In FOCUS: A look at building online courses for marine biotechnology and coastal tourism

focus_logoOver the past year, Professor Catherine Legrand and MPEA research assistant Elisabeth Carlsson have brought LNU into an EU-funded blue-growth project with partners in Denmark, Poland, and Lithuania. The project, Facilitating blue growth with open courses by utilizing R&D products and virtual mobility (FOCUS)aims to offer completely new courses in marine biotechnology and in coastal tourism, using online platforms, free of charge to students. I sat down with Elisabeth Carlsson, who has been working with FOCUS since LNU first got involved, to tell me more about the project.

Hi Elisabeth! So, FOCUS is a project that you and Catherine have been working on for a while. Can you tell me a bit about what it is and what your role in it is?
The FOCUS project is a collaboration between five universities from four different countries around the Baltic Sea; Sweden, Denmark, Poland and Lithuania. It’s an EU-financed and Interreg South Baltic Project. The aim of the project is to enable an exchange and transfer of knowledge from the research and development sector to anyone who’s interested to broaden their knowledge in marine biotechnology or coastal tourism. Therefore, we are going to develop open online courses in these two subjects by working in our cross-border teams. I am part of the marine biotechnology team and we are just in the process of creating the courses.

What has it been like to work with representatives from other universities from a distance?
It has been and it is very interesting and fun! We are having our almost weekly meetings in smaller groups where we discuss ideas and problems to develop the courses. It’s interesting to collaborate with people from other countries, see and learn how they are working and thinking. I think that’s our strength, that we come from different backgrounds with different views and we all can learn something from each other’s way of thinking and working. We get inspired by each other!

IMG_4348.jpg
The FOCUS group: 5 universities from 4 countries collaborating on creating 2 online courses for Blue Growth.


Creating an online course from scratch must be exciting and daunting! What have been the  challenges?

You could say that one of the challenges is that we are working in cross-border teams and that we don’t have the opportunity to meet in person. It takes more time and effort to schedule meetings where everyone can participate and you have to be prepared for each meeting so you don’t forget to what you wanted to discuss.

Major universities from around the world, like Harvard University, have created free online courses for all those interested in learning. There are also many available at cost for credit, such as the EdX online courses. Once this course has been created, could it possibly serve as a template for creating other distance courses and bring LNU and BOM into this growing educational tool?
Hopefully! It would be fun if our concept later could be used as template to create similar open online courses.

What do you most look forward to once you have created these courses?
I am very interested and excited to see how the courses are received by the course participants and to get their feedback and thoughts!

Images from the most recent FOCUS conference, hosted by LNU at Kalmar Harbour Campus 

 

To learn more about the FOCUS project, please feel free to visit these links: 

https://lnu.se/en/research/searchresearch/forskningsprojekt/project-facilitating-blue-growth-with-open-courses/

https://www.ku.lt/focus/#about_project

 

-Caroline Littlefield, interviewing Elisabeth Carlsson

 

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