Creating a digital learning ecosystem for coastal ecology


Authentic, place-based learning is essential for students of ecology to build their understanding of species interactions in natural settings and an appreciation of the extent of human impacts.

Mobile technologies can allow students to collect data in field settings, whilst collaborative digital tools can enable data sharing of data and facilitate discussion, building their skills in communication, digital and environmental literacy, and authentic problem-solving.

Our project aims to develop a suite of digital tools, including a mobile application, an accompanying digital platform and collaborative tools, to allow students in coastal ecology to record and analyse field data and share their findings with other student cohorts across locations that face similar challenges in terms of environmental pressures and anthropogenic impacts.


Our project aims to develop, and evaluate the efficacy of, a digital learning ecosystem for coastal ecology students in Hong Kong, with the further potential development proposed in Australia and South Africa. We will also bring students into the co-design process, testing a beta version of the mobile application during field trips with students from The Swire Institute of Marine Science, Hong Kong, in 2021.


  • Dr Elisa Bone, The University of Melbourne
  • Associate Professor Bayden D. Russell, The Swire Institute of Marine Science, University of Hong Kong
  • Dr Allyson O’Brien, The University of Melbourne
  • Dr Rebecca Morris, The University of Melbourne
  • Professor Gray A. Williams, The Swire Institute of Marine Science, University of Hong Kong
  • Associate Professor Richard Greenfield, The University of Johannesburg


A preliminary report on this project was presented at the 2020 ASCILITE conference:

Bone, E.K., Greenfield, R. Williams, G.A. & Russell, B.D. (2020). Creating a digital learning ecosystem to facilitate authentic place-based learning and international collaboration – a coastal case study. Concise paper: ASCILITE 2020 Conference Proceedings. Draft available at:

Further outcomes from this project will be communicated through conference presentations, publications and other media.

More information

Dr Elisa Bone, Melbourne CSHE, The University of Melbourne