Conventional, Augmented and Virtual Reality Field Education in the Biogeosciences: Comparing Student Perceptions and Performance

Authors: Nina Hewitt*, University of British Columbia
Topics: Geography Education, Environmental Science, Biogeography
Keywords: Experiential education, Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality, Forest ecology
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/10/2021
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:15 AM
Room: Virtual 46
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The COVID-19 pandemic forced educators and students everywhere into online learning environments, disrupting field-based learning methods that have long been employed in the biogeosciences. This development accentuated the need to assess the comparative pedagogical effectiveness of conventional and digitally-facilitated approaches to field education. I compared student performance on and perceptions of an identical assignment in different sections of the same introductory physical geography course using conventional, augmented or virtual versions of a forest ecology field trip. The conventional version was led by graduate assistants (GA’s). The Augmented Reality (AR) version was self-directed in the field using a mobile app that guided students along a specified route with geolocationally-triggered audio lessons, video clips and quizzes. The Virtual Reality (VR) version was experienced by students on personal computers via a website using 360 photos, videos and accompanying text. All versions delivered content related to disturbance, succession, species composition and structure, along with prompts to achieve intended learning outcomes via field observation and analysis of ecological information in their physical or virtual surroundings. These prompts and information were delivered by GA's in the conventional version. The various versions of the same field trip in the same course offer a valuable opportunity to compare the advantages and disadvantages of conventional, AR and VR field education in the biogeosciences. Preliminary results suggest that measured academic performance is similar across all versions and that students enjoy the VR version, but questions remain about the effect of virtual learning on the more intangible benefits of in-field experiences.

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