Title: Would you rather collect data in the rain or attend a virtual field trip? Findings from a series of virtual science field studies

Authors: Denise Whitelock, Anne Jelfs

Addresses: The Open University, Institute of Educational Technology, Walton Hall, Milton Keynes MK7 6AA, UK. ' The Open University, Institute of Educational Technology, Walton Hall, Milton Keynes MK7 6AA, UK

Abstract: Virtual field trips open new possibilities for instructional designers to create more interactive worlds for learners. Three virtual field trips are examined which have all been developed for the Open University undergraduate science courses and make clever and innovative use of QuickTime Virtual Reality to allow students to enter three contrasting environments. Learning gains have been ascertained from pre- and post-test cognitive change scores. Perceived learning was also measured with a post experience questionnaire. The findings are interesting in that students felt they learnt more from the virtual environment than standing in the cold identifying biological samples. However, when it came to dealing with rock samples, students wanted to handle the real thing. This paper describes the advantages and disadvantages of using virtual science field trips and suggests the fine-tuning of feedback to students requires careful consideration in these types of virtual learning environments.

Keywords: virtual environments; presence; fidelity; virtual field trips; science field trips; higher education; instructional design; interactive learning; virtual learning environments; VLEs.

DOI: 10.1504/IJCEELL.2005.006797

International Journal of Continuing Engineering Education and Life-Long Learning, 2005 Vol.15 No.1/2, pp.121 - 131

Published online: 15 Apr 2005 *

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