EdX Offers First Ever Shark-Centric Online Course
EdX, an online learning organization founded by Harvard and MIT, has just teamed up with Cornell University and University of Queensland to launch a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) on one of the most feared creatures in the animal kingdom – sharks.
The course, titled “Sharks! Global Biodiversity, Biology, and Conservation”, will begin on June 28, 2016, just in time for Discovery Channel’s annual Shark Week.
Learn How Scientists Study Shark’s
Students enrolled in the course will
“learn how scientists study sharks… will join researchers on location in labs, aquariums, and oceans across the globe to learn about the biodiversity, biology, and conservation of sharks, rays, and chimaeras.”
Students will learn about shark habitats and worldwide distribution, shark evolution, functional anatomy, reproduction and behavior, shark-human interactions, and how human behavior affects shark population.
The course will be taught by six experts from fields of ecology, evolutionary biology, and paleontology, drawing upon years of experience and research
“to present the latest in shark science to educate on what is largely a misunderstood or misrepresented species,”
said Ian Tibbetts, a University of Queensland Associate Professor of Biology and one of the course instructors.
Another instructor, William Bemis, Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Cornell University, said that studying sharks has become safer and more exciting due to the recent innovations and advances in technology like satellite tagging and CT scanning.
With better equipment, students can even study sharks through Twitter. Since 2011, Australia has had more fatal shark attacks than any other country.
Since then, researchers have made use of a tagging system to pinpoint the location of the sharks so that swimmers and beach-goers can be forewarned.
This means that anyone with a Twitter account can find out where these sharks are located and avoid meeting them in the water.
Online Course Will Help Banish Shark Fear
There has been consistent negative hype about sharks through the years, propelled further by films like Jaws.
The instructors behind the course hope to shed more light on sharks and to help people understand them as more than the vengeful creatures featured in the films.
Peter Benchley, author of the novel Jaws himself, realized that the change in how people saw sharks was greatly affected by the release of the film based on his book. Thereafter, he spent the rest of his life campaigning for the protection of sharks.
At that time, hundreds of people were sailing into the open seas, bent on catching and killing sharks for fame.
“There was no remorse,” George Burgess, director of the Florida Program for Shark Research in Gainesville said in a BBC article a year ago. “There was a mindset that they were man-killers.”
Biologist Dr. Julian Baum suggested that between 1986 and 2000, there was a huge population decline across different shark species.
Anant Agarwal, edX CEO and MIT professor, expressed delight and hope that the course would help in banishing shark stereotypes and preserving the current shark population.
“I’m delighted that our partners Cornell University and University of Queensland are teaming up to offer edX learners a comprehensive look at sharks and the science and people driving new discoveries.”
The course is free and lasts for about a month, taking up only 4 – 6 hours every week.