GSA Annual Meeting in Phoenix, Arizona, USA - 2019

Paper No. 301-10
Presentation Time: 4:20 PM


HURLER, Kevin, School of the Earth, Ocean and Environment, University of South Carolina, 701 Sumter Street, EWS 617, Columbia, SC 29208 and RYKER, Katherine, School of the Earth, Ocean and Environment, University of South Carolina, 701 Sumpter Street, EWS 617, Columbia, SC 29208

Virtual reality’s role in geoscience education is constantly growing and changing as technology becomes more advanced and accessible for students and teachers alike. Virtual reality (VR) dates back to the 1960s, but has only recently become a part of classrooms in the form of virtual field experiences (VFEs). VFEs have been deployed through browser- and software-based experiences, including the use of tools like Google Earth and Smart Sparrow (Bitting et al., 2018; Mead et al., 2019). These VFEs appear in many different fields such as physics, biology, engineering, and geology (Salzman & Loftin, 1996; Haris & Osman, 2015; Seifan et al., 2018; Dolphin et al., 2019). In using VFEs in tandem with traditional field camp programs, VFEs are shown to supplement pre-existing field experiences, ease student anxieties about entering the field, create a more inclusive learning environment, rectify issues of accessibility, and allow a greater sense of exploration of a field site (Mead et al., 2019; Dolphin et al., 2019). VR may provide an added sense of immersion with these VFEs. Just as AR has ridden its own “technological wave” (Yuen et al., 2011), applications of VR are rapidly expanding through the use of head-mounted devices like the HTC Vive, particularly as they become more market friendly. Because of its novelty, the use of VR as a tool to teach geology, including as part of VFEs, is a relatively new area of research that lacks structure. This presentation will outline the development of a pedagogical framework for the effective use of virtual reality in geoscience classrooms, highlighting current literature and technology resources that incorporate best practices for improving the learning environment.