Blog posts

How do you take a field trip to South Africa and make it accessible for students studying remotely?

An image showing and example of the Google Earth virtual tour

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…)

EDI in Life Sciences: a Department perspective

Illustration showing lots of different people's profiles in multi-colours in a collage

By Dr Kenji Okuse, Chair of EDI Committee, Department of Life Sciences

I came to the UK from Japan in 1995, and as a non-White member of society, had my own perspective on equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) issues, but to be honest I hadn’t thought about them seriously until I had the opportunity to get involved with the Department of Life Sciences (DoLS) EDI Committee in May 2019. I first took on the role of interim Chair, and now act as the Chair of the Committee. There are many complex and evolving issues in EDI, and my aim as Chair is to make our Department a fairer and friendlier place for everyone no matter, who they are or what role they have. (more…)