2015 GSA Annual Meeting in Baltimore, Maryland, USA (1-4 November 2015)

Paper No. 35-9
Presentation Time: 9:00 AM-5:30 PM


FRANCIS, Hannah Ruth, Department of Geology, Smith College, Northampton, MA 01063; Department of Geological Sciences, University of Canterbury, Private Bag 4800, Christchurch, 8140, New Zealand; Frontiers Abroad, Christchurch, 8140, New Zealand, KENNEDY, Ben, Geological Sciences, University of Canterbury, Private Bag 4800, Christchurch, 8140, New Zealand, BEANE, Rachel, Geology, Bowdoin College, 6800 College Station, Brunswick, ME 04011 and HAMPTON, Samuel J., Geological Sciences and Frontiers Abroad, University of Canterbury, Private Bag 4800, Christchurch, 8140, New Zealand, hfrancis@smith.edu

Virtual field experiences (VFEs) have a growing presence in the classroom as accessible, affordable, and relevant tools to supplement learning of field skills and concepts. To assess the feasibility of replacing actual field trips with virtual ones, we designed a virtual field experience to achieve the same learning goals as a real field trip. The field trip was to a lava flow field on the lower flanks of Ngaruhoe Volcano, Mangatepopo Valley, New Zealand and the key learning goals were to accurately map and distinguish lava flows. In January 2015, 29 geology students completed lava flow maps in the Mangatepopo Valley as part of a field volcanology course. Students spent 5 hours in the field and anywhere from 3 to 5 hours in the evening to complete their maps, which were then graded using a rubric. The same marking rubric was used to grade a group of geology students who used the VFE to complete the same assignment in a two hour allotted voluntary laboratory. The virtual fieldtrip was Google Earth based with videos, images, and instructions. A physical map with mylar was provided to complete the exercise. The raw data shows a large disparity in grade received; actual field trip students scored significantly higher than the students who undertook the VFE. Two students who completed the physical field exercise over three months earlier also completed the exercise using the VFE and received similar scores. Additionally we note that these two students used the two full hours allotted to them to complete the assignment using the VFE, while other geology students generally chose to only use 1 hour. Ultimately, our data shows that time spent on task, incentives and context matter when asking students to complete an assignment, virtual or otherwise. With this important caveat we suggest VFEs are an excellent preparation or reinforcement for an actual field trip, and with ample background information and academic incentives, have potential to act as alternatives to physical field trips.