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University of Canterbury edX course a volcanic winner

15 December 2021

In only its first year offering massive open online courses (MOOCs), the University of Canterbury has won an international prize for an exceptional volcanic online course.


University of Canterbury geologists Dr Jonathan Davidson and Professor Ben Kennedy

University of Canterbury geologists Professor Ben Kennedy and Dr Jonathan Davidson have won this year’s edX Prize for Exceptional Contributions in Online Teaching and Learning for the UCx course ‘Exploring Volcanoes and Their Hazards: Iceland and New Zealand’.

The 2021 prize-winning ‘Exploring Volcanoes’ course is described by edX as a “compelling example of effective pedagogy, engaging assessments and immersive learning environments”.

Informed by 10 years of research into virtual field trips and field education, the course was designed to deliver an immersive and fun virtual science experience focussed on volcanic landscapes. By integrating an emphasis on Māori knowledge, the course also enables learners to empathise with and understand different perspectives.

“We spent two years developing award-winning virtual tools, including 3D rocks and interactive volcano landscapes, so students will get the feeling of visiting volcanoes and learning the tools that volcanologists use in the field,” says Professor Kennedy.

UC Deputy Vice-Chancellor Academic | Tumu Tuarua Akoranga Professor Catherine Moran says winning this international prize is an achievement that shows the world-leading quality of online teaching offered by the University. “This course is of an exceptionally high standard and reflects our ongoing commitment to providing accessible learning opportunities for all.”

More than 50,000 students from all around the world have enrolled in UCx MOOCs since late 2020 when the University of Canterbury joined edX. The short MOOCs are free, but students can pay a fee to do assessments and receive a certificate.

edX is a leading global online learning platform. Many of the world’s top-ranked universities are part of the edX education movement, which reaches a global community of over 40 million learners. Other finalists for the edX prize included courses from Harvard University, Hong Kong University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and University of Queensland.

Anant Agarwal, edX Founder, says the edX Prize celebrates the contribution and innovation of the whole team involved with developing the online course.

“Congratulations to Professor Kennedy, Dr Davidson, and the entire University of Canterbury team on this incredible achievement,” said edX Founder Anant Agarwal. Their course takes learners to places that many of us will never have the chance to go to - volcanoes - and delivers that learning at an exemplary standard.”

Want to learn more? Go to UC’s edX page or visit the edX homepage
Find the prize-winning course at

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