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

Paper No. 156-11
Presentation Time: 4:35 PM


SEMKEN, Steven1, BRUCE, Geoffrey1, ANBAR, Ariel D.1, BUXNER, Sanlyn2, KARLSTROM, Karl3 and CROSSEY, Laura J.3, (1)School of Earth and Space Exploration, Arizona State University, PO Box 871404, Tempe, AZ 85287-1404, (2)Planetary Science Institute, 1700 E Fort Lowell Rd #106, Tucson, AZ 85719, (3)Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM 87131-0001, semken@asu.edu

Learning by exploration in the field is a justifiably hallowed tradition in the geosciences, but opportunities to study in the field are not readily available to all students: particularly minority and other underserved students, introductory non-major students at large institutions, and students in highly urbanized areas. Legal and financial constraints further hinder ready access to field-based learning. At the same time, rapid advances in imaging and image-processing technologies, in tandem with development of more accessible and responsive digital learning environments, have brought increasingly rich and immersive virtual field experiences to anyone with internet access. In creating and disseminating these immersive virtual field trips (iVFTs), our group does not presume to supplant field-based geoscience education, but intends to offer the next best alternative option.

The effectiveness of iVFTs in teaching both general and locality-specific geological knowledge and skills is not yet well defined, let alone rigorously tested. Virtual and in-situ modalities differ enough that a straightforward comparison of the two is essentially meaningless. Instead, we posit that each modality has unique strengths and weaknesses with regard to such factors as embodied cognition, universal access, and novelty space; and complementary analyses of each will inform better teaching overall. We have situated our initial complementary study at Grand Canyon, where we have created both an in-situ informal learning environment (the Trail of Time) and an iVFT that have similar learning objectives. Our mixed-methods research protocol comprises observation and analysis of student interactions with a component common to both modalities (the Great Unconformity and its significance), coupled with pre-post testing on the common learning objectives. Our future objective is a validated protocol for authentic assessment of student learning and experience in the iVFT environment.