DEVELOPING VIRTUAL FIELD EXPERIENCES (VFES) FOR TEACHING GEOSCIENCE CONCEPTS AND PROCESSES
To mitigate the absence of field experience, we are developing Virtual Field Experiences (VFEs): web-based investigations that approximate field experiences via inquiry-based exploration of geoscientific principles. Field data ranging in scale from gigapan photographs and unmanned aerial vehicle technology to photomicrographs are gathered from a location of interest, and the information is provided to students in a hyperlinked presentation that allows them to explore the data in a nonlinear fashion.
With a grant from the Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning, we collected digital data, designed and implemented a prototype VFE for students in our introductory physical geology course as a lab activity in the Fall of 2016. Observations of student experiences has given us insight into how students perceive such a learning activity and has led us to propose several scaffolding mechanisms to help novice students to better “see what a geologist sees”. Scaffolds include the structure and presentation of the VFE, but also precursor activities such as how to take field notes, having multiple exposures to the same data while focusing on different learning goals each time, and collecting actual rock hand samples that are representative of the rocks in the VFEs.
These new insights will guide us in further development of the prototype VFE, as well as multiple future VFEs from different geologic sites.