City Sea Air Meter

In the past, we used the term "masterpiece" to refer to a work sample that an apprentice created and presented to a guild to become a master craftsman. In this way, a small group of faculty and instructional technologists created and presented to NYU Where The City Meets The Sea: Studies in Coastal Urban Environments. 

This marine environmental studies course includes:

  • video conferencing to link students and faculty between two or more NYU sites;
  • a merging of research and instruction;
  • use of tablets to support and facilitate students' field-based data collection;
  • integration of publicly available and licensed geospatial data sets for cities in which NYU has campuses;
  • video-based lessons;
  • animations, demonstrations, and other visualizations to help students and faculty present complex and dynamic information;
  • student-to-student web-based collaboration;
  • cloud-based data repositories that are shared by sites, sections, and semesters as well as courses;
  • self-paced online instructional modules in the use of software tools and approaches to collecting, analyzing, and presenting data;
  • face-to-face instruction that includes lectures, discussions, student presentations, and hands-on work in computer labs.

Video Conferencing and Collaboration Across Multiple Global Locations 

Two paired sessions of the course are offered: one connecting Abu Dhabi and Shanghai, and the other connecting New York and London. The course was also taught during J-terms in Sydney.

Integrating Geographic Information Systems

GIS software and geospatial analysis and visualization are integral to Where The City Meets The Sea's curriculum. Students use these new tools to analyze and illustrate urban development in coastal areas.

In 2014, the Global Learning & Innovation (GLI) group developed an open source geo-database for teaching and research. Google's new remote sensing technology, Google Earth Engine, will also be incorporated into the course thanks to a Google grant awarded to GLI. Future course plans include mobile device sensor technology to collect data such as air and water quality, and new geospatial cloud-based data visualization products.

Introducing Statistical Analysis

Students are introduced to common concepts and tools in statistical analysis and visualization. For example, students create population pyramids and growth rate graphs to compare population change between each global site.

Students collect data in the field with air and water quality meters and then perform statistical calculations such as average, sample size, standard deviation, and confidence interval. Outcomes allow for comparisons between cities and government water and air quality standards.

Active and contextual learning

Student activities include field data collection and weekly computer lab assignments. Tablets, air meters, water meters, and water kits are all part of students' field kits. In addition to sourced data, their data collection becomes the foundation for weekly computer labs. Analyses and exercises using this data promote deeper understanding of concepts presented in lectures.

'Objective data' learned in class is now supplemented with first-party data collection as well as exposure to the actual environment. Students are able to make comparisons and draw conclusions from multiple sites, and experience the global context of environmental change first hand. The long-term context of environmental change can also be studied through the analysis of data created by students from year to year, as NYU continues to offer the course.

Mobile Learning

Instructional technologists configured tablets with open source software that provides students with the latest in mobile technology to collect and store geo-referenced data. Students also collect and attach videos and audio to record entries.


Thanks to the combined talents of faculty, students, and instructional technologists, Where The City Meets The Sea continues to generate new data, ideas, and technologies. After eleven sections of this course, faculty, staff of NYU's Global Learning and Innovation team, and students have enhanced not only the teaching and learning of environmental science, but these course tools have also benefitted classes as diverse as linguistics and history. The work done for Where The City Meets The Sea will continue to contribute to many more courses within across NYU's global sites.