Virtual environments for student fieldwork using networked components
The topics of virtual environments and information technology are addressed here in the context of fieldwork teaching. A pedagogic rationale is presented that considers the objectives of fieldwork and outlines the potential utility of networked graphical tools in this mode of teaching that is so essential to a range of subjects. The Virtual Field Course project (VFC) is developing software that realises this potential by fulfilling a stated series of objectives. A software architecture and implementation are presented that enable visualization software to communicate with a secure and remote shared library of spatially referenced data to support field-based activity. The software is extremely flexible and uses equipment, data and resources that are affordable and accessible to the higher education community. Two example applications are provided. Each uses the described architecture to visualize geographic information in support of fieldwork. Empirical feedback is provided gained from experience of using the software in the field.