GSA Annual Meeting in Denver, Colorado, USA - 2016

Paper No. 9-11
Presentation Time: 10:45 AM


HOUGHTON, Jacqueline J.1, ROBINSON, Annabeth2, GORDON, Clare E.1, LLOYD, Geoff E.1 and MORGAN, Daniel J.1, (1)School of Earth and Environment, University of Leeds, Woodhouse Lane, Leeds, LS2 9JT, United Kingdom, (2)Leeds College of Art, Blenheim Walk, Leeds, LS2 9AQ,

We are using screen-based virtual reality landscapes to augment the training geoscience students receive in preparing them for field and site investigation work. The project is a collaboration between the University of Leeds and Leeds College of Art, UK, to develop a series of video game-style worlds using Unity 3D software. These are not replacements for geological fieldwork rather virtual spaces between classroom and field in which to train and reinforcement essential skills. Our project renders a virtual landscape within a first-person computer game engine, to simulate aspects of geological fieldwork. Students explore the landscape as they would a real one, interacting with virtual outcrops to collect data, determine location, and map regional geology. Skills for conducting field geological surveys – collecting, plotting and interpreting data; planning and executing field study – are introduced interactively and intuitively. As with real landscapes, the virtual landscapes are open-ended terrains with embedded data. This means the game does not structure student interaction with the information, as it is through this fluid experience the student learns the best methods to work successfully and efficiently. The simulation provides the same intellectual challenges as real-world mapping, but with the flexibility of online delivery. Importantly, these virtual landscapes offer accessible parallel provision for students unable to visit, or fully partake in visiting, the field and provide alternative assessments combined with shared experiences that helps bind them into their cohort. The project has received positive feedback from both staff and students. Results show students make the same mistakes as when learning in the field, validating the realistic nature of the virtual experience and providing opportunity to learn from these mistakes. 70% of students report increased confidence with how to map boundaries and 80% have found the virtual training a useful experience. The approach saves time in the field as basic skills are already embedded. All our virtual landscapes are freely available online at

  • GSA talk1.pdf (2.0 MB)