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Geoscience Communication


Field experiences are a critical component of undergraduate geoscience education; however, traditional onsite field experiences are not always practical due to accessibility, and the popularity of alternative modes of learning in higher education is increasing. One way to support student access to field experiences is through virtual field trips, implemented either independently or in conjunction with in-person field trips. We created a virtual field trip (VFT) to Grand Ledge, a regionally important suite of sedimentary outcrops in central lower Michigan, USA. This VFT undertakes all stages of a field project, from question development and detailed observation through data collection to interpretation. The VFT was implemented in undergraduate sedimentation and stratigraphy courses at two different liberal arts institutions, with one version of the VFT conducted in-person and the other online. The VFT was presented from a locally hosted website and distributed through an online learning platform. Students completed a series of activities using field data in the form of outcrop photos, virtual 3D models of outcrops and hand samples, and photos of thin sections. Student products included annotated field notes, a stratigraphic column, a collaborative stratigraphic correlation, and a final written reflection. VFT assessment demonstrated that students successfully achieved the inquiry-oriented student learning outcomes, and student reflection responses provide anecdotal evidence that the field experience was comparable to field geology onsite. This VFT is an example of successful student learning in an upper-level sedimentation and stratigraphy course via virtual field experience with an emphasis on local geology.

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