To mimic the 3D geospatial components of geologic mapping usually spotlighted by field camp, we developed a virtual course based in the sandbox video game Minecraft. Paired with audio/video conferencing and real data, students practiced measuring strike and dip, orienteering with a compass, matching landscape features with topographic maps, and tracing geologic contacts within the team structure typically employed in field camp. Open-source programs and tutorials freely available online assisted with constructing the Minecraft worlds. Assignments were aligned to the nine learning outcomes established for geology field camps by the National Association of Geology Teachers (NAGT). A pre-survey and post-survey quantified students' learning of the subject matter as well as perceptions towards Minecraft and online learning. We also held feedback sessions and conducted in-class, live observations to classify students' reactions and experiences during virtual activities. Overwhelmingly, students indicated they would have preferred an in-person field camp, yet they considered the Minecraft assignments exciting, important, interesting, and valuable. Regardless of perceived barriers, scores on subject matter questions increased from the pre- to the post-survey. Finally, observations illustrated how students' experiences in a virtual field camp recreated comparable components that students experience during an in-person field camp (e.g., students discussing career pathways, geological skills, and fostering interpersonal relationships). Because this virtual course achieved the curricular goals as well as the non-curricular goals and was relatively easy to construct, we recommend the usage of Minecraft for virtual geology courses in the future.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)