Vulcania UKESCC Overview

The UK Earth Science Courseware Consortium (UKESCC) is a non-profit making organisation established in 1992 to develop, produce and distribute interactive courseware for use in Earth Science and Vulcania teaching and learning.


Basic information about the types of volcanoes, the various components of volcanoes and associated igneous rocks is provided in the 'Igneous Rocks' section of the 'Visualising Geology in 3D' module. Volcanic landforms, including calders, are described in the 'Volcanism in arc settings' section of the 'Arc Magmatism' module. This section also contains descriptions of explosive eruptions, pyroclasic deposits and debris flows. Controls on volcanic construction is covered in the 'Ocean Crust and Ophiolites' module.

Between 1992 and 1995 the UKESCC received development funding from the UK Higher Education Funding Councils as part of their Teaching and Learning Technology Programme (TLTP).

Since 1996 the UKESCC has been self-financing, making its Earth Science courseware available for purchase by institutions and individuals world-wide. It supports the courseware and its users by providing advice, information and technical help/back-up, improving the courseware with upgrades and new methods of delivery.

The UKESCC is run from the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Manchester.

Contact info :
UK Earth Science Courseware Consortium
Department of Earth Sciences
University of Manchester, Manchester M13 9PL, UK

The UKESCC courseware currently comprises a suite of 21 computer-aided learning modules covering a range of Earth Science subjects. The separate 21 modules have been produced by Earth Science academics working in UK universities and cover key subjects that are studied by large numbers of students in the first and second years of their degree courses. Several of the modules are widely used at school level by students studying geology and related subjects like geography and environmental science. The software contains a wealth of geological information and is suitable for anyone with an general interest in Geology.

The courseware is available for both PC (Windows) and Macintosh computers in either stand-alone application or web-based format.

Individual courseware modules can be presented and used as separate entities. This mode is most suitable when you have a small number of modules and the intention is to work systematically through each subject, e.g.

Alternatively, courseware modules accessed from a front page, with the option of using indexes to navigate to specific pages of any of the modules available. This mode is most suitable when you have several modules and wish to access information on a particular topic in several of them.

Vulcania Park
The courseware has been designed to be used by people working on their own or in small groups. While the modules differ in overall appearance they have certain features in common. All start with a main menu showing the main divisions and sections. Navigation through modules is by buttons along the base of each page.
Most modules have a 'Help' or 'How to use this module' section that can be called when working through the material. Some modules include a glossary that can be accessed at any time and which give definitions of key words or phrases that appear in the main body of the material. About half of the modules include assessment sections or quizzes. These are not designed to be comprehensive formal assessments but are provided to allow users to assess their progress and their understanding of the material.

Overview of Subject Areas : UKESCC Courseware titles

Introductory level
Basic Skills for Earth Sciences
Basic Geochemistry: Origin and Distribution of the Elements
Basic Petrography
Visualising Geology in Three Dimensions Advanced level
Arc Magmatism
Phase Diagrams in Igneous Systems
Petrogenesis of Granitic Rocks
Radiogenic Isotopes in Geological Sciences
Intermediate level

Optical Mineralogy
Ocean Crust and Ophiolites
Systematic Palaeontology: the Phylum Mollusca
Rock Deformation and Geological Structures
Exploring the Shallow Subsurface using Geophysics
Dynamic Stratigraphy: Controls and Products All levels
Aspects of Earth Resources
Fossils as Palaeoenvironmental Indicators
Using Stereonets in Geology

While the topics covered by the courseware have been chosen primarily for teaching and learning Geology, the courseware contains a wealth of information on topics ranging from Maths and Physics to Geography and the Environment.

Earth Resources

Most of the material in the 'Aspects of Earth resources' module could be of interest to Geographers. It attempts to 1) put geology into the broader context of environmental management, pollution control and the water and engineering industries. and 2) encourage an appreciation of the limits set by the natural geological cycles, and of the relationship between human demands and the consequences of resource exploitation.

One of the four main sections deals with water resources. The natural water cycle is used as the starting point from which the amount of water available for exploitation by man is examined. Methods of borrowing water from the cycle for drinking, irrigation and industry are followed by a subsection on water quality. Water treatment and water pollution issues are examined. The final subsection presents options for future water supplies. The nature of water as a valuable and sustainable resource, provided it is well managed, is emphasised throughout.

The second section deals with energy resources, both renewable and non-renewable. The geology of the fossil fuels is outlined, both in formation and as it affects exploration and production. Environmental considerations and alternative forms of energy are dealt with. A subsection on thermodynamics stresses constraints of energy production versus the need for increased thermal efficiencies.

Building materials are the subject of the third section. The rock cycle is used as a starting point for examining the different types of building material. The properties and uses for each material are considered together with environmental factors. To emphasis environmental factors users are guided through a mini project with the aim of providing aggregates to meet future demands, whilst taking socio-economic issues into account.

An introduction to the Cornish mining industry is used as the basis for three mini tutorials in the final section. Users are required to manipulate data relating to the geologic and economic aspects of the industry, and in doing so develop data handling and interpretation skills.

Exploring the Shallow Subsurface using Geophysics

Increasingly geographers are using shallow geophysical methods to investigate the nature and extent of near-surface materials. This courseware module explains the specific use of three of the most common geophysical techniques in environmental, archaeological and engineering site investigations.

The basic principles of seismic refraction, gravity surveying and electrical resistivity surveying are explained and students learn by being involved in hypothetical site investigations with particular problems. The student works through each section, initially answering questions then by making decisions.

Plate tectonics

While there is not a courseware module specifically on plate tectonics, elements of plate tectonics are to be found in several of the modules. The most material is to be found in the Arc Magmatism module. While there is information on the basic structure of the lithosphere and its creation, most of the material is about destructive plate margins, so subduction zones and island arcs figure extensively.

The Ocean Crust and Ophiolites module deals exclusively with constructive plate margins and sea-floor spreading. Here you will find descriptions of the way ocean crust is constructed and the processes that lead to splitting and spreading of the lithosphere. There is a complete section on spreading rates, segmentation and spreading centres.

The 'Basic Skills for Earth Sciences' module covers the fundamental elements of mathematics, physics and chemistry that are required when studying Earth Science. The physics section covers basic concepts like force, mass, velocity, acceleration, pressure, and density.

The properties of energy and seismic waves are explained and the way the latter are used for earthquake studies, for example to measure earthquake size.

The major features of the Earth's magnetic field are defined and how they relate to the magnetic field produced by a simple bar magnet. Palaeomagnetism is introduced as well as the way rocks become magnetised.

The way seismic reflection records are obtained and used is covered in a number of the courseware modules, notably 'Dynamic Stratigraphy' and 'Visualising Geology in Three-Dimensions'. The use of seismic refraction to study magma chambers features in the 'Ocean Crust and Ophiolites' module.

In 'Visualising Geology in Three-Dimensions' there is a section on borehole logs together with a description of the way electrical resistivity logs are used to determine the dip of rocks in the borehole wall.

Aspects of plate tectonics are covered in the 'Arc Magmatism' and 'Rock Deformation and Geological Structures' modules. Arc Magmatism also includes topics like the geophysical structure or arcs and the lithosphere. There is a introduction to geophysical exploration for oil in the 'Aspects of Earth Resources' module.

Exploring the 'Shallow Subsurface using Geophysics' is a complete module devoted to geophysics. It is in two parts; one part presents the basic principles of three different geophysical methods, starting with the theory of each method and ending with how results are interpreted.

The methods are seismic refraction, gravity and electrical resistivity. The second part deals with three site investigation problems where these geophysical methods could be employed. The problems involve determining the best place to site a dam in a river valley, locating a buried air-raid shelter, and an investigation of an archaeological site. Users have to make decisions about things like the most appropriate methods to use, the optimum spacing and position for measurements, and then interpret the results obtained.

Physics material

It has long been recognised that geology is an excellent vehicle to demonstrate the application of science subjects like physics, chemistry and biology. Some people have difficult learning a subject like physics when it is studied in isolation, but manage better and appreciate its relevance when the principles are introduced and applied to another subject in which they are particularly interested. Geology is an excellent subject in this respect because many aspects of basic physics are encountered when studying geology.

The 'Optical Mineralogy' module is a good example where this is the case. In order to understand the way minerals are studied using the petrological microscope it is necessary to understand how light behaves under different conditions. In the 'Optical Mineralogy' module there is therefore a separate section on the nature of light and its properties. This includes definitions of terms like wavelength, frequency, amplitude and period and deals briefly with subjects like refractive index and polarisation. There is also a separate section on the interference of light. The physics of light is important in the sections on the generation of interference colours and the optical indicatrix.

In the 'Rock Deformation and Geological Structures' module the introductory section covers scalar and vector quantities and the resolution of vectors into component parts. It deals with different types of forces and shows how the concepts are applied to the study of stress and strain of rock materials.

Physics even makes an appearance in palaeontology. In the 'Systematic Palaeontology' module the mode of life of ammonoids is described. These organisms live in coiled shells made up of several chambers and the shell provides buoyancy. They can alter the buoyancy by changing the amount of liquid in the chambers and so adjust the level of the shell in the water. They also have to retain the correct orientation. In this module the way the centre of buoyancy and the centre of gravity have to be positioned in order to achieve these aims is explained.