GSA Annual Meeting in Seattle, Washington, USA - 2017

Paper No. 76-3
Presentation Time: 9:00 AM-5:30 PM


HOUGHTON, Jacqueline J.1, GORDON, Clare E.1, ROBINSON, Annabeth2, MORGAN, Daniel J.1 and LLOYD, Geoffrey E.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, created using the Unity 3D game engine, to enhance the training geoscience students receive in preparing for fieldwork. Students explore these landscapes as they would real ones, interacting with virtual outcrops to collect data, determine location, and map the geology. These worlds are not replacements for geological fieldwork, rather virtual spaces between classroom and field in which to train and reinforce essential skills. Importantly, they offer accessible provision for students unable to visit, or fully partake in visiting, the field. Observations of students in class show they make the same mistakes in the virtual field as in the real one, most notably ‘outcrop capture’ - get the outcrops on the map, interpret the geology later. This leads to problems in data interpretation, cross section construction and failure to use geological knowledge as it is acquired. We encourage students to learn from their mistakes in the virtual world and not to repeat them in the field. Student response to virtual field training is very positive, with it mentioned as a highlight in module and programme reviews. Fieldtrip staff noticed an increase in student confidence, with students requiring less guidance in field and evening work. Also as basic mapping skills are already embedded, time is saved in the field, allowing more focus on observational skills that cannot be taught in the virtual world. We use Likert scale questionnaires at the end of the class and at the end of the field trip asking students to reflect on whether the training helped them. Again, responses are very positive, although dropping slightly post-trip. It is not clear whether this reflects the reality of the fieldwork experience, students not separating their personal experience of the fieldtrip with their experience of using the virtual landscapes or whether the virtual training is not as useful as it is perceived to be straight after the class. This is something we plan to investigate further. This project is a collaboration between the University of Leeds and Leeds College of Art, UK. All our virtual landscapes are freely available online at
  • Poster ppt.pptx (6.1 MB)