The development and pilot testing of a hydrographic remote sensing course in the United States specified by international organizations

Charles Allen West


To meet the growing training requirement of the U.S. Naval Oceanographic Office (NAVOCEANO), The University of Southern Mississippi (USM) developed a M.S. in Hydrographic Science that met the International Hydrographic Organization and the International Federation of Surveyors (IHO/FIG) educational standards of competency for Category "A" hydrographic certification. This education program, which is the first of its kind in the United States, met three requirements: the training needs of NAVOCEANO, the IHO/FIG education standards of hydrographic competency, and USM's requirements for a Master of Science degree. Remote Sensing for Hydrographers (HYD 611), an elective course for the degree program, was selected for this study because of the controlled environment of the first two classes of students. Most of the students were NAVOCEANO employees and would return, or already had returned, to NAVOCEANO after completion of the course. Hydrographic remote sensing was chosen to represent scientific technologies that are rapidly advancing, in most cases at a rate that surpasses the capabilities of academic programs to keep pace. From this, several research questions were investigated utilizing a qualitative technique, specifically the phenomenological approach, which used information from surveys and interviews with students and NAVOCENO management. This study has shown that student involvement in a course evaluation may affect the success of a course in the complete program of study. It was shown in this study that students with experience in similar course work, at the undergraduate, graduate, or formal training levels; did not tend to have a better rate of success in the course. Findings from this study indicated that education in a technology, in this case hydrographic remote sensing, may help to advance the use of hydrographic remote sensing technology from its current state to becoming operational, as the students enter the work environment. For this to succeed students need to overcome preconceived biases of historical hydrographic techniques and accept new technologies. This is also true for the management of an organization. If management lacks of accept new technologies and techniques, the technology advancement from student education may be restricted. It was shown in this study that students have incorporated remote sensing products and technologies into traditional forms of hydrography, but have not used the technology as the sole source of data collection. Yet, experiences and skills gained through completion of the HYD 611 course may would help to influence their use of the new technology if the student was moved to a position that is responsible for remote sensing data collection.