GIS for the zombie apocalypse: Problem-based learning and remote engagement in the online GIS classroom

Authors: Megan Heckert*, West Chester University
Topics: Geography Education
Keywords: GIS, geography education
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/8/2021
Start / End Time: 11:10 AM / 12:25 PM
Room: Virtual 24
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Zombies have been reported throughout the region and our university president has charged us with running the (remote) situation room. What is the current threat to campus? Where are most vulnerable populations in the surrounding community? Where should we establish safe zones in the event of an evacuation?

This was the scenario facing my students on the first day of Introduction to GIS. This presentation will describe an experiment in teaching “GIS for the Zombie Apocalypse” using problem-based learning, elements of gamification, and field data collection to adjust to remote learning during an actual pandemic. At a time when motivation is a challenge and students are feeling disconnected from each other and the university, the zombie apocalypse provided a framework to consider GIS with a bit of levity and fun, to keep students engaged, and to help them apply geographic concepts in a relatable but controlled fashion. The transition to online learning has not always been smooth, with predictable challenges related to technology access and time management, but the overall experience has been positive.

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