Taylor & Francis Group
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Immersive, interactive virtual field trips promote science learning

posted on 2019-04-02, 16:00 authored by Chris Mead, Sanlyn Buxner, Geoffrey Bruce, Wendy Taylor, Steven Semken, Ariel D. Anbar

Field learning is considered an essential part of geoscience education, yet there are many practical challenges that limit broad and equitable access to field learning. Virtual field experiences can now help to broaden access to field learning. This work details the learning design and technical components of immersive, interactive virtual field trips (iVFTs). iVFTs take the established idea of a computer-based virtual field trip and add adaptive feedback and richer interactivity, which allow for active and more scientifically authentic learning experiences. By using adaptive learning technology, iVFTs can respond intelligently and automatically to student actions, guiding students through exploration, discovery, and analysis. We present evidence for the effectiveness of iVFTs in achieving learning objectives in both high school and undergraduate settings. Students from both samples showed large and statistically significant gains in content knowledge. Normalized gains on a six-item knowledge survey were .90 and .96, respectively (p < .001). This result broadly demonstrates the value of our iVFT designs. Follow-up research should rigorously study the effects of adaptive feedback, interactivity, and the other distinctive features of iVFTs on student learning.


This work was supported by the NASA EPOESS program (award #NNX11AH35G), the NASA Science Mission Directorate’s Science Activation Program (award #NNX16AD79G S01), the National Science Foundation TUES Program (award #1225741), the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and the NASA Astrobiology Institute.