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Volume 27 Issue 6 (June 2017)

GSA Today

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Article, pp. 4-10 | Full Text | PDF (455KB)

Increasing Undergraduate Interest to Learn Geoscience with GPS-based Augmented Reality Field Trips on Students’ Own Smartphones


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Natalie Bursztyn1, Brett Shelton2, Andy Walker3, Joel Pederson4

1 California State University Fullerton, Dept. of Geological Sciences, 800 N. State College Blvd., Fullerton, California 92831, USA
2 Boise State University, Dept. of Educational Technology, 1910 University Drive, Boise, Idaho 83725, USA
3 Utah State University, Dept. of Instructional Technology and Learning Sciences, 4505 Old Main Hill, Logan, Utah, 84322, USA
4 Utah State University, Dept. of Geology, 4505 Old Main Hill, Logan, Utah 84322, USA


Field trips are a reliable method for attracting students into geoscience, yet for many high-enrollment college introductory courses, field trips are often impractical. Furthermore, introductory courses are often taught with a traditional lecture style that is poor at engaging students. This study examines the impact of augmented reality (AR) field trip exercises on the interest levels of students using readily accessible mobile devices (smartphones and tablets) as a means to provide simulated field trip experiences to a larger number of learners. The results of this study, involving 874 students from five different institutions, show that students who completed three geospatially oriented Grand Canyon field trip game modules were significantly more interested in learning the geosciences than control students and participants who completed only one module. More comprehensively, results from hierarchical linear modeling indicate three strong predictors of student interest in learning the geosciences: (1) the student’s initial interest, (2) being a STEM major, and (3) the number of AR field trip modules students complete. Notably, the race and gender of participants are not factors. Augmented reality field trips for mobile devices have potential to be an accessible and financially viable means to bring field trips to a diversity of students who would otherwise experience none. Results indicate these AR field trips increase student motivation to pursue geoscience learning.

Manuscript received 1 June 2016; Revised manuscript received 16 Sept. 2016, Manuscript accepted 17 Nov. 2016; Posted online 13 Feb. 2017