Third year undergraduates in the Department of Life Sciences can opt for an African Biology Field Trip module as part of their degree. Normally, this means that they get the opportunity to visit South Africa for two weeks, to learn more about the practicalities of biological research in some of the Earth’s most spectacular biodiversity hotspots. COVID-19, however, meant that in 2020 students haven’t been able to physically travel abroad for this first term module. Professor Vincent Savolainen, who has organised the course over the past decade, guided efforts to adapt it into a remote offering. He wanted to ensure that students not only to met their learning objectives, but also experienced as much of the nature of the field course as possible via a virtual tour.
In this blog post Kiran Gawali and Lynn Danzig, from the FoNS Ed Tech team, share insights into how they supported Professor Savolainen in rethinking the field trip. As well as working closely with Life Sciences teaching staff, the team hosted six undergraduate student interns over the summer, and keenly emphasise the value of including students in the educational design process.
Pieces of a puzzle
In previous years, students on this course travelled to South Africa and visited a variety of different areas, from a fynbos vegetation in Klipbokkop Mountain Reserve, to wildlife havens like Botlierskop Game Reserve. Technology has played a key role in enabling this course to be run virtually, but in addition to making the most of multimedia, contributions from a range of people across the Faculty have been absolutely vital in piecing bits of the puzzle together. (more…)