GSA Annual Meeting in Phoenix, Arizona, USA - 2019

Paper No. 155-7
Presentation Time: 3:00 PM


CHRISTIE, Max, Department of Geology, University of Illinois, 1301 W Green St, Urbana, IL 61801

Field trips are a fundamental part of a geoscience education, but distance, physical ability, or cost can make accessing field localities difficult. Recent technological advances such as affordable virtual reality headsets and 360° cameras have allowed for the development of virtual interactive experiences for education (Masrur et al. 2017; Wallgrün et al. 2018). These technologies make it possible for students to experience field sites without traveling to that location in a controlled environment. Results from studies comparing VFTs and AFTs have found that student enjoyment and student performance was higher for VFTs than AFTs (Klippel et al., 2019). While VFTs should not totally replace AFTs in geology curricula, they represent a useful tool that can help students access more field sites.

Over the past two years I have developed several VFTs for use in my classroom (please see: for examples) along with associated lesson plans. These VFTs use 360° photospheres, ‘flat’ photos, and 3-dimensional models to construct an interactive space that students can explore as if they were on an AFT. Students can rotate and zoom the 360° photospheres as if they were standing at a point in a field area and can manipulate and measure 3D models such as rock specimens or outcrops. Using VFTs in geology classes has several advantages, for example:

  1. A VFT can simplify logistics and eliminate travel, allowing a field trip to fit into one or two class periods instead of a more traditional weekend field trip.
  2. VFTs allow users to go to places that would be financially or logistically challenging (ie. the other side of the country) or impossible (ie. Mars).
  3. VFTs can be combined with AFTs and used as a preliminary exercise to acquaint students with a study area and/or after an AFT to review material.

Overall, I found that using a VFT as a pre-trip exercise increased student scores on their field trip project and increased their engagement during the field trip. I am currently developing a new set of VFTs that use 3-dimensional models of outcrops to create a digital space (e.g. Minecraft) that can be explored on a computer or a virtual reality device.