Adapting to virtual teaching in a time of physical distancing

 

I am really glad we have V3Geo. Last week this was one thing that helped smoothen a last-minute switch from running a class in person, to having to interact with the students virtually...

 

Autumn semester: time for running the GEOV364 class in the University of Bergen’s Department of Earth Science. This intensive module is run over two weeks, where the first week focusses on a crash course in geospatial methods in virtual outcrop geology. With Casey Nixon in UiB, we go from 0-60 in five days, covering laser scanning, photogrammetry (SfM), GIS and interpretation/visualisation through a mixture of intro lectures and practical exercises. We were already expecting things to be not-quite-normal due to physical distancing rules in place this semester (min. 1m distance between participants), meaning the students were split over two computer labs.

Friday morning before the course week is due to start: some illness at home (just a cold™) means one of the kids is out of nursery and I have to change my interaction from physical to virtual. That means a bit of reorganisation at last minute. Teams invites are sent out, lab access is organised, exercises are converted to account for not being in the room with the students. Normally I’m not a fan of just writing down all the button clicks, as it stops the students thinking about what they are trying to achieve, preferring to let them try themselves first. However, with my presence only over Teams I decided to rejig things.

One area of logistical pain in previous years has been sharing real-world virtual outcrop models for the students to work with, in all their multi-gigabyte, high resolution glory. In one exercise, spread over an entire day, the students work with two outcrop models of contrasting geology and scale, familiarising themselves with visualisation and interpretation using the tools in LIME.

Beckwith Plateau helicopter lidar model – 30km long and 300m high: just copy these 94GB over to your machine and we’ll begin. On second thoughts, let’s use the LIME connection to V3Geo.

This year the logistics were aided with V3Geo and the direct connection in LIME. Instead of mapping network drives (remembering to request access from the IT department), copying files and importing many individual model sections, the V3Geo connection could be called upon to get the data loaded in LIME in just a few clicks. This meant the exercise start-up was much smoother than normal, with less time spent around the IT logistics.

As a bonus, I modified my photogrammetry exercise to make use of V3Geo. Normally the students receive an outcrop image (sub)set that they process into a dense point cloud, learning the processing steps and potential pitfalls and limitations under way. As the final step in the exercise, it was now simple to let them explore the virtual outcrop model published in V3Geo, processed using the complete image set and georeferencing. This aids the understanding of model scale and coordinate issues.

Although interaction was wildly different from usual, with shared screens, chat window and microphones taking the place of the usual rounds of the labs, it was still possible to run the course week responsibly and with minimal interruption. V3Geo and the LIME connection played their part by removing at least one logistical headache from the last minute change, and even opened up some new and exciting possibilities for teaching virtual geoscience.

 

Simon Buckley

September 2020

 

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