GSA Annual Meeting in Indianapolis, Indiana, USA - 2018

Paper No. 178-10
Presentation Time: 9:00 AM-6:30 PM


MCNAMEE, Brittani D., Department of Environmental Studies, University of North Carolina Asheville, 1 University Heights, CPO #2330, Asheville, NC 28804 and BOGERT, Kenneth, Department of Computer Science, University of North Carolina Asheville, 1 University Heights, CPO #2320, Asheville, NC 28804

Two of the main challenges in teaching geologic features and processes in an introduction-level Physical Geology course is describing their 3-dimensional orientation and scale. Near the end of the semester, students in the course were given three locations “explore” in Google VR using the UNC Asheville’s Virtual Reality Laboratory, equipped with HTC Vives. Locations were initially selected using the Google Earth desktop program and then exported to kmz2gevr1 and then loaded onto the VR stations as saved locations in the Google VR program. The goal of the exercise is to give them perspective of the dimensions and scale of the different geologic features and processes at each location. Students worked in pairs and took turns reading the assignment questions and writing responses of the one who was immersed in the virtual reality. A short series of questions following the activity asked students to reflect upon their favorite location, where they would like to explore, and what might be some other applications for the Google Earth VR program.

The students explored the pumice cone Vulcan and the composite Tavurvur in Papua New Guinea and compare and contrast the features of each. Students can see folds and features of glacial erosion in the Alps along the Italy-Switzerland border. By “flying” high above the mountains, you get a sense of just how tall and broad this range is. The third location is set on a ridge overlooking the Grand Canyon in Arizona, where students are asked to “fly over” and “raft” down the Colorado River in Google Street View and observe the geologic features such as horizontal layers, inclined layers, rock coloring, faults, joints, sand bars, and adjoining channels.

These locations are discussed in the lecture portion of the class and this VR assignment enables students to envision the scale and dimensions of the features shown prior in photographs. Within this sandbox setting, students can also explore “outside of the photograph”, enabling them to ask more questions and make more observations about the features and processes they are seeing. In the future, the following logistics will need more attention and planning: scheduling, students with disabilities, group sizes, pre-assessment of the geologic history of the features selected, and due dates for the assignments.


  • McNamee-Bogert_GSA2018_poster.pdf (5.3 MB)