History professor Ian Wereley firmly believes that, “if we study the energy experiences of the past, we can learn lessons for how to deal with the challenges of the future.”

Kaiser William II visiting the oil wells of Romania

Kaiser William II visiting the oil wells of Romania

This was what the Carleton University history professor had in mind when he started designing A History of Oil in 2015/16 in collaboration with the Educational Development Centre at Carleton. A year later, Wereley brought A History of Oil (HIST 2910) online, where he could offer his students a one-of-a-kind learning experience.

In this completely online course, students will explore the history of oil from the ancient period to present day. Using a transnational approach, Wereley will introduce students to the interconnected histories of oil in countries across the world. Students will use a series of themes – science, technology, conflict and culture – to guide their learning of oil, ultimately learning the various ways in which the resource has shaped both the past and the present.

“The purpose of this course is to teach students about the transition toward oil, and to better equip them for the inevitable transition away from oil,” Wereley explains. With this goal in mind, he says he wanted to design the course to be accessible to learners from all disciplines. “Oil impacts everyone and every discipline,” he says, “and to solve the daunting energy challenges that lay ahead of us, we will need to bring together talented people from across the disciplinary spectrum.”

Oil touches our lives, especially as Canadians, everyday. Our dependency on the resource only fuels its omnipresence – it is seemingly everywhere, in everything, used by everyone. Whether it is in the form of cosmetics we put on our faces to the fluids we use to light our barbecues and campfires, Wereley’s point is inarguable – it makes our modern lives possible.

“At the same time,” Wereley continues, “Canadians are feeling the stresses of a world moving away from fossil fuels: a sinking dollar, the near-collapse of Canada’s oilfields, and growing pressure to build green energy technology.” With so much of our nation’s economy riding on oil, Wereley says Canadians want to know what we stand to gain from shifting to new energy resources.

These are some of the uncertainties Wereley hopes to address in his course. With the help of 21st century technologies, Wereley has enhanced it with creative activities that will present the subject matter in a compelling way.

This course is to be offered online in the summer of 2019.

By Bianca Chan, BJ 2017 (Carleton)

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