Initial Publication Date: January 12, 2022

Using the Project EDDIE Plate Tectonics: GPS Data, Boundary Zones, and Earthquake Hazards module in Environmental Geology

Simon Pendleton, Plymouth State University

About this Course

Environmental Geology

Lecture Course

Introductory Undergraduate


students in the course

EDDIE Module(s) Adopted and/or Adapted

Plate Tectonics: GPS Data, Boundary Zones, and Earthquake Hazards

A Productive Learning Opportunity for Students and Instructor 
While the Environmental Geology course is primarily for Environmental Science majors, the range of background and relative levels of experience with Excel-like platforms, not to mention data science and quantitative analysis skills are vast, even within one class. Overall, the majority of students had little to no experience with Excel or working with data in this context. On one hand, this created a challenging atmosphere to essentially be introducing Excel data analysis, but also provided an opportunity for students to appreciate the power and effectiveness of such tools.

Jump to: Course Context | Teaching Details | How It Went | Future Use

Relationship of EDDIE Module(s) to my Course

This EDDIE Module fits well into my Env. Geology course, especially during the larger module on earthquakes. Moreover, I appreciated the incorporation of the discussion of GPS technology, as anyone who makes a career in the Earth or Environmental sciences will invariably use GPS technology or make use of the data, so understanding the premise behind the data, as well as how it is collected and interpreted is crucial.

Teaching Details

I utilized this EDDIE Module as a laboratory exercise. I have modified the module handout and its questions so that they should hopefully reflect the student's grasp of the content and tell me if my teaching is/was effective. I am also having them submit additional plots/graphs, and data analysis components so I can assess how well they understood/ completed the module.


Adaption Materials

Modified Student handout for Earthquake GPS lab (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 8.4MB Jan11 22)

How did the activity go?

My first implementation proved more challenging than I was anticipating, largely due to the general lack of experience with basic excel functions. A pre-course poll indicated moderate experience (student self-assessment) with excel, so this took me by surprise. During the initial implementation, I altered the lab to work through much of the initial portion of the module as a group, to step the students through the exercise. For the second implementation of the module, I re-tooled the lab to provide more direction for the students from the handout itself in hopes that it would become more self-guided.

The students struggled with the basic function of excel, as most had never utilized many (if any) of them before. However, by the end of the module, they began to see the utility of data analysis through programs like Excel as a way to quickly and efficiently organize, analyze, and interpret data in ways that seemed laborious before.

Future Use

This instructor story and adaption materials were developed during a Project EDDIE Faculty Mentoring Network in partnership with QUBES in the Fall of 2021.

Project EDDIE Faculty Mentoring Network logo

For future use (and for other laboratory and classroom activities utilizing Excel) I would initially implement an Excel introduction/Refresher in my course. I would hope that this would lay the groundwork to allow the students more freedom (I.e., more open inquiry formats) to explore and learn for themselves how to think about, use, and interpret quantitative data and data analysis platforms. The module as it is written requires some basic Excel skills, so a prior introduction for Excel beginners would then allow them to dive headlong into the module as it was originally written.