2004 Denver Annual Meeting (November 7–10, 2004)

Paper No. 2
Presentation Time: 8:00 AM-12:00 PM


CHOH, Suk-Joo S., MILLIKEN, Kitty L. and MCBRIDE, Earle F., Geological Sciences, The Univ of Texas at Austin, 1 University Station C1100, Austin, TX 78712-0254, sjchoh@mail.utexas.edu

More than 80% geoscience departments in North America include coursework specific to sedimentary rocks, and almost all major geology departments have offerings that cover sedimentary petrology at the undergraduate level. Knowledge about the pore-scale properties of sedimentary rocks, a key element of sedimentary petrology, is fundamental to the management of water, oil, and gas resources. A clear national interest exists for maintaining a cohort of professionals who can effectively engage problems relating to the vital resources upon which economic and energy security depend. However, in the "curriculum squeeze" of the last two decades, petrographic instruction has been replaced in many curricula by other materials. Thus, it is imperative to find a way to retain petrographic instruction at the university level.

An interactive sandstone tutorial CD is being built through NSF DUE-CCLI funding (2003-2005) to provide undergraduates a 'virtual microscope' resource for efficient learning of sandstone petrography. It addresses the challenges of teaching highly visual materials by use of a large collection of interactive images. Students learn the components of a complex and heterogeneous natural system by repeated exposure to examples linked to conceptual information. More than 500 interactive images taken under plane- and cross-polarized light, reflective light, back-scattered electron, and cathodoluminescence are currently incorporated into the tutorial, supplemented by more than 100 quiz questions to check the progress of the user.

Assessment from six participating departments reveals that undergraduate students make significant gains in content attainment through use of the tutorial. Students also express strong approval of the tutorial and its approach. Complex expert knowledge about natural objects relevant to any field of natural science can be preserved and transmitted using interactive digital tools such as the sandstone tutorial.