The Advanced

Earth and Environmental Sciences

Certification Program

Registration begin Fall 2004

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Earth and Environmental Sciences Virtual Labs



  In Virtual Academia the Earth and Environmental Sciences Virtual Labs (EESVL) are developed in the perspective of game-based technology. With these fast technological advancements, new methods of teaching have to be developed to boost the traditional instruction paradigms. Geological sciences have been mainly taught with conventional educational tools,­ textbooks, lectures, and laboratories. With the latest virtual labs technologies, learning media can supply geological information to the students, provide attractive instruction with electronic media, and promote their technology proficiencies, all causative to their pro­fessional improvement. EESVL teaching material is slowly being developed and there is a strong need for new tools in earth sciences because of the difficulties in learning and visualizing in many of their concepts. Most conven­tional teaching materials are linear and static which makes earth sciences harder to teach, since the content is dynamic, with time and causal relationships. Thus, regard­less of the instructor, students have struggled to generate correct mental models of the concepts. The dynamic nature of the topic should be taught with an analogous teaching approach.

  In the earth sciences, we are dealing with events that had happened millions of years ago with creatures and plants that don't exist any more. Earth sciences studies are mystic in nature. Geologists can be imagined looking for treasures, precious metals, oil and gemstones. Adventure is everywhere far in the deserts and deep in the oceans or very high on the mountain tops. It can be even inside the earth. Virtual realities are the right tool to teach earth sciences topics to help students imagine the concepts that will never have the opportunity to see them take place.  The quality and effectiveness of this study depend on multidisciplinary capabilities of scientific and educational advisory, animation and software designing, content developing, and evaluation. EESVL are interactive and potentially high on the inquiry scale. The EESVL can be used in a more formal educational setting as supplemental material to prepare for, or reinforce a conventional geologic lab, or even to provide a lab-like experience when a geologic lab is not possible. The EESVL are useful for revealing science as a process and for carrying a learner through that process while treating concepts and methods/technology together.

  The current study is a product of the earth and environmental sciences Virtual Labs development. The heart of the present study is an immersive, interactive learning environment designed to teach most earth sciences topics using a high level of integrated visual teaching. In this paper, the educational design and method­ologies will be described and then an evaluation of the system will be shown. It is a suite of customizable and interactive teaching media designed to integrate and dynamically instruct complex systems using media-rich animations, real-time simulations, and virtual environments. It is a system that has been developed, implemented, and then evaluated for its effectiveness of learning outcomes.