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Engineering and Biology Professors Team Up to Offer Massive Online Graduate Course

Kyle Strom delivers course lecture on “Basics of Mud Transport” using Adobe Connect software.

Two University of Houston faculty members – Steve Pennings, professor of biology and biochemistry, and Kyle Strom, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering – are collaborating with other faculty around the country to offer a massive online graduate course that links biology and geomorphology.

The interdisciplinary course, “Linking Biology and Geomorphology in Coastal Wetlands (and Other Habitats),” is being offered for credit at nine universities. More than 140 people are participating, including graduate students and faculty members at over 30 academic institutions, and staff at nine National Estuarine Research Reserves and two Federal Agencies.

The course provides background on biological, geological and hydrological processes in wetlands, and considers how these processes interact to affect wetland structure and function. Lectures are being delivered online by 15 scientists from around the country.

“We’re very happy about the high level of interest in the course.” Pennings said. “It would be difficult for a single university to offer a specialized graduate course like this one that allows students to interact with so many experts in a field.”

Pennings added that video-conferencing technology has matured to the point that groups of faculty can collectively offer specialized graduate courses with an extraordinarily high level of content, giving them the ability to reach large audiences.

“We’re also grateful to Andrea Arias-Rodriguez from the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics IT Office for her technical support which made the online course possible,” Pennings said.

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