An innovative teaching method allows students to travel without leaving the laboratory News | So Good News


In the science department, first-year undergraduate students are exploring Utah’s river valleys without ever leaving campus. Using a holographic model developed by Clirio Inc. software, approximately 460 students participated in a geoscience lab using HoloLens, an augmented reality / mixed reality headset.

The Department of Geology has been working hard over the past few years to bring diverse learning opportunities in the geosciences to the fore, and the HoloLens headsets are part of that initiative. Dr. Adam Pidlisecki, PhD, Annie Quinney, PhD, Alex Dutchak, PhD, Glenn Dolphin, PhD, and geoscience student Haidar Putra collaborated on the project.

When wearing the HoloLens, a virtual exit model (VOM) is projected in front of the student’s eyes, allowing them to interact and move with the model in 3D space without leaving the classroom.

  • Above: Geoscience students, from left, Nicole Garner, Emma Hicklin, Kylie Tij and Nicole Gillan use HoloLens during a geoscience lab (HoloLens image included).

Models created by students allow for purposeful design

“We’re trying to innovate a lot of what we’re doing,” says Pidlisecki, who is associate professor of strategy and innovation in the geosciences department and academic entrepreneur-in-residence.

As part of our commitment to innovation, we strive to bring state-of-the-art technology into the classroom and use it in innovative ways to create inclusive, accessible, immersive experiences that allow a wide range of students to experience and learn geoscience.

The team sought advice from Putra to experiment with the new technology and create mixed reality models for teaching geoscience. According to Pidlisecki, allowing a student to develop a solution is in keeping with the spirit of innovation at the University of Calgary.

“Haydar, who recently took the course, adapted to the mindset and needs of the students, so it was obvious that he chose this project. Innovation often comes from people who are very close to the “customer pain point” and what the customer’s problem is. If we are going to solve problems related to improving student outcomes, it is important that we think of ways to enable them to have their voice and be part of the development of solutions.”

Putra, who is in her final year of undergraduate studies, is majoring in Management and Society with a minor in Geology (Honours). She says she enjoys the experience of using art in education and using mixed reality to add interesting variety to students’ learning experiences.

“The practical use of simulations, in my opinion, improves education by a factor of 10,” he says.

His disciples also agree with him. Feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.

“There were some students who could really use this technology,” says Putra. “They would actually move and explore and look under the model.”

Holograms provide easy access to remote locations

Quinney, who teaches the widely popular Dinosaur Class, says he hopes to develop more content in the near future, including a protected dinosaur fossil with limited access.

Aside from the obvious “cool” factor, using holograms for geoscience research offers many advantages in terms of accessibility.

While the logistical challenge of taking a class of 460 undergraduates to a remote site is obvious, Dutchak says hologram-based technology can be a proxy for getting out into the field.

“It’s basically accessible to people regardless of where you are, your education level and your capabilities,” he says.

“Geology instructors are increasingly relying on VOM for teaching, especially when field schools are closed for two years during the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Delfin. “However, no one has systematically studied their effectiveness as a teaching tool. One of the goals is to document what students learn and learn by using VOM delivered in a mixed reality environment. It’s one thing to have an innovative and new learning tool, but it also has to work.”

The team also wants to make the technology usable by colleagues in the department.

“Ultimately, we want to suggest to other instructors what content works for the learning outcomes they’re trying to achieve.”


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