University’s Field trip simulator wins award

University of Leeds and Leeds College of Art win Times Higher Education award for Outstanding Digital Innovation

The Virtual Landscapes team at the University of Leeds and Leeds College of Art have won the award for Outstanding Digital Innovation in Teaching or Research after developing a first person video game which simulates field trips.

The tool enables students to explore a virtual landscape as they would a real one. They are able to interact with the digital landscape to collect real-time data, determine location and map regional geology.

Those on courses with a geology field trip element will be able to use it to help prepare for field work, allowing the time spent on the field trip itself to be used more profitably.

In one exercise, 70% of the students who used the software reported increased confidence in the tasks they faced.

Furthermore, as the technology enables the teaching of the same skills and processes as the field trip itself, it can also be used by students who cannot undertake fieldwork due to illness or injury – something that was not previously possible.

Virtual landscapes is based on the multi platform Unity 3D game engine. It allows open ended environments with real world mapping, and can be accessed  anywhere with an internet connection as a browser plug in or stand alone app.

Leeds’ new, distinctly academic application of the software has been so successful it is being evaluated by other UK Universities, including Keele, Durham, and Liverpool. Globally, universities in the USA, South Africa and Guyana are looking to implement the model.

Dr Jacqui Houghton, from the School of Earth and Environment at the University of Leeds, is director of the Virtual Landscapes project.

She said: “This is a fantastic example of team working, using experts from different disciplines and  institutions to find a solution to a problem we had been grappling with for some time.

“Virtual Landscapes was developed from a pencil and paper exercise into a tool that has revolutionised the way that students learn about geology.”

Amy Crawford

(Image: University of Leeds)

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