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The Visual Geophysical Exploration Environment

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Rajul Pandya DLESE Program Center
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The VGEE is an online learning environment that helps undergraduate students learn fundamental Earth system science concepts through hands-on interaction with scientific visualization and data.
GSA Poster (PowerPoint 1MB Oct31 03)

Learning Goals


Higher Order Thinking Skills:

Articulating prior conceptions, identifying patterns in data (especially those in contradiction to preconceptions), discovering relationships in data, explaining relationships in terms of fundamental concepts.

Other Skills:

Being able to construct and interpret multi-variable visualizations with techniques like contour maps, isosurfaces, and cross-sections.


Instructional Level:

undergraduate entry level

Skills Needed:

Visualization skills are helpful, but the project tries to develop them

Role of Activity in a Course:

The curriculum includes 6 topics, with 3-4 class period long activities. It is meant to function as a laboratory in the course.

Data, Tools and Logistics

Required Tools:

Networked computer lab (works best with at least 512 MB RAM), java and java-3d enabled computer. Currently Unix, Linux and Windows all support Java3d.

Logistical Challenges:

Apple doesn't currently support Java3d.


Evaluation Goals:

To understand how to most effectively use the VGEE (or learning objects derived from the VGEE) in diverse settings (e.g. laboratory section, lecture, small-group, online classes). Also, to understand how visualization and these technologies contribute to students ability to form robust mental models. The only evaluation we have done attempted to examine student learning from and attitudes from the VGEE compared to traditional classroom experiences.

Evaluation Techniques:

In the spring of 2002, the VGEE was used in one of two otherwise identical general education atmospheric science classes. Tests and surveys examined the VGEE's effectiveness and identified learning obstacles. Pre and post-tests suggested that the group that used the VGEE showed more improvement in their understanding of course material. In affective surveys, the VGEE group reported that the class contributed more to their ability to apply logic and reasoning to scientific problems. Obstacles to VGEE use identified included a conception of science that devalued inquiry and valued factual knowledge, concern over evaluation, and difficulty developing investigatory strategies.


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