GSA Annual Meeting in Denver, Colorado, USA - 2016

Paper No. 67-6
Presentation Time: 9:00 AM-5:30 PM


SEMKEN, Steven1, BRUCE, Geoffrey1, MEAD, Chris1, BUXNER, Sanlyn2, TAYLOR, Wendy L.3, RUBERTO, Thomas1 and ANBAR, Ariel D.1, (1)School of Earth and Space Exploration, Arizona State University, PO Box 871404, Tempe, AZ 85287-1404, (2)Teachers in Industry, College of Education North, University of Arizona, 1501 E Speedway Blvd POB 210069, Tucson, AZ 85721, (3)Department of Geological Sciences, University of Cape Town, Private Bag X3, Rondebosch, 7701, South Africa,

Historical geology, or a variant, is a familiar second offering in the traditional two-course introduction to the undergraduate geoscience major. As the branch of geology concerned with reconstructing the 4.6-billion-year history of Earth and evolution of life on Earth from exploration and analysis of the geologic record in the field and laboratory, historical geology taught humanity the reality and significance of deep time. Its fundamentals, methods, and findings so pervade our discipline that every geoscientist is to some degree a “historical geologist.” Yet courses in historical geology have languished or vanished at many institutions, possibly because they have become more encyclopedic (cf. physical geology) than exploratory. However, when we surveyed learning outcomes of historical-geology courses offered at 22 diverse institutions, we found an emphasis on the core themes of deep time, fossils, evolution, and stratigraphy; which lend themselves to a field-based curriculum. Such a curriculum should allow exploration of the type localities that encode formative Earth-system events such as supercontinent assembly and breakup, climate change, speciation, and mass extinction. Few if any institutions can enable student access to all of these places, but advances in technology now offer students the next best option: immersive, content-rich, student-centered virtual field experiences that are freely accessible online. These virtual field learning modalities also can train students—including pre-service teachers—to work with such technologies in their future careers. We are producers of a growing online portfolio ( of immersive virtual field trips (iVFTs) situated around the globe. We are also engaged in complementary learning research to better characterize the distinct advantages and disadvantages of iVFTs versus field learning in situ. In addition to presenting the results of our curriculum survey, we demonstrate an emerging suite of iVFTs primarily developed for use in historical-geology instruction, and report on mixed-methods analyses of student learning and attitudes from complementary pairing of iVFTs and in-situ field trips.