorial Hours 11, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 160 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) All assessment is pass/fail

Reflective Blogs
(2 blog posts of 300-500 words (1 formative, 1 summative), and a final blog of 500-1000 words, submitted at weeks 3, 6 and week 10)

Reflection is key to learning. The reflective blogs should describe in detail the rationale, planning, design, development and delivery of the asset, including your evolving thinking and planning, how you respond to the information you are given, find relevant information and work towards an understanding of the entirety of the project, and not simply the transmission of information. You should reflect on readings, interactions with tutors and fellow students.

The final blog should communicate the key objectives of the asset, the intended audience and methods or approach used, the design and delivery of the asset, and any feedback and further legacy. It should also describe how the content was chosen (including any relevant literature or evidence-based research background if relevant) and how the asset developed.

The assessor should view your evolving thinking, planning and the inspiration, design and development of the asset. You should also critically reflect on when things went wrong or didn't go to plan, and how you reacted accordingly.

Submission week 10

The asset can take one of many forms e.g. a video, an open educational resource, a piece of writing, a piece of code, a performance, a web site and so on. The asset should be innovative and engaging, with a clear and informative rationale, and a well-planned approach to its legacy. In keeping with the University of Edinburgh's commitment to open knowledge, as many as possible of the assets will be published and shared online. Guidelines will be provided to students to ensure commensurate effort for different media.
Feedback The first blog will be formative: students will receive feedback but it will not count towards the final result for the course.

Students will outline their project ideas using one of the required blogs.

In this blog they will outline their project idea which will culminate in the asset, what topic it will cover, and who the intended audience will be. Students will receive feedback on this from the teaching team, in order to help them refine their ideas for their asset.

Students will also have the opportunity to discuss their project ideas with their peers and in tutorial groups, allowing them to receive informal feedback at multiple stages during the course.

Students will also be encouraged to contact teaching staff and tutors at any stage during the course for feedback, or to raise any concerns or discuss any issues they are facing.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Demonstrate how they have actively developed their understanding of the challenge and its impact
  2. Draw on and apply a range of relevant skills and disciplinary perspectives in order to understand the challenge
  3. Analyse and interrogate different interdisciplinary datasets to understand the impact of global challenges
  4. Evaluate and critically reflect upon their approach, learning and development throughout the course
  5. Communicate their understanding and lived experience of the challenge
Reading List
The reading around the subject area is evolving rapidly - the course will also use readings recommended by the World Health Organisation, and a final decision on the reading list will be made using the best current evidence before the course goes online.
Additional Information
Course URL
Graduate Attributes and Skills Undertaking this course will enable students to develop their abilities in self-critical reflection, organisation and time-management, application of learning in a defined context, and provide opportunities to further develop analytical and presentation skills.
KeywordsData,global challenges,crisis,global legacy,creative assets
Course organiserDr Andrew Cross
Tel: (0131 6)51 4651
Course secretaryMiss Katarzyna Pietrzak
Help & Information
Search DPTs and Courses
Degree Programmes
Browse DPTs
Humanities and Social Science
Science and Engineering
Medicine and Veterinary Medicine
Other Information
Combined Course Timetable
Important Information