GSA Annual Meeting in Phoenix, Arizona, USA - 2019

Paper No. 190-11
Presentation Time: 9:00 AM-6:30 PM


BROWN, Kenneth, Department of Geosciences, DePauw University, P.O. Box 37, Greencastle, IN 46135

Traditional undergraduate geoscience courses often rely on static images and field photos to convey concepts. Although this lecture-based approach can be quite effective, the use of static images often creates a passive learning environment. Additionally, many of the geologic features and landforms that are discussed in introductory geology courses are too large to bring into the classroom (e.g. faults, folds, glaciers, streams, and volcanoes). Virtual field trips, however, give students an opportunity to explore these landscapes and geologic features within a classroom setting, thereby creating a more active learning environment.

To help introductory students better understand the causes of mass wasting events, their spatial distribution, and their impacts on communities, a virtual field trip was created in Google Earth Pro. This virtual field trip allows students to explore ten recent mass wasting events (GigaPan images) within Morgantown, WV. The virtual field trip was tested on an introductory physical geology course, which is taken by a diverse group of undergraduate students. While exploring the GigaPan images, students answer guided questions about the landslide events as well as formulate hypotheses about potential future landslides. To evaluate student learning, pre- and post-survey questions were integrated into the exercise. These questions asked students to rate their experience and understanding using a simple Likert scale. Preliminary results indicate that students felt more knowledgeable and informed about the dangers of this natural hazard after completing the virtual field trip. Because mass wasting is common in West Virginia, this exercise resonated with students and fostered open discussions in the large classroom setting. Virtual field trips such as this one can increase Earth science literacy, incorporate local (or global) issues, promote civic-minded engagement, and help students become advocates for evidence-based policy-making.