British school takes lecture classes to new depths -- 60 feet down

May 20, 2013 at 6:56 PM
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ESSEX, England, May 20 (UPI) -- Britain's University of Exeter says it has taken its marine biology lecture classes to a new level -- 60 feet beneath the sea off Indonesia, to be exact.

The lectures were held during dives on tropical coral reef systems during the annual field trip to the Wakatobi Marine National Park in Indonesia for the school's School of Biological Sciences students, a university release said Monday.

For the unique lectures, marine biology Professor David Smith used specialized audio equipment so he could talk to students underwater, explaining exactly what they were seeing as the students studied their surroundings.

Smith wore a full face mask that included a microphone, and the students wore headsets so they could hear him talk.

This was a significant advancement over usual underwater communication involving basic slates to write on and hand signals, school officials said.

"It was a fantastic experience as I was able to use the power of observation like never before," Smith said. "I have been on thousands of dives over the years but this was a totally new experience as I was able to explain to students exactly what they were seeing and inject more passion and feeling into the whole lecture."

Fifteen hours of video taken during the lectures will be a valuable virtual field course resource for students who are not able to travel to Indonesia, school officials said.

Students who participated in the dive lectures praised the concept.

"The underwater lectures were an invaluable part of the course as they enabled us to get a much better understanding of how all the components of the reef system were interacting with each other," sophomore biology student Tilly James said.

"It was an experience you simply cannot get with traditional lectures."

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