Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Jeffrey G. Ryan, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Christopher L. Atchison, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Ping Wang, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Lori Collins, Ph.D.


geology, accessible, e-learning, virtual


Field learning is an important aspect of geoscience education to teach or reinforce concepts and skills, and the highly social experience of field work can improve learning outcomes, create networks to support future academic success, and promote a sense of belonging in the geosciences. However, field learning presents significant barriers to participation for students with physical disabilities. The introduction of digital data collection and communication devices into traditional field work settings has created new opportunities to expand access to field learning experiences such as remote collaboration; a method of undertaking field work through collaborative teamwork and the use of digital communication technology.

This mixed-method study examines the factors that influence academic and social engagement when implementing remote collaboration into a residential field learning experience for students with a range of physical abilities. The results of a quantitative video analysis indicate that cumulatively, levels of academic engagement for students using remote collaboration and participating directly in the field were similar, however the results for individual participants were highly variable. An examination of two students who participated in field work with partial direct access and remote access reveal significant differences in how engagement levels varied between the two approaches and highlight the importance of choosing inclusive strategies that are best suited to each student’s learning style and unique needs. Survey results indicate that students found the digital environment of remote collaboration conducive to positive social interaction. An analysis of interview and observation data indicates that potential influences on engagement include the academic background of participants, academic inclusion and support from faculty, social inclusion from peers and the development of cohesive team identities and goals, the ways in which technology was utilized, and student agency in making choices regarding the means of participation and level of physical engagement. The results of this evaluation indicate that remote collaboration has the potential to be an engaging means of participation that enables a more physically diverse student population to be active participants in geoscience field learning environments.