• Harvey Thorleifson, Chair
    Minnesota Geological Survey
  • Carrie Jennings, Vice Chair
    Minnesota Geological Survey
  • David Bush, Technical Program Chair
    University of West Georgia
  • Jim Miller, Field Trip Chair
    University of Minnesota Duluth
  • Curtis M. Hudak, Sponsorship Chair
    Foth Infrastructure & Environment, LLC


Paper No. 2
Presentation Time: 9:15 AM


PARHAM Jr, Thomas L.1, CERVATO, Cinzia1, GALLUS Jr, William A.1, MAGNIDJEM, Dela, BARBERAN, Cj and BORRELL, Jordan A., (1)Geological and Atmospheric Sciences, Iowa State University, 253 Science I, Ames, IA 50011,

Virtual reality applications and 3D simulations have been put forth as tools through which geoscience educators may harness interactivity and sensed experience to effectively counter student-held alternate conceptions of dynamic earth systems. However, developers of virtual reality applications face numerous design challenges, including balancing graphical fidelity and system functionality, assessing usability of the program interface, and rigorously evaluating learning gains. Over the past five years, the Virtual Volcano development team has addressed these challenges via an iterative student-centered design process. Among other advancements, this process recently resulted in the development of in-model graphical depictions of the physical and chronological scale of volcanic phenomena - key information that a virtual reality application may inadvertently distort or misrepresent. A recent round of student user testing (n = 65) employed lab-style activities based on the Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning (POGIL) model and assessed learning gains via the Volcanic Concept Survey (VCS). Observable gains in understanding of eruptive mechanics were most common among two groups: sophomore females with lower-than-average course grades (n = 6) and non-sophomores with higher-than-average course grades who had seen volcano documentaries and prefer to learn by writing or viewing images (n = 5). Some student groups, including non-sophomores who had seen volcano documentaries but play video games regularly (n = 5), showed ubiquitous losses. This suggests that while simulations may be powerful for certain concepts and student audiences, they are far from a one-size-fits-all approach. Nonetheless, greater universal efficacy may be realized when both pedagogy and technology progress in parity through multiple cycles of data-driven design and rigorous evaluation.
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