This page is a resource for sharing information about topics of interest for supporting community research in VR/AR in earth science education. Content here will be developed over time with the input of the community.

What works?

It is not yet known what the best tools or approaches are for utilizing VR/AR in education. For example, Selzer et al. (2019) recently showed that low-end VR systems (i.e., smartphones) and high-end VR systems (i.e., Oculus Rift) produced positive learning outcomes relative to the same experience deployed via a computer monitor, but there was no significant difference in learning outcome achieved for the VR deployments. Yet users experienced a significant difference in presence between the two VR systems. This points to the need for better understanding how different factors, such as presence, interaction, and accessibility of VR experiences, will contribute to cognitive, affective, and psychomotor learning outcomes. Domain specific research is important since it is likely that different learning needs will emerge in various disciplines. For example, spatial cognition is particularly important in the geosciences. Identifying what is a general affordance of VR/AR for learning versus what elements are domain specific is therefore a key issue for earth science educators.

Pedagogy for VR

Learn more about
pedagogy and VR »
In a content analysis of 35 VR learning tools, Johnston et al. (2018) found that over two-thirds of the experiences effectively implemented an experiential learning pedagogy. Thus most VR design has been focused toward teaching by having students be present in a virtual environment to learn from observation or by performing a desired set of tasks. Fewer VR environments today support learning theories that focus on increasing knowledge and understanding driven by student inquiry and reflection on performance, though about ⅓ of the VR tools exhibited discovery learning as a secondary pedagogy. Designing new VR experiences from the perspective of situated cognition is an area that should be explored further. For example, role playing as a professional geologist could not only impact a student's ability to learn specific content in the context of the real world, but it could potentially also aid in the development of professional skills and build identity as a geoscientist.

Pedagogies Implemented in VR Learning Experiences (Johnston et al., 2018):

  • Direct Instruction - student is led through content using drill or structured lessons with immediate feedback to support reinforcement of learning
  • Experiential Learning - student builds knowledge, skills, and values through direct experience with exploring or visiting environments
  • Discovery Learning - student learns concepts through inquiry-driven personal discovery that often builds on prior knowledge and requires problem solving, decision making, and strategy
  • Situated Cognition - students develop context-specific knowledge and practice embedded within a community as observers or actors through role playing, such as professional practice
  • Constructivism - learners gain knowledge and understanding through reflection on experiences in ways that are personally meaningful in environments that support application of knowledge

Research Groups Working on VR/AR in Geoscience

If your research group works on virtual field experiences, contact us to add your information to this list.

Publications and Resources

Annotated Bibliography

(Contributed by Kyra Hagge, PhD Student, East Carolina University)

Ahn, S.J., J. Fox, K.R. Dale, J.A. Avant (2014) Framing Virtual Experiences: Effects on Environmental Efficacy and Behavior Over Time. Communication Research 42(6): 839-863

Ahn, S.J., J. Bostick, E. Ogle, K.L. Nowak, K.T. McGillicuddy, J.N. Bailenson (2016) Experiencing Nature: Embodying Animals in Immersive Virtual Environments Increases Inclusion of Nature in Self and Involvement with Nature. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication 21(6): 399–419

Allcoat, D., A. von Muhlenen (2018) Learning in virtual reality: Effects on performance, emotion and engagement. Research in Learning Technology 26:1-13

Bailey, J., J.N. Bailenson, A. Stevenson Won, J. Flora, K.C. Armel (2012) Presence and Memory: Immersive Virtual Reality Effects on Cued Recall. Proceedings of the International Society for Presence Research Annual Conference

Bailey, J.O., J.N. Bailenson, J. Flora, K.C. Armel, D. Voelker, B. Reeves (2015) The Impact of Vivid Messages on Reducing Energy Consumption Related to Hot Water Use. Environment and Behavior 47(5): 570-592.

Herrera F, Bailenson J, Weisz E, Ogle E, Zaki J (2018) Building long-term empathy: A large-scale comparison of traditional and virtual reality perspective-taking. PLoS ONE 13(10): e0204494

Klippel, A., J. Zhao, D. Oprean, J.O. Wallgrun, C. Stubbs, P. La Femina, K.L. Jackson (2019) The value of being there: toward a science of immersive virtual field trips. Virtual Reality

Markowitz, David M., R. Laha, B.P. Perone, R.D. Pea, J.N. Bailenson (2018) Immersive Virtual Reality Field Trips Facilitate Learning About Climate Change. Frontiers in Psychology 9:2364

Ragan, E.D., D.A. Bowman, K.J. Huber (2012) Supporting cognitive processing with spatial information presentations in virtual environments. Virtual Reality 16(4):301-314.

Segovia K.Y., J.N. Bailenson (2009) Virtually True: Children's Acquisition of False Memories in Virtual Reality. Media Psychology 12(4), 371-393

Yung, R., C. Khoo-Lattimore (2019) New realities: a systematic literature review on virtual reality and augmented reality in tourism research. Current Issues in Tourism 22(17): 2056-2081