University of Essex students given underwater lectures

Students swimming underwater Students were taught 18m (59ft) below the sea on a coral reef off the coast of Indonesia

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Students at the University of Essex have been given underwater lectures as part of their degree course.

The marine biology students were taught 18m (59ft) beneath the sea on a coral reef off the coast of Indonesia.

Prof David Smith used specialised equipment audio equipment to talk to students and describe what they were seeing.

"It was a fantastic experience as I was able to use the power of observation like never before," he said.

Thirty students took part in the lectures, held on the university's annual field trip to the Wakatobi Marine National Park.

Students were able to study the coral reef up close

The university's Coral Reef Research Unit (CRRU) is studying the impact on coral reefs of climate change.

'Totally new experience'

Prof Smith wore a full face mask which included a microphone and students wore headsets so they could hear him talk.

A hydrophone - an underwater microphone − was positioned in the water and linked to a control box and recorder on a boat.

Fifteen hours of video footage were shot during the underwater lectures, which will be used by students unable to travel to Indonesia.

"I have been on thousands of dives over the years but this was a totally new experience as I was able to explain to students exactly what they were seeing and inject more passion and feeling into the whole lecture," said Prof Smith.

"It was very special and transformed the whole experience both for me and our students."

Tilly James, a second-year marine and freshwater biology student, said: "It was an experience you simply cannot get with traditional lectures."

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