GSA Annual Meeting in Phoenix, Arizona, USA - 2019

Paper No. 155-10
Presentation Time: 4:00 PM


SELLERS, Victoria1, MOYSEY, Stephen M.2, LAZAR, Kelly Best3 and BENSON, Lisa1, (1)Engineering and Science Education, Clemson University, 104 Holtzendorff Hall, Clemson, SC 29634, (2)Geological Sciences, East Carolina University, 101 Graham Building, Greenville, NC 27858, (3)Engineering and Science Education, Clemson University, Clemson, SC 29634

We designed an immersive VR geology field experience deployed in VR headsets with smartphones to evaluate if such an experience can increase student interest in the geosciences relative to a real-world field experience or a traditional laboratory experience. In all three experiences, students performed tasks such as rock identification and interpretation of depositional environment based on tasks such as grain size observation and acid tests.

Physical Geology lab students at a university in the southeastern United States completed a lab exercise in either a traditional indoor lab setting (n=62), an outdoor field experience (n=49), or a VR experience (n=117) in Fall 2018. The VR experience followed the narrative of a prospector working in Grand Canyon, whereas the real-world field experience was performed at a local outcrop. The lab experience integrated hand-samples with large-format outcrop images. Validated scales of interest, attitude, and presence were used to craft quantitative surveys to better understand participant experience across the three treatments.

A Wilcoxon signed-rank test indicated that participants in the outdoor (Z=-2.20, p=0.03) and the VR field experience (Z=-2.97, p<0.01) had significantly higher post-intervention interest than prior to the experience. Participants in the classroom experience did not show statistically significant changes. Students’ attitudes towards the classroom experience (M=3.49, SD=0.68) were higher than attitudes for the VR (M= 3.31, SD=0.77) or outdoor (M=3.50, SD=0.56) experiences which could reflect greater familiarity with that learning environment. Participants in the VR experience reported a moderate sense of presence (M= 2.86, SD=0.73).

Participants in the field and VR experiences had significant changes in interest, likely indicating situational interest. This suggests that VR experiences could be a pathway to develop individual interest through repeated exposure and creating opportunities for student choice in VR exploration. These data support the use of outdoor and VR experiences as a supplement to existing laboratory instruction. Specifically, VR geoscience field experiences could be used to bolster interest in geoscience where logistics may inhibit students’ ability to participate in traditional field experiences.