P.E. Jensen

Technical University of Denmark (DENMARK)
In the development of educational supply in remote areas like Greenland, distance learning seems to answer many questions such as:
• How can we raise the average educational level of the local population while avoiding young talents from migrating to urban areas?
• How can we offer a broad range of educations to cover the needs of the local society and the diverse interests amongst the population?
• How can we offer courses that reflect the very special knowledge and skills that are necessary to act in a special setting like the Arctic?

This work reports on the challenges met when designing an e-based engineering course with special focus on technologies available to mitigate environmental impacts when extracting mineral resources in the Arctic. In the first period of planning it came clear that the scope of the course covered a wide variety of technologies and that no single person or institution; academic or industrial possessed the sum of knowledge necessary to teach the course. It also became clear that the scope of the course was unique worldwide, and that students from other areas than Greenland – Arctic and non-Arctic might be interested in taking a course with this content: Since mineral extraction in inaccessible places like the Arctic seems to be attempted by companies worldwide – often companies without previous Arctic experience.

Thus apart from solving the above mentioned challenges, e-based distance learning also seemed a solution for:
• Bringing in guest lecturer expertise from far distances without exorbitant economical end environmental costs.
• Making the course available to students from other regions of the world including the full circumpolar area.

Considering the convincing advantages of planning the course to run as an e-based distance learning course, this was decided. In the planning it was easily decided to run the course asynchronous because the circumpolar area of special interest covers all possible time-zones. Thus lectures had to be video-recorded. And this was where our challenges began. We had no problem finding external lecturers from universities and companies to cover the topics of the course and share their knowledge about special conditions in the Arctic. We also obtained financial support to visit mineral extraction facilities in the Arctic and make on-site video case studies on. However, by wanting to make videos, we ran into copyright issues on the teaching material and the videos themselves. Just as university and company managements suddenly started having second opinions on their staffs’ participation in the course as opposed to what we experienced when we ran the course in a non e-based manner. To solve this problem we needed to rethink the teaching strategy completely, and teach the course with only very few overview lectures and instead engage the external specialists in virtual communication and mentoring of the students.