Universitas 21 (U21) has announced the winners of the Global Education Enhancement Fund and is offering $5,000 per institution to support members in delivering and enhancing higher education for a rapidly changing and uncertain future. UNSW Science is the only faculty at UNSW who had successful projects, and they are led by Dr Vinh Nguyen, School of Chemistry, and Dr Shane Keating, School of Mathematics and Statistics. The lead institution for 25% of the successful projects announced, UNSW Science received approximately 10% of the total funding available.

The School of Chemistry’s senior lecturer Dr Vinh Nguyen will lead the project Interactive online demonstrations for undergraduate organic chemistry laboratory experiments and will work with colleagues at the University of Melbourne and the University of Birmingham. 

“Despite the globalization of science and chemical education, the contents and quality of organic chemistry labs, even among members of the Universitas 21, are inconsistent due to variation in personnel, infrastructures and focus of programs, even though the core desired skill sets from these laboratories are similar across programmes and countries,” Dr Nguyen said.

“Learning these lab skills solely in a laboratory setting is not advantageous to undergraduate students who are often concentrating more on completing the specific task at hand, as well as experiencing safety and time stresses around equipment and chemicals. We really wanted to provide an opportunity for students to explore organic chemistry online.”

Together, they will develop a new database of interactive live-action demonstration video clips of organic chemistry laboratory core-skills and common experiments based on current curricula from all three institutions. With this database, the project aims to use Australian and UK frameworks to standardize a common toolkit for teaching organic labs to undergraduate students before they even enter the lab.

Senior lecturer Dr Shane Keating, School of Mathematics and Statistics, will lead the project Climate in the Cloud: Web-enabled cloud-computing educational resources for climate, atmosphere, and ocean science and will partner with the University of Melbourne.

“For undergraduate and postgraduate university students studying the ocean, weather, and the climate system — some of whom are among those most impacted by extreme weather in a changing climate — there are few opportunities to engage with research-quality climate model output,” Dr Keating said.

“We want to solve this by creating online labs that are freely available to educators and students via cloud-storage and cloud-computing services.”

Their project aims to address this imbalance by harnessing the U21 network of world-leading research universities in the field of climate science and innovative cloud-computing technology to make climate, ocean, and weather model data freely available to students around the world. The data will be accompanied by a comprehensive suite of pedagogical labs and teaching materials that can be integrated within existing university level courses in climate, atmosphere, and ocean science. The project is a partnership with the Dedalus Project, an open source software project for fluid dynamics.

Thirteen U21 members from ten countries, working in partnerships, have all been awarded funds to carry out work on better and robust solutions for online teaching, learning and assessment which can be shared as resources within the U21 network within the next twelve months.

Read more about all the projects funded.