Problem: how to organise a subject being held in the summer vacation. Solution: web site it!Kenneth Brown, Department of Environmental Sciences, University of Technology, Sydney
Subject 91124 Coastal and Marine Ecosystems is a second year option for the coastal and marine sub-major at the University of Technology, Sydney. This subject whilst a second year subject is taught intensively during the summer vacation between years 1 and 2. As with all our vacation-taught subjects, there have been problems with getting information to prospective students during this period. Students must apply well before the end of the previous semester (pre annual examination, pre vacation) and be supplied with details on how to get to Jervis Bay where the subject is taught, what to bring, timetable, and all the other miscellaneous 'instruction' to make a field taught subject successful.
What makes the field based subject so successful, apart from the glorious aspects of the Jervis Bay environment, with 5 or 6 days, of rain or shine, insect attack or sun-stroke, is the intensity of the course. Not quite army, but breakfast at 0700, then a lecture at 0800, another lecture follows the evening meal. The hours between are filled with either 'field skills' or a mini project. An examination is held when students return to Sydney (by week 4). Subject complete!
Lectures are 'PowerPointed' and copied to the web site along with all diagrams, tables and additional readings. Students therefore can access the material before the excursion! The web site is not merely a directory of instructions and forms, but is becoming increasingly interactive with revision questions, current students' field data, a depository of data collected from previous years, discussion groups and much more.
Yes it is a 'little' more work for staff in busy October to update the site, but the rewards speak for themselves. As the students are conditioned in first year to use the Web, there are no hassles about application forms etc. It is all there! Deposits and forms are collected before examinations and holidays. The students' response - why aren't there more subjects taught this way?
The URL for the web site (password protected) is: http://www.science.uts.edu.au/subjects/91124/.
UniServe Science News Volume 15 March 2000
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