GSA Annual Meeting in Phoenix, Arizona, USA - 2019

Paper No. 153-10
Presentation Time: 4:15 PM


MOYSEY, Stephen M.1, SELLERS, Victoria2, LAZAR, Kelly2, BOYER, D. Matthew3, MOBLEY, Catherine4, BABU, Sabarish5, RUDOLPH, Bryson5, MUSICK, Geoff5 and WIITABLAKE, Leah M.6, (1)Geological Sciences, East Carolina University, 101 Graham Building, Greenville, NC 27858, (2)Engineering and Science Education, Clemson University, 104 Holtzendorff Hall, Clemson, SC 29634, (3)Environmental Engineering and Earth Sciences, Clemson University, Clemson, SC 29643, (4)Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Criminal Justice, Clemson, SC 29634, (5)School of Computing, Clemson University, Clemson, SC 29634, (6)Engineering and Science Education, Clemson University, 105 Sikes Hall, Clemson, SC 29634

The beauty, cultural significance, and geologic record captured by Grand Canyon make it a compelling place to introduce students and the public to Earth Science. Though millions visit Grand Canyon every year, few students in an introductory geoscience course will have the opportunity to do so and those who do visit the Canyon are unlikely to move beyond the rim to explore the geology below. Virtual reality (VR) field experiences can help to take advantage of this incredible natural learning resource by making guided exploration of Grand Canyon possible and accessible to all students. We share examples that illustrate different approaches for using immersive VR experiences to learn about Grand Canyon and its geologic history. These examples range from room-scale VR experiences requiring specialized VR equipment, such as the HTC Vive, to interactive photospheres that are easily created by an instructor and readily implemented in a classroom environment using student smartphones. These examples highlight how presence, interactivity, and accessibility of a VR experience might influence geoscience learning goals. We also discuss how basic concepts from introductory physical geology courses can be integrated into VR experiences using the example of VRFE Grand Canyon, a fully immersive, game-like VR experience designed to run on smartphones with Google Cardboard. VRFE Grand Canyon addresses content ranging from rock identification from hand samples to the synthesis of geologic history from field observations by guiding students through a sequence of locales that emphasize different geologic materials and concepts. For example, students use analysis of hand samples to investigate the link between rock characteristics and depositional environments for the Coconino Sandstone, whereas the sequence of Muav Limestone, Bright Angel Shale, and Tapeats Sandstone are used to introduce concepts of sea level change. A unique aspect of VRFE Grand Canyon is that we are embedding geoscience learning content within the context of a narrative story that follows the exploits of a prospector drawn to the Canyon by a real-world news story published in the New York Times in 1912. The use of storytelling in this example shows how Grand Canyon’s human and geologic history can be intertwined to more deeply engage and motivate learners.