Site Map   EnglishDeutschFrançaisItaliano

Federal Profile Platform : eLearning Products and Services

ALPECOLe - Alpine Ecology and environments

An e-course in Alpine Ecology

The ecological study of alpine "zones" requires a multidisciplinary approach with contributions from geomorphologists, climatologists, ecologists, biogeographers and many others. Although there is a wealth of expertise in these fields in Switzerland, until now, no integrated course on alpine ecology has been offered. This project is aimed at meeting this deficiency.


A wide range of alpine ecosystems is considered and the course includes modules on different integrated topics:

  • Fragile Alpine Environments (3 lessons and 2 double lessons)
  • Plants and Life Processes (13 lessons)
  • Animals (5 lessons)
  • Landscape Evolution (4 lessons)

A general introduction to the subject and a summary with global change issues complete the course.

ALPECOLe includes general as well as specific research fields ranging from biodiversity to global climate, and from landscape management to threats to drinking water. Where appropriate, local and global aspects are brought together. Visit the Alpine shows examples of plant similarities in alpine regions of the world and the Alpine Walks prepare students for field courses where they will gain direct experience of alpine ecosystems.


The course is designed for students involved in general aspects of mountain ecology (biology, ecology, geography, geology, environmental sciences, social sciences etc.), but it also offers special topics for professionals in various disciplines (tourism, forestry, hazard prevention engineering, landscape protection, teaching etc.).


With the aid of modern electronic communication technologies, we have created this first internet-supported course on alpine ecology.

The course can be used from all possible computer systems (Windows, Mac, Linux, Unix), with a standard up-to-date javascript enabled web browser (e.g. Internet Explorer, Netscape, Mozilla). The media we use are text, graphics, photos, audio, and animation. Animations are created with Macromedia Flash. The necessary Flash plugin and Acrobat Reader (for additional printable documents) are available free of charge.

Course Structure

We developed a package of 28 lessons of core-content (for credit points) with additional "optional" parts (supplements).

The content of each lesson is approximately equivalent to a 45-minute conventional lecture, plus homework (exercises, reading and tests – also about 45 minutes).

The navigation of each lesson is unique and non-linear. Each lesson is open in the sense that the order of and depth to which topics may be explored is up to the user. The lessons presented here have no thematic boundaries; they are linked together on different levels.

Instructional Design

Students can zoom into particular issues covered by the course and explore them at a more detailed level (supplements). In the module Landscape Evolution in particular, they will have the choice to learn specific details about a particular subject as it was presented at an earlier point in time and progress via the present into the future. Links will be provided to related topics across disciplinary boundaries. Such a multi-dimensional approach to learning can only be achieved by employing interactively constructed electronic communications technologies.

Zooming and linking will allow the user to side-track and return to the main path quickly. Communication over space and time is the key to understanding how mountain ecosystems function and how they might develop under certain conditions.

For the lesson structure we used the 5 E instructional design model and an adapted version of the 7 E model.


Students will assemble once at the beginning of a course (not compulsory, dependant on tutor and institution) in order to get to know each other and the teachers, and to establish a “cooperative identity”. Once the course is open there will be no time restrictions for using the package until the final test, except the restrictions defined by tutors and institutions. Usually the course can be accessed during one term.

The entire course is equivalent to 28 lecture hours.

ALPECOLe is a Swiss contribution to the UN "International Year of Mountains 2002".

Product Type: Course/Learning/Teaching Scenario
Discipline: Sciences, Mathematics
Topics: Fragile Alpine Environments, Plants and Life Processes, Animals, Landscape Evolution in the alpine zone
Languages: English

Contact: Petra Kauer-Ott, eLearning coordinator Geoscience, University of Zurich, Department of Geography, /

Online Resources: (project), (course)
Last Update: November 2007
Users & References: Actually all partner institutions use the course. In addition some course parts


Home | The SVC at a glance | News | Events | Online Courses | Federal Profile Platform | Resources | Archive | Site Map

Please note that this website is based on the information available at the conclusion of the federal program and will not be further actualized

© 2009 Swiss Virtual Campus - Disclaimer