Articles | Volume 5, issue 3
© Author(s) 2022. This work is distributed underthe Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
Virtual field experiences in a web-based video game environment: open-ended examples of existing and fictional field sites
- Final revised paper (published on 02 Sep 2022)
- Preprint (discussion started on 23 Jun 2021)
Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor |
: Report abuse
RC1: 'Comment on gc-2021-17', Anonymous Referee #1, 21 Jul 2021
- AC2: 'Reply on RC1', Mattathias Needle, 18 Aug 2021
RC2: 'Comment on gc-2021-17', Anonymous Referee #2, 23 Jul 2021
- AC1: 'Reply on RC2', Mattathias Needle, 18 Aug 2021
Peer review completion
AR: Author's response | RR: Referee report | ED: Editor decision
ED: Reconsider after major revisions (further review by editor and referees) (27 Aug 2021) by Steven Whitmeyer
AR by Mattathias Needle on behalf of the Authors (08 Oct 2021)  Author's response Author's tracked changes Manuscript
ED: Referee Nomination & Report Request started (09 Oct 2021) by Steven Whitmeyer
RR by Anonymous Referee #2 (10 Oct 2021)
RR by Anonymous Referee #1 (24 Oct 2021)
ED: Publish as is (25 Oct 2021) by Steven Whitmeyer
ED: Publish as is (26 Oct 2021) by Kirsten v. Elverfeldt(Executive Editor)
Overview and General Recommendation:
Needle et al. describe two new and exciting virtual geology field experiences and share one of them with the larger earth science community. However, the author’s do not present any geologic or education data or results within this contribution, thus I do not feel this contribution qualifies as a Research Article per the Geoscience Communication Review Criteria. The contribution primarily serves as a report on the sites they created and how they chose to implement them in the classroom. However, it is an important resource contribution to the geoscience community and should be published.
The field trips include one real world site, the Whaleback anticline in Central Pennsylvania, recreated digitally using structure-from-motion photogrammetry and one fictional location created using Blender, an open-source 3D creation platform. Both field sites were designed in Unity, a platform that allows the user to build 2D, 3D, and VR games. The Whaleback anticline field site “video game” is publicly available for community use on a free video-game hosting platform – web links are available via the website virtualfieldgeology.com, which is run by the authors.
These are useful tools to supplement, replace, and/or enhance traditional geoscience field education. Virtual field trips (VFTs) provide improved access for students and may ultimately alleviate some barriers associated with field excursions. I suspect geoscience instructors will greatly benefit from using the two VFTs created and described by the authors. The authors leave the goals and activities associated with the VFTs open-ended to allow other instructors to make use of the field sites as they see fit. I recommend the manuscript be published with minor revision and with recognition that it is not a research article.
The contribution has two primary weaknesses. First, the authors do not present any quantitative or evaluative data from their pilot VFT implementations at the University of Washington. As such I cannot assess 1) student engagement, 2) if students acquired and accomplished the associated field skills and learning goals, or 3) how student learning gains compare to traditional field experiences. I recognize that this falls into the category of discipline-based education research with human research subjects. As such, to collect and report much of the data I request the authors would need Institutional Review Board approval. I encourage the authors to carefully consider how to assess the success of their VFTs in the future, I’d be very interested in those results!
Second, the authors do not provide sufficient workflow or technical information regarding how they built their VFTs to be useful for others to follow their approach. The manuscript would benefit from a workflow figure and detailed steps for others to create VFTs, as this seems to be the primary purpose of their contribution. At present the manuscript is simply a description of the sites they built.
The authors have provided neat tools for the community, but their contribution to GC serves only to share and describe the tools they created as opposed to presenting information and data assessing the tools or a more detailed approach to building the tools. I think both would substantially improve the utility of the contribution.
Lines 58-59: The manuscript would benefit from additional references of geoscience education research to support several claims. References here would help.
Line 120: Do you have user results from the July 2020 pilot study to report?
Line 139: How do you measure user experience such as “Most students found the game controls to be intuitive”?
Line 216: Do you have any user results beyond anecdotal accounts?
Line 224: Can you elaborate on high-quality work? How was this assessed?
Lines 258-264: I only caution the authors to consider that fictional environments could be abused by instructors. If a major goal of using VFTs is to accessibly acquire and practice field skills, then the VFTs should be geologically reasonable and possible.
Line 266: I look forward to this template contribution – this will be excellent for the geoscience community!