GSA Annual Meeting in Denver, Colorado, USA - 2016

Paper No. 156-12
Presentation Time: 9:00 AM-6:30 PM


BROWN, Kenneth, Department of Geology and Geography, West Virginia University, 330 Brooks Hall, 98 Beechurst Ave., Morgantown, WV 26506,

Using data to explain difficult geologic concepts and to illustrate fundamental spatial relationships has long been an important aspect of geoscience education. Because online databases and mapping tools are readily available, students can now collect, manipulate, visualize, and analyze large geoscience datasets easily. As such, these online resources give educators an excellent opportunity to develop a large range of active and experiential learning exercises. Within the classroom, these exercises foster open discussions and challenge students to explore current geoscience issues. These exercises are also an important way for students to apply knowledge and to develop fundamental skills necessary for a career in the geosciences. This contribution focuses on the development of online exercises specific to upper- and lower-division geoscience courses. At the lower-division level (physical geology, environmental geology, and natural hazards), some specific online exercises include: 1) evaluating trends in water usage through online data from the USGS National Water Information System; 2) evaluating the rate of plate movements using JPL GPS time series data; and 3) evaluating climate data using NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information. In upper-level igneous petrology courses, research specimens and bulk geochemical rock analyses can be incorporated into lab activities, giving students a first-hand opportunity to explore data with a real geologic context. By comparing bulk rock analyses to analytical data retrieved from online repositories (e.g. EarthChem, NAVDAT, GEOROC), students are better able to recognize the fundamental relationships between the chemistry of an igneous rock and its associated tectonic setting. Thus, activities like these give students a greater appreciation for hypothesis testing, data collection, analysis, and interpretation. These exercises also increase the amount of time students spend in the learning cycle outside of class, which is arguably an important factor influencing student performance.
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