Virtual landscapes: Geoscience education in digital environments

Robinson, Annabeth, Gordon, Clare, Houghton, Jacqueline, Lloyd, Geoffrey and Morgan, Daniel (2015) Virtual landscapes: Geoscience education in digital environments. [Artefact]

Abstract

The output is a digital artefact designed by Annabeth Robinson in collaboration with the University of Leeds School of Earth and Environment, who supplied the underpinning geological knowledge and understanding. The aim was to build a virtual environment where geology students could learn and practice geological mapping skills. Research process: Using an approach based on serious games design, Robinson developed a virtual landscape using the UnityTM game engine. Natural phenomena, such as rocks, hills and outcrops, were recreated in a virtual space to accurately emulate the physical world, thus providing the student with an authentic field trip experience. The resulting artefact was tested, evaluated and trialled with geology students. Research insights: It was found that scale must be carefully considered when using real topography and real geological maps in the real world; what looks plausible on paper does not always translate in the virtual environment. It highlighted the potential use of virtual reality field trips in order to widen participation within geology. Furthermore, through the development process, constructed landscapes were found to be more efficient. Dissemination: The artefact is openly available for use and the research has been disseminated at conferences including: - Association for Learning Technology annual conference, 2015. - Geological Society of America annual meeting, Denver, Colorado, 2016. - Geological Society of America annual meeting, Seattle, Washington, 2017. - JISC Digifest, 2017. The project was also acknowledged for Outstanding Digital Innovation in Teaching or Research by the Times Higher Education Awards in 2016.

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