Rocky Mountain Section - 64th Annual Meeting (9–11 May 2012)

Paper No. 7
Presentation Time: 10:45 AM


SETHI, Parvinder, Department of Geology, Radford Univ, Box - 6939, Radford, VA 24142-6939,

Rapid advances in strands of hardware and software have positioned faculty to become more adept at conceptualizing and creating 'virtual field trips'. Even though 'virtual field trips' have been used for several decades - much can be debated about the 'fidelity' with which such field-trips have been able to effectively bring the field into the classroom. Simultaneous advancements in learning psychology and multiple-intelligence types have caused a strong convergence of technology with pedagogy. Indeed - educators have seen a clear evolution of both the 'content' and 'delivery' of geological concepts - from the earliest 'slide-show' based 'virtual field trip' to one incorporating GigaPans, Google Earth and 360 degree panoramas of today.

Instructors, however, feel overwhelmed by the diversity of 'virtual tools' for teaching with, especially given the stark absence of the pedagogy behind such virtual tools. This paper highlights advancements in learning psychology and instructional technology tools to create more meaningful, 'high-fidelity', Virtual Field Trips (VFTs) for use in both High-school and introductory-level, college courses. Using a set of fifteen such VFTs - a case will be made for teaching fundamental geological concepts via such VFTs of the U.S. National Parks. Examples of geological concepts shall be highlighted using real-time access to server-based VFTs to explore the types of interactivity designed into such VFTs. Emphasis will be placed on 'why' such a use of multimedia-based, instructional technology embedded within these VFTs is worth using and assessing in todays' classrooms. The paper will also demonstrate best-practices for integration of such VFTs in a geology curriculum without adding extra work for the instructor. Such best-practices will exhibit the potential of how such VFTs can engage the typical, college freshman with geology early on in their college career so that they may have a realistic chance at deciding to pursuing geology as a major.

Lastly, this paper will present assessment-data to understand how to best use such VFTs to engage students in economic times that prevent students from taking expensive real-life field trips to many of our nations majestic National Parks. Information about how to access and use such online VFTs in geology classes will also be provided.