The AMS Online Ocean Studies program at the University of Alaska Fairbanks

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Monday, 18 January 2010
John J. Kelley, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Fairbanks, AK; and C. Gering, C. Lott, H. Olson, and D. W. Norton

Proper stewardship of the ocean is critical to the long-term vitality of all nations and is a serious concern for Alaska citizens. The ocean provides food and recreation and contributes to the state's economic health. It is also important to national security, and is a major player in the global climate system. Knowledge about the ocean is a basic requirement for both science and non-science track college students. The AMS Online Ocean Sciences Program offers an opportunity to extend its general marine sciences instruction beyond the Fairbanks campus to all of Alaska and beyond.

The University of Alaska Fairbanks is a research and teaching institution with a strong interest in the Arctic. It is also a minority institution providing services to the many Alaska Native communities. Many of these communities are dependent on the sea for their support. Because of the great distances between communities in a state which is nearly one-fifth the size of the United States, distance education is an important component of Alaska's educational outreach. The UAF Center for Distance Education and independent Learning provides the capability to design and implement distance delivered courses.

For many years the School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences (SFOS) offered an introductory course in the marine sciences, " The Oceans" which continues to enroll a large number of undergraduate students. Students are primarily drawn from the interior Alaska. Frequent requests from potential students in other regions led to the search for an appropriate course which could be delivered entirely by web and would also include web-delivered laboratory exercises. The AMS Online Ocean Studies program was chosen for implementation during the course of the International Polar Year 2007/08. It fits one of the IPY objectives for educational outreach. The AMS course is closely tied to the SFOS introductory course. The AMS course (MSL 111X) was offered during fall 2008, spring and summer 2009 semesters. It was supported through the UAF Center for Distance Education and Independent Learning. Emphasis and learning resources reflected the importance of the polar regions in general and Arctic in particular to problems associated with climate change.