Enabling Geology: YouTube and a box of rocks?
Teaching on campus can be hard work, but teaching students who learn through distance education presents unique challenges. Alan Moore has been teaching part-time for twelve years and wanted to ensure that his distance students had a comparable experience to those who learn on-campus.
“Geology is not a written subject. It’s one where things need to be observed and interpreted, so I wanted students to be able to get a real taste for the subject” says Alan.
Previously, distance students downloaded a booklet of information and some still photos to study. Some of the images were in black and white, some were colour, but all were low resolution and poor quality. There had been many complaints from the students about the images and how they were difficult to use.
“Rather than designing a new, separate course, I tried to make the distance course the same as the on-campus course” says Alan. “I wasn’t happy with the existing situation, so I thought the virtual field trip could be the answer.”
After attending a CTL session where he learned about the capabilities of the BOLD Lab, Alan approached the BOLD team about making a video to capture the field trip. The project was accepted and completed in a relatively short time frame, helped by the fact that Alan had a clear idea of how he could make the excursion engaging for distance students. Cameraman Nick Barham and his audio assistant Luke Boulton were given a quick introduction to geology as they followed Alan along the path he covers on his annual excursion. Nick even compared Alan to David Attenborough for his cool, calm collected manner on camera.
“Alan is a fantastic presenter- a real natural- and it is so obvious that he has a real depth of knowledge in his field” says Nick. “I really like being involved in such a practical project. You can see the value that is has for students straight away.”
Upgrading the teaching resources has made the course more engaging for students and increased their level of satisfaction. Nathan, a student in the course, commented that “The video was very well constructed, logically set out and easy to understand.”
The EPGEOS Virtual Field Excursion has had many more views on YouTube than the number of students who are enrolled in the course, proving it has been popular with students and a valuable tool for revision. “I loved everything about it” said Julie “Especially that you could pause and play back the info you needed for the question.”
In addition to the virtual field trip, Alan has organised for distance students to get their hands on some rock samples, via a parcel in the post. The ‘box of rocks’ has been a popular teaching tool, allowing students vital practical experience when it comes to observing and assessing geological samples.
Elleshia describes another benefit. “When I received the rocks in the mail, it really made me feel like I was more involved in the course. Being a distance student, I often feel unattached to the course material but being able to actually feel and look properly at some rock samples was great.”
Alan’s innovation and creative teaching methods are paying off, as students who learned via the virtual field trip performed just as well in the assessment task as their peers who attended the excursion in person.
“I really want students to get involved. Even if they don’t go on and continue to study geology, I’d like to think that they found it interesting and that maybe, they’ll want to learn more.”
You can watch the EPGEOS Virtual Field Excursion here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J26R2p25XEQ