An innovative partnership between the world’s largest geosciences company and an award-winning university has paved the way for the launch of a global distance-learning programme tailored to offshore industries.
The Hydrographic Academy will provide vital scientific and technical education to students working on oil rigs and survey vessels thousands of miles away from the nearest college or university.
The Academy – launched by Plymouth University and Fugro, with support from Flag Officer Sea Training – Hydrography, Meteorology (FOST-HM) and the Centre of Excellence in Naval Oceanographic Research and Education (CENORE) – will offer undergraduate and postgraduate diplomas, as well as Masters-level programmes. It aims to address repeated calls from the geosciences industry for improved levels of training and education in fields such as hydrography, oceanography and meteorology.
It will even take account of the lack of online access that most off-shore students will face, by storing all of the learning resources and assignments on a single 8-gigabyte memory stick.
The stick will house an HTML ‘portal’ through which the modules can be accessed. Then, once students have internet connection, they can upload assignments, download new materials, and even conduct tutorials over Skype. They are also encouraged to upload videos to a secure area of Youtube to share their reflections and experiences with academics.
Dr Richard Thain, of Britannia Royal Naval College and the University’s School of Marine Science and Engineering, said: "The Hydrographic Academy answers the call for career development and training opportunities in the off-shore and oil industries, and for the first time, establishes a pathway for school-leavers to enter the sector.
"You can be in the middle of the Pacific or Southern Ocean, thousands of miles from your tutor, but still be learning and developing thanks to the technology at hand.”
Partners Fugro, who are based in over 50 countries worldwide and have an employee base of 13,500, have worked with Plymouth, FOST-HM and CENORE to develop the curriculum and the technical platform.
Andy McNeill, Fugro’s Global Learning and Development Manager, commented: "Fugro’s involvement is driven by the need not just to raise standards but to make education more accessible and broader reaching given the on-going shortage of supply of suitably qualified and experienced staff. It provides an educational and qualification route for us that is not currently available other than through full-time study.”
Thirteen students from Fugro have successfully completed the pilot project, and the programme will be officially launched at Oceanology 2012 at London Excel on Wednesday (14th March).
Some of the most important bodies in the industry, including the International Hydrographic Organisation, the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors, and the Chartered Institution of Civil Engineering Surveyors, have indicated their support for the Hydrographic Academy.
The University, which boasts one of the largest Marine Institutes in Europe, says that more than 60 students have registered for one of the programmes already, from countries as far afield as America, Australia, India and Central Africa.
Professor Richard Gibb, Pro Vice-Chancellor, and Dean of the Faculty of Science and Technology, said: "Plymouth University was born as a School of Navigation, providing education and training for seafarers. It is fitting, therefore, that in our 150th year, just weeks after we were awarded the Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education in respect of our marine and maritime work, that we can help launch a new model of education and career development for the maritime sector.”
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