Sustainable Development in Higher Education in Nordic Countries: Exploring E-learning Mechanisms and SDG Coverage in MOOCs

Anne-Karen Hueske*, Caroline Aggestam Pontoppidan, Lavinia-Cristina Iosif-Lazar

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

70 Downloads (Pure)


Purpose – This study aims to explore the extent and types of E-Learning used, as method and tool, to support education for sustainable development (ESD); and to understand the coverage of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in massive open online courses (MOOCs). Design/methodology/approach – The study extends the morphological box of ESD in higher education by nonformal and informal education, exploring the types of blended and online learning and adding the SDGs as a new criterion. The study subjects are Nordic UN Principles for Responsible Management Education (PRME) members. Through content analysis and thematic coding of reports by higher education institutions (HEIs), different E-Learning methods are identified; furthermore, 30 MOOCs are analyzed. Findings – HEIs apply a variety of blended and online learning to advance ESD for formal and nonformal education. The MOOCs offered by Nordic HEIs predominantly cover four SDGs (9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure; 13: Climate Action; 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities; and 16: Peace, Justice and strong Institutions), but there is nothing on SDG 2: No Hunger. That is in line with the Nordic countries’ status as developed economies, where these topics are often framed as political and societal priorities. Practical implications – The study’s results suggest that to avoid overlaps and fill gaps in ESD, the offer of open online courses should be orchestrated. Furthermore, HEIs can use our method to analyze their E-Learning courses related to SDGs. Originality/value – This study shows how business schools, especially Nordic UN PRME members, contribute to the SDGs by their MOOC coverage.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)196-211
Number of pages16
Publication statusPublished - 2022

Bibliographical note

Published online: 16 June 2021


  • Nordic
  • Morphological box
  • Sustainability transition
  • E-learning
  • Blended learning
  • Online learning
  • Higher education
  • Education for sustainable development
  • Sustainable development
  • SDGs
  • Agenda 2030
  • Massive open online course
  • MOOCs
  • United Nations Principles for Responsible Management Education

Cite this