Northeastern (46th Annual) and North-Central (45th Annual) Joint Meeting (20–22 March 2011)

Paper No. 8
Presentation Time: 9:45 AM


DE PAOR, Declan G., Physics, Old Dominion University, Norfolk, VA 23529 and WHITMEYER, Steve, Geology and Environmental Science, James Madison University, 395 S. High St, MSC 6903, Harrisonburg, VA 22807,

If there is one thing that most students and professors agree on, it is the key role that field work plays in geoscience education. Undergraduate field experiences create an immersive learning environment and a level of student - instructor interaction that is the envy of other disciplines, and often these early experiences influence students’ career choices. At field camp, students report learning more from a few days of field work than from a semester of lecture or lab classes. However, students continue to struggle with concepts involving deep time and unfamiliar spatial geometries and scales, and have difficulty relating static field observations to dynamic geological processes. From our experience both with class day trips and residential field camp, we have found that a mix of real and virtual field trips has distinct benefits. Virtual field trips will never adequately replace real field excursions, however, virtual globes such as Google Earth are excellent for pre-trip reconnaissance and post-trip synopses. Students benefit from seeing where they are about to go and where they went (or went wrong) as soon as possible before and after a day in the field. This iterative approach improves on passive learning experiences in which the student browses a preset sequence of field stops and reads text or views graphics in associated pop-up windows. To move beyond the passive model, we are developing self-drive virtual field trips in which students must discover key outcrops and examine virtual specimens that appear based on proximity. Samples of our virtual field trips are available from “”