Fieldwork has long been considered an essential component of geoscience research and education, with student field experiences consistently valued for their effectiveness in developing expertise in geoscience skills and cognitive abilities. However, some geoscience disciplines recently have exhibited a decreasing focus on data collection in the field. Additionally, some students have been disinclined to pursue a geoscience career if physical fieldwork is perceived as necessary for the completion of their academic degree. More recently, travel restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic have restricted access to field locations for many students and geoscience researchers. As a result, geoscience educators are developing virtual field trips and exercises that address many of the learning objectives of traditional in-person field experiences. These virtual field trips and exercises use a variety of online and computer platforms, including web-based and desktop versions of Google Earth (GE). In this contribution, we highlight how educators can create virtual geoscience field trips and exercises using web GE, desktop GE, and a web-based tool for generating oriented geologic symbology for GE. Examples of methods and approaches for creating virtual field experiences in GE are provided for a virtual field trip that uses a web GE presentation to replicate a typical class field trip, and for a geologic mapping exercise that uses a KML file uploaded into web or desktop GE. Important differences between web and desktop GE are discussed, with consideration for which platform might be most effective for specific educational objectives. Challenges and opportunities related to virtual field trips are discussed in comparison with traditional in-person, on-location field trips. It is suggested that in a post–COVID-19 world, a combination of in-person and virtual hybrid field experiences might prove the most effective approach for producing a more inclusive and equitable learning environment, and thus strengthening the geoscience workforce.
Research Article| December 23, 2020
Creating virtual geologic mapping exercises in a changing world
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S.J. Whitmeyer, M. Dordevic; Creating virtual geologic mapping exercises in a changing world. Geosphere 2020; doi: https://doi.org/10.1130/GES02308.1
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