Preprints
https://doi.org/10.5194/gc-2020-46
https://doi.org/10.5194/gc-2020-46

  18 Nov 2020

18 Nov 2020

Review status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal GC.

A role for Virtual Outcrop Models in Blended Learning: improved 3D thinking, positive perceptions of learning and the potential for greater equality, diversity and inclusivity in geoscience

Clare E. Bond1 and Adam J. Cawood1,2 Clare E. Bond and Adam J. Cawood
  • 1School of Geoscience, University of Aberdeen, Kings College, Aberdeen, AB24 3UE, UK
  • 2Southwest Research Institute, 6220 Culebra Rd, San Antonio, Texas, TX 78238, USA

Abstract. Virtual outcrop models are increasingly used in geoscience education to supplement field-based learning but their efficacy for teaching key 3D spatial thinking skills has not been tested. With the rapid increase in online digital learning resources and blended learning, most recently because of the global COVID-19 pandemic, understanding the role of virtual field environments to support and develop skills conventionally taught through field-based teaching has never been more critical. Virtual outcrops and virtual field environments have not been evaluated for their effectiveness in teaching and learning in geoscience, however. Here we show the efficacy of virtual outcrop models in improving 3D spatial thinking and provide evidence for positive perceptions amongst participants of using virtual outcrops in teaching and learning. Our results show that in a simple multiple choice scenario, participants were more likely to choose the 3D block diagram that best represents the structure when using a virtual outcrop (59 %), compared to more traditional representations, a geological map (50 %) and field photograph (40 %). We add depth to these results by capturing the perceptions of a cohort of students, within our full participants set, on the use of virtual outcrops for teaching and learning, after accessing a virtual field site and outcrops to which they had previously visited on a day's field teaching. We also asked all participants if and how virtual outcrops could be used effectively for teaching and training, recording 87 % of positive responses. However, only 2 % of participants felt that virtual outcrops could potentially replace in-field teaching. We note that these positive findings signal significant potential for effective use of virtual outcrops in a blended learning environment and for breaking barriers to ensure equality, diversity and inclusivity of geoscience field skills and teaching.

Clare E. Bond and Adam J. Cawood

 
Status: open (extended)
Status: open (extended)
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Clare E. Bond and Adam J. Cawood

Clare E. Bond and Adam J. Cawood

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Short summary
Virtual outcrop models are increasingly used in geoscience teaching, but their efficacy as a training tool for 3d thinking has not been tested. We find that use of a virtual outcrop increases participants ability to choose the correct geological block model. That virtual outcrops are viewed positively, but only in a blended learning environment not as a replacement for fieldwork, and that virtual outcrop use could improve equality, diversity and inclusivity in geoscience.
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