National Forest Monitoring

10 free online courses on forest monitoring you don’t want to miss

Since COVID-19 first turned our world upside down in early 2020, most sectors have been forced to rethink the way they do business. This holds true also for individuals, governments and organizations that want to improve countries’ capacities to monitor and protect the world’s forests.

One of the best ways to innovate has been found in the use of online learning tools and courses, which have seen an unprecedented growth. Whilst we acknowledge the need to further bridge the digital divide and not leave behind an estimated 3.6 billion people who remain off-line, it should also be recognized that virtual learning platforms facilitate greater outreach to a wider audience and can help transfer skills, competences and knowledge without having to leave your lounge room. To paraphrase an old adage, if the students won’t come to the classroom, then the classroom must go to them.

Let’s have a closer look at some of the latest free and self-paced online courses from various partners and leading institutions which can help boost your skills and competencies in forest monitoring.

If you want to learn more about how forest data is used for reporting to international processes, you would like the next two e-learning courses recently launched by Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO):

  • Forests and transparency under the Paris Agreement (1), available in English, French and Spanish. This course helps to understand the importance of forest-related data collection, analysis and dissemination to meet the Enhanced Transparency Framework requirements of the Paris Agreement on climate change. The course has been developed under FAO/GEF the “Building global capacity to increase transparency in the forest sector (CBIT-Forest)” project in close collaboration with the United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change (UNFCCC).

  • SDG Indicators 15.1.1 and 15.2.1 - Forest area and sustainable forest management (2), available in English, Spanish and French – shows how FAO Global Forest Resources Assessment (FRA) collects data and supports countries to report on and track progress towards the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 15 – Life on Land.

After having successfully completed the English versions of the courses, you will receive a digital badge which you can add to your social media profiles and use to progress your career.

These courses are available through the FAO e-learning Academy’s portfolio of over 350 multilingual e-learning courses, which includes other forest-related courses.

The REDD+Academy is part of the UN-REDD Programme's capacity development initiative. It includes two comprehensive online courses (second edition 2018) to support partner countries to deliver REDD+ on the ground. They courses are available in English, French and Spanish and are structured into 6 modules, each one taking around 2 or 3 hours to complete:

  • Fundamentals on REDD+ (3) covers the basics of REDD+, from the elements required under the UNFCCC to how to prepare and implement REDD+ at the national level through a National Strategy or Action Plan, including financial resource available.

  • Advancing on REDD+ (4) discusses more in detail the other three REDD+ elements, the importance of engaging in the process the relevant stakeholders and the principles of a good governance.

Similarly, the Global Observation of Forest Cover and Land Dynamics Project (GOFC-GOLD), in cooperation with the World Bank, has created a series of training modules (5) covering good practice guidance on REDD+ Measurement, Reporting and Verification (MRV) topics ranging from design to reporting. The materials include video lectures, slides, exercises and country examples, which are available in English, French and Spanish. Moreover, on the GOFC-GOLD website you will also find the video recordings of the REDD+ MRV webinars (6).

For a technical audience, the US SilvaCarbon programme, in collaboration with Boston University, has recently published an e-learning course on Sampling-Based Estimation of Area and Map Accuracy (7), available in English, Spanish and French. The course is part of a new series of e-learning courses focused on forest monitoring and MRV for REDD+ and is applicable to tropical forested countries right around the world.

Last but not least, if you are interested in Earth Observations (EO) we invite you to explore the resources made available from EO College, a dedicated online education/capacity platform. On their website you can find the e-learning course Echoes in space (8), which teaches you how to use the Radar Remote Sensing; and many other resources which are relevant for monitoring forests from space, including Biomass estimation using Synthetic Aperture Radar data (9) and Change detection - Introduction to principles and methods (10).

This isn’t enough? If we haven’t got you covered, comment below to share your experience with existing or ‘missing’ online courses on forest monitoring. We look forward to hearing your suggestions to expand the list and boost our skills to better understand, protect and sustainably use the world’s forests during these extraordinary times and beyond.

The original version of this article was published on the website of the Global Forest Observations Initiative (GFOI) at this link.


Julian Fox

Senior Forestry Officer

Team Leader, National Forest Monitoring (NFM) Team

FAO Forestry Division


Anssi Pekkarinen

Senior Forestry Officer

Team Leader, Global Forest Resources Assessment (FRA)

FAO Forestry Division


Sara Maulo

Communications Specialist, Global Forest Observations Initiative (GFOI) Office

FAO Forestry Division


GFOI is a partnership for tracking forests for climate action. The mission of GFOI is to coordinate the delivery of international support in forest monitoring to developing countries with collaborative support from a large and diverse community of international donors, development partners, space agencies, academia and other experts. FAO is a leading partner of the GFOI.