online learning

A very cold classroom

In Norway, they say there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.

Back home in New Zealand, I wouldn’t tolerate giving a lecture in minus 8 degrees C – or minus 17 if you take the windchill into account. But down here at Scott Base, that’s just fine, because I’m dressed for the weather. Cliff and I have settled in – we’ve been running around with the camera trying to catch what we can of our K001 team, led by Tim Naish from the Antarctic Research Centre and Richard Levy from GNS, as they prep for their trip to Friis Hills. We’ve also gathered general footage from around Scott Base, McMurdo Station (the annual Turkey Trots fun run) and the surrounding landscape. And we’ve started recording lectures. There’s still loads to do, but it’s great to have made  a start. I’m just about to run off to skidoo training – it will be great to have our own means of getting about – but here are a few pics.

We flew down in a Safair hercules - seven and a half hours from Christchurch. Photo Rebecca Priestley.

We flew down in a Safair hercules – seven and a half hours from Christchurch. Photo Rebecca Priestley.

Prepping for a lecture: Module 1, Lecture 5: Surviving Antarctica. In this lecture I talk about food, fuel and transport and how these needs have been met in different ways over time.

Prepping for a lecture: Module 1, Lecture 5: Surviving Antarctica. In this lecture I talk about food, fuel and transport and how these needs have been met in different ways over time. Photo Rebecca Priestley.

Cliff has been getting some great outdoor footage so far - the camera is dealing really well with the white landscape.

Cliff has been getting some great outdoor footage so far – the camera is dealing really well with the white landscape. Photo Rebecca Priestley.

Antarctica online

We're heading to Antarctica. Keen to know what we find? Take our Antarctica online course - launching in 2015 - and we'll bring you Antarctic science, history, art and more.

We’re heading to Antarctica. Keen to know what we find? Take our Antarctica online course – launching in 2015 – and we’ll bring you Antarctic science, history, art and more.

Rhian and I have been pre-recording lectures for our online courses for three years now. Our online courses are asynchronous, which means that students can watch the lectures when and where it suits them – they just need to complete the assignments that are due at the end of each module. Some of our lectures are filmed in a classroom environment, with the lecturer appearing in one screen, and their slides appearing in another screen. But the thing about pre-recording lectures like this, is that there is no need to use a classroom environment – sometimes the teaching is much more effective if you can show the students something they wouldn’t see in a classroom, sort of like taking them on a virtual fieldtrip.

So far, we’ve recorded lectures in places such as a chemistry laboratory, a rooftop beehive, a botanical garden, and a hillstop wind farm. But we’re about to start recording some of our most exciting field lectures ever.

If you’re putting together an online course about Antarctic science, what better place to film the lectures than Antarctica? Thanks to support from Antarctica New Zealand, the Antarctic Research Centre and the Faculty of Science, that’s what we’re about to do. On Thursday I’m flying to Antarctica with Cliff Atkins, a geologist from the School of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences who’s already been to Antarctica 10 times. I’m putting together a module on Antarctic science history and he’s putting together a module on Antarctic geology and paleoclimate research. We’ll also be gathering footage for a module about the role of Antarctica, globally and culturally, that will be led by Rhian – who will be busy at conferences in the US and Canada while we’re on the ice – and Leon Gurevitch from the School of Design. Our Antarctica online course will be launched in 2015, and will be available to anyone with an interest in Antarctica – no prerequisites! – to take through the Centre for Lifelong Learning.

We’ll keep you posted as to how it’s going.

Here’s what our classroom lectures look like:

A typical classroom style lecture: this one's from my history of science course, SCIE312. The split screen shows the lecturer in one frame and the slides in another frame.

A typical classroom style lecture: this one’s from my history of science course, SCIE312. The split screen shows the lecturer in one frame and the slides in another frame.

Our new lectures could look something like this:

Cliff Atkins, 2012, Nansen Ice Sheet. In 2012 Cliff was doing some research into dust flux on the Nansen Ice Shelf, along the coast of Victoria Land. In this picture he’s part of a two man team – one driving the skidoo, one steering the sledge, setting up dust traps across the ice shelf.

Cliff Atkins, 2012, Nansen Ice Sheet. In 2012 Cliff was doing some research into dust flux on the Nansen Ice Shelf, along the coast of Victoria Land. In this picture he’s part of a two man team – one driving the skidoo, one steering the sledge, setting up dust traps across the ice shelf.

Or this:

Rebecca Priestley, 2011, Taylor Valley. Rebecca’s first visit to Antarctica was on Antarctica New Zealand’s invited media programme. She wrote a series of blog posts, several articles for The New Zealand Listener, and gathered material for an anthology of Antarctic Science that will published by Awa Press in 2015.

Rebecca Priestley, 2011, Taylor Valley. Rebecca’s first visit to Antarctica was on Antarctica New Zealand’s invited media programme. She wrote a series of blog posts, several articles for The New Zealand Listener, and gathered material for an anthology of Antarctic Science that will published by Awa Press in 2015.