Where Do Future Environmental Scientists Get Hands-on Experience?

Environmental Science and Resource Management – Coastal Erosion

csuci.edu/academics/esrm

Summary

Students at California State University Channel Islands are committed to solving the planet’s most pressing environmental problems from both a human and scientific perspective. Every program includes intensive academic, field-based research and data analysis. Studying coastal erosion is a hands-on, data intensive and lab oriented field of study requiring an almost unimaginable number of images and data points collected from drones. CSUCI partnered with eLumin to move data analysis from a fixed campus lab serving 24 students to a virtual lab.

Project Challenges

The sheer amount of data and images students are working with to learn more about coastal erosion can be overwhelming, especially for students coming to campus with devices like a Chromebook or iPad. As a part of Dr. Patsch’s class gigabytes of drone data and images are collected and downloaded weekly. In the traditional computer lab model, this would volume of data would required 48-72 hours of processing time. The traditional lab experience resulted in:

  • Limited computer lab accessibility
  • Scheduling constraints as class was required to meet in the lab on Friday afternoons to allow for weekend processing
  • Class capacity was limited by lab capacity
  • Processing failures resulted in delays in in learning and analysis causing set-backs in student work and forcing instructors to serve as technical support. 

How eLumin Impacted Student Learning

eLumin Always Puts Education First to Form a Highly Collaborative Partnership

eLumin started by focusing first on the student experience and desired learning outcomes. Once this critical components were understood, the technical work began – how data was being processed and how student used the GIS and drone software. From there, eLumin leverage AWS and worked CSUCI to define the technical requirements. eLumin’s collaboration and academic involvement was so learning centered that department faculty didn’t realize that the eLumin project manager was not a CSU employee.

eLumin leveraged its deep expertise of applying technical know how to educational challenges to design a cloud-based virtual lab that has transformed coastal erosion studies for CSUCI students and faculty.

  • Processing or “compute” time decreased from an average of 60 hours to 8-12 hours
  • Course enrollment expanded beyond 24 students
  • Dramatic increase in student collaboration
  • More time spent learning using the data than processing the data
  • Homework could finally be done at home, or anywhere
  • Students can access the tools they need from virtually any device
  • Diverse student population is better supported
  • Class labs and student work was able to continue despite recent campus closures.