making MOOCs: Exploring Our Oceans

October 14, 2014 at 12:15 pm | Posted in MOOC | Leave a comment

The first in an occasional series reflecting on some of the work I have done to assist the creation of FutureLearn courses.

Exploring Our Oceans was Southampton’s second course, and my contribution was to create some of the images and diagrams. One example I am really pleased with was for a step in week 2 ‘How much water is there on Earth?’. Learners were presented with the data they needed to calculate the answer to these three questions:

  • If the global oceans were of uniform depth, what would that depth be?
  • What is the ratio of the average depth of the oceans to the radius of the Earth?
  • If you could take all the ocean water off the planet to form a ball of water, what would be its radius?

We knew that many learners would not have the GCSE-level maths skills required, so I produced a set of four slides (PDF) that showed the answers to these questions using visual analogies that any learner could understand. For example:

  • The calculated uniform depth is 3743m, which I compared to the 3776m height of Mt. Fuji in Japan – so as deep as a mountain!
  • The ratio of depth to radius is 1/1700, which I compared to a sheet of office paper wrapped around a football.
  • The ball of water would be just over 1/10 of the radius of Earth, so about the same size as a pea compared to an orange.

For that final question, I also used PhotoShop to process a stock illustration from Shutterstock by Anton Balazh to show that ball of water hanging above North America and the oceans empty of water:

Sattelite view of North America showing a vast ball of water hanging in space.

Image © Adam Warren, based on a Shutterstock image by Anton Balazh.

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