Academic journal article International Journal of Education and Development using Information and Communication Technology

Development of a Multi-Scaled Virtual Field Trip for the Teaching and Learning of Geospatial Science

Academic journal article International Journal of Education and Development using Information and Communication Technology

Development of a Multi-Scaled Virtual Field Trip for the Teaching and Learning of Geospatial Science

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

There has been considerable research and development into the use of multimedia in teaching and learning geospatial science. Geospatial science professions like cartography, geomatics and surveying are practiced-based and therefore are heavily reliant upon the application of knowledge to practical situations in the field. Action learning and action research establishes a learning environment in which students are actively engaged in building, testing and refining mental models.

This paper discusses the development of a virtual field trip to facilitate action learning and action research to enhance the field experience obtained by undergraduate geospatial science students when preparing for fieldwork. Developing the virtual field trip to encompass field observation for a number of geographic scales is discussed as part of this paper. Preliminary evaluation has been undertaken with results indicating that students are able to obtain a general overview of the area into which they will be working and obtain background information in an interactive threedimensional model that will enable them to maximise their experience when away on fieldwork. Further work into the development of new localised sites and more tools to assist students with orientation and navigation are required.

Keywords: Virtual Reality Modelling Language, Virtual Field Trip, Nested Models, Action Learning.

INTRODUCTION

Action learning and action research assume that learning results from active experience (Kember, 1999). Traditionally, the delivery of information to students has been via what Michael and Modell (2003) term the "lecture hall" approach. This is achieved by an instructor (or lecturer) standing in front of an amphitheatre-style lecture hall with steeply ranked rows of seats armed with a blackboard (whiteboard) and projector screen. It is assumed that as the lecturer delivers information to students, they will "learn" that information, generally in a passive way. In contrast, action learning, which incorporates active learning, establishes a learning environment in which students are actively engaged in building, testing and refining mental models (Michael and Modell, 2003).

Practice-based geospatial science professions like surveying and cartography are reliant upon the application of knowledge in practice. It is therefore imperative that theory is integrated into practice through action learning (Chien et al., 2002). Within the School of Mathematical and Geospatial Sciences at RMIT University, we teach geospatial science undergraduate programs that incorporate aspects of geography, and in particular physical geography, where the fundamentals of geomorphology, climatology and hydrology are covered. Interactive computerbased exercises are used to teach the principles of reading topographic maps. These exercises utilise an interactive map base linked to formative questions that focus on topographic relief and scale, and were developed using Macromedia software. These are linked to RMIT's Distributed Learning System (DLS) built around the Blackboard on-line platform. However, due to student numbers, and financial and time constraints, fieldwork is reserved for second year. As part of the second year, students participate in a field camp of four days where they are required to undertake a series of "mapping" activities. One of the activities is for students to assess hiker impact along popular walking tracks in the Grampians National Park in western Victoria, Australia.

This paper discusses a project that was undertaken to test how effective the development and implementation of a virtual field trip (VFT) is for the preparation of second year undergraduate cartography and geomatics students for mapping fieldwork. In addition, the paper addresses how well the VFT facilitated action learning and action research through instructor directed exploration and examination of environmental biophysical factors in a real-world setting. …

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