Online Learning Expands Practical Knowledge in Urban Sanitation


When the World Bank and its partners first launched the course, "Planning & Design of Sanitation Systems and Technologies," in October 2016, they were determined to fill a critical need for a comprehensive capacity building program in urban sanitation. The course would use the global networks and accessible platforms of the Open Learning Campus and Coursera—and the operational knowledge and tools of the Bank—to develop the skills of interested learners.

This Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) has proven successful in that aim—it has now surpassed the 10,000 learners benchmark. This accomplishment is music to the ears of Martin Gambrill, the Lead Water and Sanitation Specialist in the World Bank’s Water Global Practice. As he noted in a blog post, “To make progress, urban development professionals and all stakeholders need to better understand how sanitation impacts the functions and form of the city and how it supports economic development and promotes equity. To achieve sustainable, equitable and safe management of excreta for the whole city, sanitation sector professionals must transform their thinking and practices to deploy both old and new solutions in smarter ways.” Thus, continuous learning and dialogue in this area is key for decision makers.

“Sanitation sector professionals must transform their thinking and practices to deploy both old and new solutions in smarter ways.”

Addressing the Complexity of Sanitation

The "Planning & Design of Sanitation Systems and Technologies" MOOC addresses citywide inclusive sanitation with a planning and systems approach. It offers case studies, diagnostic tools, and planning frameworks in urban sanitation solutions, and for specific contexts, such as informal settlements.

The MOOC is one of four in the online series, “Sanitation, Water and Solid Waste for Development.” EAWAG-SANDEC, in collaboration with École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), the World Bank Water and Sanitation Program, the Open Learning Campus, and the World Health Organization jointly developed these MOOCs to promote systems thinking for urban environmental sanitation.

The series is one of the Open Learning Campus’ many learning offerings on general sanitation and urban issues, to provide educational opportunities in these areas for more effective development. The curriculum for this series is constantly being updated, to make it current for learners to build their competencies in sanitations tools and technologies.

Emphasizing Dialogue and Recent Developments

Capacity building around citywide inclusive sanitation will be further emphasized at World Water Week in Stockholm, in late August 2017. The Bank’s Water Global Practice team will co-convene two sessions relevant to the “Planning & Design of Sanitation Systems and Technologies” MOOC and to their other “knowledge in implementation” initiatives.

In one session, the team will collaborate with SANDEC on how they can maximize new distance learning formats, such as the Open Learning Campus, to help bridge the skills gap for sanitation in the decades to come. In the other session, they will collaborate with other organizations on how to better operationalize urban sanitation through the different tools available. Dialogue from the sessions will be incorporated into future iterations of the MOOC.

The “Planning & Design of Sanitation Systems and Technologies” course is offered on a rolling basis, with a new session starting every four weeks; it is available in English or French, with subtitles in Spanish, Hindi, English, and French.


Related links


•  Open Learning Campus Related Sanitation Offerings
•  YouTube Channel with Trailer and Videos for Planning & Design of Sanitation Systems Course
•  EAWAG Course Series Home Page
•  Coursera Course Series Home Page
•  The Water Blog