Course description

“The Habitable Planet” is a liberal Arts course of the VERSES program (Virtual Education and Research Studio for Earth System Science), Ministry of Education, and results from efforts toward teaching reform. It's also part of the Ocean Negative Carbon Emission (ONCE) International Programme, UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development.
Understanding the Earth (The Habitable Planet) is an extensive and multi-disciplinary field that requires a broad range of knowledge that includes mathematics, physics, chemistry, astronomy, geoscience, and biology. Therefore, we have formed a strong team of course instructors and lecturers, lead by Professor Nianzhi Jiao (Academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences); this team includes a number of outstanding academics, who will be jointly teaching the course./blockquote>
This course aims to create a new teaching model integrating undergraduate and graduate education, which means that the course can be understood by both undergraduate and graduate students. We hope to develop a platform for students learning for multi-disciplinary knowledge, equipping students with an integrated knowledge of science, philosophy, humanities, art and social science.
We have developed several innovations to achieve such a goal:
First, the course has a variety of teaching forms. For example, there is a musical overture before each lecture. The lyrics of the overture are closely related to the content of the lecture, acting as a warm-up. After the overture, we will play a short video, which is also part of the lecture and serves as an introduction. This short video quickly presents a complex scientific phenomenon, drawing in students’ attention to the rest of the lecture. Nevertheless, it is still up to the lecturer to explain the underlying processes, mechanisms and scientific questions behind the phenomenon. Namely, the short video raises questions and inspires students to think, whereas the lecturer integrates specific case analyses to deliver scientific knowledge./blockquote>
Secondly, we introduce a new teaching model, which is called the Teaching Threesome: Instructor, Lecturer, and Moderator. The Instructor is the designer and host of the course. The lecturer is an influential scientist in the corresponding field of the lecture. The Moderator is the bridge between the students and the lecturers, who will help with gathering questions, information exchange, etc.
In addition to lecturing and imparting knowledge, we also emphasize in-class activities and interactions. We have designed questions on general knowledge and critical thinking. Questions on general knowledge examine the scientific understanding of general topics, while the questions on critical thinking require an in-depth understanding of processes and mechanisms behind complex phenomenon. General knowledge questions are designed for everyone, while critical thinking questions are mainly targeted at graduate students. We also encourage undergraduate students to answer critical thinking questions, which enables self-training through integrated undergraduate-graduate education.
This course is a Liberal Arts course that anyone can attend, including undergraduate students, master's students, and Ph.D. students. It can also be open to the general public.


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Contact Information

For any questions or comments please contact Ruanhong Cai / Chen Hu