For geology students, good fieldwork skills are vital. The ‘Virtual Training Environment’ (VTE) project is a collaboration between the School of Earth and Environment, University of Leeds and Leeds College of Art, to develop a blended learning game in which students develop and practice basic field skills in a geological field mapping exercise. The game, created in Unity™, involves students exploring an open virtual landscape where they learn to collect, plot and interpret geological data on to a paper copy map. This game is not a replacement for field work, but provides a space between classroom and field where skills can be learnt and practised, both in teaching sessions and students’ self directed study.
Students’ reactions to the virtual field have been enthusiastic. Interestingly, they make the same mistakes as in the real field, allowing good practice to be emphasised. The first students have completed their training and their performance in the field class will be assessed relative to previous years.
In this session, we will include an opportunity for a hands on demonstration of the core game and a presentation with Q&A that will reflect on the design, challenges and lessons learnt from the the pilot study. The presentation will also discuss the benefits of a cross-disciplinary/institutional team in producing the educational game.
Due to the game’s open-ended design, the VTE is continually being developed by the team. A bespoke version produced for students unable to attend field trips due to mobility issues has been developed, whilst a simplified version for schools outreach to show how geological maps are created will be available soon. The next major update will be free from the compromises necessitated from being based on an initial paper exercise. It will be designed specifically for the VTE with the interaction between geology and landscape refined and the user experience improved with more distinctive and realistic outcrops.
The VTE is available free as a web-based, open educational resource – http://www.see.leeds.ac.uk/virtual_worlds/demo/. It is already being used by other institutions and can be used by students at home as well as in the classroom.
This session will be of interest to academic staff and learning technologists wishing to explore the potential of Unity™ based Game Experiences in their institutions and some insight to the time and skill investment of staff.
Requirements – Demonstration Laptops or Suite of Computers – PC or MAC minimum specification – i5 processor or equivalent and dedicated graphics card. Presentation machine with Video Projector and Speakers.
Jong, M., Shang, J., Lee, F.-L. & Lee, J. 2008. Harnessing computer games in education. International Journal of Distance Education Technologies, 6(1), 1-9. doi:10.4018/jdet.2008010101
Quinn, C. 2005. Engaging learning. CA:Pfeiffer.