Underwater Lectures Anyone?

Talk about developments in teaching methodology –– from interactive presentations and videos to practical experience using stat-of-art tools and gadgets, it's all set to make a difference, and make work and play blend together beautifully. One such effort was recently done by the University of Essex for its students enrolled in a marine biology course –– an underwater class.

The students were taken for a field trip to the Wakatobi Marine National Park to better understand how climatic changes affect the coral reefs; a source of food and income to more than one billion people. Professor David Smith used specialized audio equipment for the underwater lectures so that he could converse and interact with his students, better explaining them what they were actually 'seeing.'

"It was a fantastic experience as I was able to use the power of observation like never before," explained Professor Smith. "I have been on thousands of dives over the years but this was a totally new experience as I was able to explain to students exactly what they were seeing and inject more passion and feeling into the whole lecture. It was very special and transformed the whole experience both for me and our students."

The specialized audio equipment, which was actually never used for 'underwater lectures,' but for formal lecturing and some professional divers, came from the university's teaching grant.

Professor Smith wore a full face mask with fitted microphones so that he could talk to his students, and the students had their headphones 'on.' An underwater microphone was also positioned in the water such that it was linked to the recorder and the control box on the boat.

This 'underwater study trip' has proved to be an enriching experience for the students, and over 1,000 videos taken during the underwater lectures may help students who actually couldn't attend the field trip gain a fresh experience as well.

"The underwater lectures were an invaluable part of the course as they enabled us to get a much better understanding of how all the components of the reef system were interacting with each other," marine biology student Tilly James said.

The university's Coral Reef Research Unit has a number of on-going research projects to develop different ways to work hand-in-hand with nature and find a solution to the serious threat that the coral reefs are currently facing.

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