The University of Miami’s Department of Cinema and Interactive Media at the School of Communication has received a two-year grant of over $405,000 from the Friends of Stark Parks in conjunction with the Herbert W. Hoover Foundation. The funding will go towards the creation of a unique Open Educational Resource (OER) that will not only explain the science underlying ocean health management, but also help bring the specific work of top researchers from their worldwide field locations to university curricula.

In an effort to develop “Media Building-Blocks of Ocean Health Knowledge,” this complete collection of course materials and activities will consist of 10 highly interactive modules, covering a range of topics such as carbon storage and climate change, artisanal fishing opportunities and policies, biodiversity and coastal protection.  These resources will be made available to universities around the world in a global effort to promote understanding and preserve ocean health.

“Ocean health is an example of content that matters. In our time, we need to incorporate our storytelling skills to bring the magic of science and exploration not only to a TV documentary but further to an interactive engaging experience for the next generation of students – where they are expected to retain such content,” said Ali Habashi, an award-winning documentary filmmaker and lecturer at the Department of Cinema and Interactive Media who is producing this project. “The real value here is to organize our expanding knowledge with an adjustable pace that lends itself to education.”

Original videos showcasing researchers working and interacting with various stakeholders in the field, above and under water, would be central to each module. Several of these stories have already been filmed by Habashi’s team in the most exotic and environmentally rich locations – such as Indonesia, Chile, Singapore, Hawaii and California.

“This open educational resource may prove to be a model for us with its production values, use of world renowned experts, and interactive qualities.  I have seen some rough cuts of the materials to be used and I think the final product is going to be remarkable,” said Gregory Shepherd, dean of the UM School of Communication.

Each module of the eight-week OER will be reviewed and hosted by leading marine biologists from Conservation International, marine fellows from The Pew Charitable Trusts and other distinguished researchers such as Dr. Mark Erdmann, Dr. Stefan Gelcich, Dr. Ruth Gate, Dr. Mike Beck and Dr. Ben Halpern in order to ensure the accuracy of the scientific content, syllabus, case studies, discussions and assignments.

The Open Educational Resource will be managed in conjunction with The Friends of Stark Parks, an organization that supports strengthening and expanding of field experience and service learning opportunities for students and faculty at five colleges and universities in Stark County.

“For more than forty years, Herbert W. Hoover Foundation initiatives have supported major international research to provide accurate information through scientific investigation; created awareness through public information and education, and taken action to support environmental protection efforts,” said Herbert W. Hoover Foundation Chair, Elizabeth Lacey Hoover. “Now is the time to re-evaluate the traditional paradigms of education in ocean science and look for meaningful innovation.”

This article was orginally written for UM News by Barbara Gutierrez