This paper analyses the different ways in which both distance and conventional universities engage with learning and teaching. It argues that rather than seeing their roles as institutionally compartmentalised, there is much benefit in delivering online education through an institutional collaboration which develops synergies with a potential to contribute to citizen and professional practitioner empowerment, in this case, for debates about climate change. The example the paper draws on is that of a European Region Action Scheme for the Mobility of University Students (Erasmus) project 'The Lived experience of climate change (LECH-e): interdisciplinary e-module development and virtual mobility'. The project brings together five distance and three conventional universities across six EU countries, plus the European Association of Distance Teaching Universities (EADTU), to create a Master's curriculum in the area of climate change. It argues that universities across Europe have complementary strengths, both in terms of their disciplinary expertise and the ways in which they engage with students. Understanding the complex, real-world challenge of climate change requires a holistic approach which draws on these complementary strengths through collaborative work.