Resource Database: Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences

Title The Use of the Internet and World-wide Web in the Development of New Courses
Originator Trevor Emmett
Department Department of Geology, Anglia Polytechnic University, UK
Tel. +44 (0)1223 363271 (Ext.2346)
Fax +44 (0)1223 352979

The introduction and development of new courses is now seen as an integral part of the strategic plans of most UK HE institutions. Often, this involves little more than minor re-jigging and re-naming of existing courses to take opportunistic advantage of short-lived(?) 'niche markets' (e.g. parts of biology courses become 'food science', physics becomes 'energy in the environment', and so on). Small geology departments have extremely limited potential for this sort of activity, but three years ago it was decided to develop, in collaboration with other projects within the University, some courses in remote sensing in general, and planetary geology in particular. These courses have now run for a full year; they have recruited well and have been favourably received by the students that have taken them.

Resources to teach and support these new courses were virtually non-existent, and had to be acquired with minimal recourse to the University's financial base. That the new courses are now established and working well would not have been possible without apparently cost-free resources available via the Internet and WWW. The support obtained from the Internet/WWW can be divided into three categories:

  1. Recent advances in sensor platforms and data-processing methodologies. This is a rapidly moving field and the resources of the WWW were indispensable in designing and implementing up-to-date curricula.
  2. Access to databases and exemplar material. All remote sensing requires data, mostly images, and much of this is now available commercially (all be it at reduced cost to academics etc.). The ability to pull a useful number of very large data sets of the Internet/WWW was probably the key to making new courses even faintly feasible. It was also possible to acquire some very useful and powerful software (mostly free) in this way.
  3. Access to bibliographic and other databases. Access to the recent literature is, of course, an essential and indispensable requirement of all HE courses. Being able to access (mostly) US databases and judicious use of the ILL system allowed this to take place for the new courses with minimal demands on existing library resources.

It is no small advantage that these resources are available not only to lecturers designing and delivering the courses, but also in the self-same way to students taking the courses. The Internet and World-Wide Web are powerful tools which should enable all institutions to offer a greater variety of high quality and up-to-date courses in a diverse range of subjects. Such developments would, under normal circumstances, be prohibitively expensive for most publicly funded institutions.


Remote sensing
World Wide Web (WWW)

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