National Computational Infrastructure

NCI

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Supporting science at the high-school level

NCI’s support of Australian science goes beyond just academic researchers. School students in Canberra are now also benefiting, through a program called MeriSTEM being run by the ANU Physics Education Centre. MeriSTEM is providing science resources in the form of online lessons and videos to teachers in Canberra colleges, catering to year 11 and 12 students.

A screenshot of the Planck's law MeriSTEM screen, showing a still from a video and buttons on the top and left side to view questions and move to other topics and sections of the course.

An example of the MeriSTEM physics videos, this one covering Planck’s Law as part of the quantum mechanics topic.

The program is based on the ‘flipped education’ style of pedagogy, where students are exposed to new content online, freeing up classroom time for applying their new knowledge to complex problems with their teacher. This model of teaching uses the classroom discussions and face-to-face time to support conceptual learning, retention and student engagement.

Preparing the specifically-designed resources is prohibitively time-intensive for teachers, so MeriSTEM provides these directly to them and gives them the ability to flip their classroom. Once set-up, the students have access to worked examples, videos and lessons inside their class’s MeriSTEM page. According to MeriSTEM Project Coordinator Ethan Barden, “teachers have reported that students seem to have a better understanding, and the classes can delve deeper into the subject matter than they were previously able to.”

The online system the project uses is based on the Open edX platform, which is the platform behind the Massive Open Online Courses edX, and extremely useful for students and teachers. NCI has been managing this back-end infrastructure since the program’s inception, as well as providing servers and data back-up facilities. Ethan says “The IT infrastructure and support that NCI has provided to MeriSTEM has been invaluable. NCI provides the facilities that are absolutely essential to MeriSTEM succeeding. If our website wasn’t quick and responsive, students would quickly get frustrated and switch off. If the data backup wasn’t bulletproof, teachers wouldn’t be able to trust that critical student assessment records would be there when they needed them.”

The content used in the MeriSTEM program is provided by ANU researchers, graduates and postgraduate students volunteering their time and science knowledge. While the program has started with year 11 and 12 physics, they aim to grow to include more disciplines of science and year levels down to Years 7 and 8.

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