Mark Kulp, Dinah Maygarden, and Ioannis Georgiou: Coastal Processes, Hazards and Society at the University of New Orleans
About this course
Course syllabus (Acrobat (PDF) 185kB Sep30 15)
A Success Story in Building Student Engagement
There has been an increased interest on our campus in offering online courses, so we presented this course as a hybrid online course, since it was our first effort doing an online offering. The students were initially a bit confused by the concept but quickly adjusted. We feel they benefited immensely by having some class time to work on assignments and/or ask questions.
My Experience Teaching with InTeGrate Materials
The course provides a very engaging and thorough exploration of coastal processes, coastal hazards, and the many critical decisions humans face because of our overwhelming reliance upon coastal zone resources. The course is robust and interdisciplinary, addressing questions that will become increasingly more important as human population grows and coastal zones feel increasing pressure of relative sea-level rise and coastal storms.
The majority (~90%) of the students in our first course were Earth science majors with considerable interest in the course materials and skills to manage the highly interdisciplinary nature of the course. Despite the fact that many of the students were juniors or seniors, many of them reported not having been fully exposed to some of the topics and concepts that are presented in the course. They also reported that they had started thinking about the global significance of coastal zones and not just their own backyard of coastal Louisiana.
Importantly the course also helps to develop and expand analytical skills through the manipulation and interpretation of many different data sets. Students are also required to develop spreadsheet skills and use mapping software.
The assessments originally constructed for the course were quickly discovered to be somewhat excessive, and students were initially very challenged with keeping up with the course requirements. They also become somewhat demoralized by the workload. As a result of these issues, several assessments were reduced in scope, and parts of some assessments were rewritten so that students had an easier time completing the assessments. This change helped alleviate many of the workload issues and did not sacrifice the rigor of the course. Another issue that was, unfortunately, not realized until halfway through the semester was that students were not taking the requirements of the capstone project seriously and had not started working on it until late in the course, which resulted in some poor capstone project results. It was realized that the relevance and importance of the capstone project needed to be addressed within the first week of the course, and that explicit milestones needed to be in place so that students progressively worked on the project through the course of the semester and did not wait until the very end of the course. In the current course, the changes to assessments have been included, and there is text that places an emphasis on working toward the capstone project through the semester. Ultimately, however, it is the instructor who needs to place an emphasis on the capstone project very early in the semester.
The overarching intent of this course is for students to gain a thorough understanding of the many complex scientific and social issues that the human population faces while inhabiting coastal zones. These complexities are addressed throughout the modules by pointing out: 1) the dynamic nature of coastal zones that are subjected to phenomena such as rising sea levels and coastal storms, 2) the global distribution of humans within coastal zones, 3) the engineering practices that are used in attempt to control coastal zone change and provide suitable areas for coastal habitation and use, and 4) the challenges of establishing policy that regulates the use of coastal zones and aims to mitigate against coastal hazards that can have substantial impact on a coastal society and coastal infrastructure.
Students learn about the science and social issues of coastal zones because of the interdisciplinary approach of the course with modules devoted to geology, coastal hazards, coastal engineering, and coastal policy. Each of these topics are covered for a quarter of the course, and material within each module builds upon material covered in previous modules, providing a well-balanced course with substantial depth. Throughout the course students are required to think about the linkage between these areas of focus and in the process develop a rich understanding of the challenges faced by societies within coastal zones.