Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Jeffrey G. Ryan, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Sarah L. Sheffield, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Ping Wang, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Jeffrey R. Raker, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Todd Chavez, MLIS


diversity, field trips, geology, inclusion, virtual reality


Experiential learning exercises, such as field trips, are a common pedagogical practice in geoscience curriculums. Their purpose is to facilitate the transfer of knowledge gained in a classroom or lab setting into a field setting, but can be considered a barrier for entry into the geosciences for those with disabilities, caregiver/employment responsibilities, or financial constraints. Educators have begun turned to other modalities, such as virtual field experiences (VFEs), to create a more inclusive environment in the geosciences. However, the validity of VFEs as a replacement for, or augmentation to traditional field trips has yet to be established. The cognitive domain (e.g., knowledge, understanding, and comprehension) impacts of both traditional and virtual field trips on students have been studied extensively (Butler, 2008; Drummond & Markin, 2008; Hurst, 1998; Markowitz et al., 2018; Mead et al., 2019; Mogk & Goodwin, 2012; Whitmeyer et al., 2009), but the impacts to the affective domain (e.g., motivations, emotions, and perceptions) are comparatively sparse. To fully understand the implications of field trips on students, and to gain insight on how to broaden participation into the geosciences, the impacts of both traditional and virtual field trips on the affective domain need to be studied.

In my study, I sought to understand the affective domain implications of a traditional field trip setting as well as a virtual field trip setting by qualitative methods. I used semi-structured interviews along with photographs to gain insight of the affective domain impacts from traditional field trips, and semi-structured interviews only for the virtual field trip. Results from the traditional field trip study indicate students need to be involved in a community of practice to elicit positive affective domain impacts. Negative affective domain impacts derive from multiple sources such as uncertainty of field trip logistics, lack of accommodations from the instructor in regards to required physical activities, and a student’s lack of preparedness for a day out in the field. Results from the virtual field trip study indicate an overall positive affective domain impact, as every participant stated the experience exceeded their expectations of technological capabilities, user-ability, and interaction with the virtual environment. Participants remarked on the experience as being similar to traditional field trips, which enhanced immersion, and appreciated the iVFT as an option in lieu of a traditional field trip.

The results of my study indicate the affective domain can be dominant in both a traditional and virtual field trip setting meaning educators need to account for a student’s feelings, emotions, and perceptions when creating field trip experiences. Larger implications apply to broadening participation into the geosciences as the validity of VFEs as an option for those unable to attend a traditional field trip is becoming increasingly accepted.

Included in

Geology Commons