Reef HQ Video Conferencing for Online Learning

Virtual field trip through live video conferencing with Australia’s national aquarium

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to dive the truly magnificent Great Barrier Reef in Australia? Well now the Reef HQ aquarium has made this breathtaking experience possible, thanks to the wonders of video conferencing.

From simple applications, like Skype and FaceTime, to sophisticated systems from vendors such as Polycom, video conferencing paves the way for supporting real time face-to-face interaction from a distance, with anyone or anywhere, using any number of devices.

So what can be more amazing than taking environmental science students from around the world on an interactive tour of the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, without ever leaving home? That’s exactly what Australia’s Reef HQ Aquarium has figured out how to do, using sophisticated Polycom video conferencing technology complete with true-to-life high-definition sound and videos. As a result underwater scuba divers can now actually see, hear, speak, and interact with students, empowering them to experience firsthand the world’s largest living coral reef aquarium, located in Townsville North Queensland.

At Reef HQ Aquarium, we believe that learning is a lifelong process. Through the provision of experiential educational initiatives, such as our Reef Video Conferencing Program, Reef HQ Aquarium ensures students of all ages have a clear understanding of the value of the Great Barrier Reef, the threats to a sustainable future, and their role in protecting it. Our Reef video conferencing program is recognized as an example of global best practice in the use of video based outreach education.

This online program engages students of all ages, abilities, and levels of study from some of the most remote corners of the world, in what can only be called relevant and culturally rich interactive learning by immersing them in the reef’s extraordinary sounds and colors with marine life experts on hand to narrate the journey and field questions along the way. These students are exploring a wealth of fascinating topics from climate change and coastal ecosystems, to species conservation and coral bleaching. In fact, over the last six years Reef HQ aquarium has reached over 700 locations, including China to engage more than 60,000 participants. The program has also won numerous global awards for innovation and best practices in teaching and learning, a real tribute to both the aquarium’s marine life team and the video conferencing.

What are the chances that a majority of students will have the opportunity to explore an ocean far away or more importantly, with a top scientist or expert as a personal guide? A journey down under reveals an innovative online program that is swimming in delightful content and providing students (and instructors) around the world an experience they won’t soon forget.

The national aquarium of Australia, Reef HQ has taken video conferencing online to a new level. Students around the globe can experience the Australia’s Great Barrier Reef in true-to-life, high-definition sound and visuals while being taught from underwater.

Video Conferencing from Underwater  video conference, online virtual field trip

Video conferences can be defined as real-time video interactions between two or more users that reside in different locations. Video conferencing software typically includes interactive features that allow users to share their screens, remotely access each others desktops, chat via text, exchange files, communicate via digital whiteboards, polling, and audio/video recording.

Many education institutions are using videoconferencing to enrich the communication between faculty and students, as well as to help deepen a student’s connection with the content. In this case, Reef HQ is using videoconferencing to conduct virtual field trips connecting subject matter experts in a living coral reef to students in classrooms across the globe.

Scuba divers can see, hear and interact with students giving them a first-hand experience of the delicate marine ecosystem and habitats of the world’s largest living coral reef aquarium located in Townsville, North Queensland. “Students today have more options for education, both formally and informally. The scope for delivering education has broadened greatly with advances in technology and increased accessibility,” says Fred Nucifora, executive director at Reef HQ Aquarium.

Ocean Online Learning

The online program has achieved great success on a global scale giving K-12, universities and many more organizations a completely unique experience. Divers and experienced marine biologists create relevant and culturally rich and interactive learning experiences.

A variety of topics are covered from learning about predators of the coral reef such as black tip reef sharks, leopard sharks and the Maori Wrasse to discussions on adaptions of different marine creatures to the environment to examining relationships that exists between organisms like coral to symbiotic algae. In one program, students discuss the rising ecological threats to the reef and ocean sustainability while examining impact on marine life.

“With Polycom video solutions, we are now reaching more students in more countries, including some of the most remote corners of the world, in a much more engaging and interactive way,” says Nucifora. “Without video collaboration, we would not be able to bring the colours and sounds of marine life, and students would not get to see firsthand the issues affecting the Great Barrier Reef as easily as it happens now.”video conferencing online, virtual field trip

Reef HQ’s online program has been the highlight of many live educational sessions and events over video. These include World Ocean’s Day, World Environment Day, and World Earth Day. At the Centre of Global Education and Taking IT Global Conference called “The Impact of Climate Change on Global Indigenous Communities,” Reef HQ Aquarium brought indigenous community elders from North Queensland to a global audience from 14 countries.

By using video conferencing to reach and serve students, Reef HQ fulfills its mission online. It is understandable why the aquarium and their partners in Townsville are rapidly growing the numbers of students selecting to study abroad there. Providing a virtual experience gives tremendous exposure while planting deep seeds of learning.