Towards a generic online Fieldwork and Laboratory Environment

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Presentation for Earth Sciences CETL 1 day conference on 10 May 2006

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Towards a generic online Fieldwork and Laboratory Environment

  1. 1. Towards a generic online Fieldwork and Laboratory Environment Phil Marston Learning Technology Unit University of Aberdeen
  2. 2. Virtual Environments Shell <ul><li>Going to tell you about: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Who I work for </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Some work that has been going on since 2000, addressing a range of needs </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>A fieldtrip shell that was developed </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>How the shell has been modified </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The future for the shell </li></ul></ul>
  3. 3. Learning Technology Unit <ul><li>LTU is a unit in the Directorate of Information Systems & Services </li></ul><ul><li>Are a core service for all the Colleges, providing consultancy in and delivery of technology enhanced learning </li></ul><ul><li>Annual call for project proposals where academics bid for LTU staff time </li></ul>
  4. 4. Origins of the generic Environment <ul><li>Practical difficulties with the delivery of traditional methods of laboratory practicals and fieldtrips </li></ul><ul><li>But no desire to lose the pedagogically beneficial features of the traditional methods </li></ul>
  5. 5. Practical difficulties <ul><li>Increasing student numbers </li></ul><ul><li>Time constraints </li></ul><ul><li>Limited supply and increasing expense of apparatus </li></ul><ul><li>Recognition that valuable time in labs and on fieldtrips could be more profitably spent if supported by previous exposure to simulated environments </li></ul>
  6. 6. Practical difficulties cont. <ul><li>Demand for quality assured data collection for subsequent analysis across the student population </li></ul><ul><li>Ethical considerations of an increasing proportion of the student population when working with live specimens </li></ul><ul><li>Many exercises when conducted traditionally are inflexible and unnecessarily time consuming </li></ul><ul><li>Unforeseen circumstances (e.g. foot and mouth) </li></ul>
  7. 7. Beneficial features <ul><li>Direct experience of where experimental data comes from </li></ul><ul><li>How reliable or otherwise it can be </li></ul><ul><li>How long it can take to gather/generate data </li></ul><ul><li>Experiential (i.e. hands on, visual, relational, effectual) </li></ul>
  8. 8. Virtual Laboratory <ul><li>Initially a virtual laboratory was developed for Dept. of Zoology for experiments in environmental toxicology </li></ul><ul><li>It had to address all of the previous concerns + a strong antipathy to computer based simulations of traditional ‘wet’ labs </li></ul><ul><li>Can demo this this afternoon </li></ul>
  9. 10. Virtual Fieldtrip Environment <ul><li>A VLE come CMS for a fieldwork course </li></ul><ul><li>Primarily to present spatially related course materials and data </li></ul><ul><li>To operate as: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Pre-trip orientation tool </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Post-fieldwork reflection tool </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Revision tool </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Substitute in extreme circumstances and for students unable to attend actual trips </li></ul></ul>
  10. 11. VLE come CMS <ul><li>Lots of content available </li></ul><ul><li>Don’t want to waste time re-purposing </li></ul><ul><li>Don’t want to lock content into system and system to content </li></ul><ul><li>Content agnostic </li></ul><ul><li>Easy for anyone to setup </li></ul>
  11. 12. Spatially related materials <ul><li>Main requirement was to make multiple types of content uniformly accessible with related material grouped together </li></ul><ul><li>Provide coherence to mixed media </li></ul><ul><li>Implicitly contextualise the content in a way that is relevant to the subject </li></ul>
  12. 13. Orient, reflect, revise & substitute <ul><li>Start at the beginning - do the field trip </li></ul><ul><li>Opportunity to; </li></ul><ul><ul><li>naively examine orientation </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>form a narrative </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>gather picture and video content </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>know what the academic is talking about, but also see things from student perspective </li></ul></ul>
  13. 15. Students thought <ul><li>“… sitting in a stuffing computer room, it is possible to learn loads, not just about that specific area but the sort of things to look for and apply to other places” </li></ul><ul><li>“ The sedimentology that I have been slaving away with is certainly a bonus, but for those who have not done any, the basics are highlighted, well laid out, logically explained, and the photos are clear, especially with the shading to help pick out the grainsize and rounding etc” </li></ul><ul><li>“ I’m impressed, and can’t think of anything I didn’t like, or found difficult to use” </li></ul><ul><li>“ I have always been a bit sceptical about these ‘virtual’ trips, but this has proven me wrong. These should be used more often” </li></ul>
  14. 16. Modifications <ul><li>It was always envisioned that the Virtual Environments Shell could be used for inaccessible places like Mars </li></ul><ul><li>Archaeology distance learning course saw another angle </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Students authoring their own fieldtrips </li></ul></ul>
  15. 19. Beyond land-sciences <ul><li>Approached by academic in music who wished to present sounds recorded as part of a local arts commission </li></ul><ul><li>The project was called the Gordon Soundscape </li></ul><ul><ul><li>so we used a modified form of the fieldtrip environment to present the recordings </li></ul></ul>
  16. 21. Simulated Alpine Glaciological Research Project
  17. 22. In the future …
  18. 24. … the future … cont. <ul><li>Instant messaging for collaborative visits </li></ul><ul><li>Integration with Intra-library learning object repository </li></ul><ul><li>Use of GML </li></ul><ul><li>Incorporation of google maps </li></ul>
  19. 25. Thanks to: <ul><li>Dr Alan Bowman – Zoology </li></ul><ul><li>Dr Alastair Gemmell – Geography </li></ul><ul><li>Dr Ian Edwards – Forestry </li></ul><ul><li>Donald Paterson – Archaeology </li></ul><ul><li>Dr Pete Stollery – Music </li></ul><ul><li>Dr Doug Mair – Geography </li></ul><ul><li>Drs David Green & Martin Solan – Geog and Bio </li></ul><ul><li>Sergei Shubin – Geography </li></ul>
  20. 26. Any questions? <ul><li>Phil Marston </li></ul><ul><li>http://www.abdn.ac.uk/diss/ltu/pmarston/ </li></ul><ul><li>[email_address] </li></ul>

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