Project RENU (Research Expedition for Net Zero and Universal Leaning) is a collaborative investigation between Earth Minutes and Durham University.
Since the Coronavirus outbreak, many University courses have been largely digitalised and the majority of Geography field trips have been cancelled or postponed. This unearthed many challenges related to traditional, physical field trips, including the accessibility (i.e. physically and financially) and sustainability (i.e. carbon footprint) of field trips. As a result, we utilised this as an opportunity to reimagine the future of field trips through exploring the design and application of Digital Field trip Experiences (DFEs).
Ultimately, we will explore how Higher Education institutions could make their field trips more accessible to all students, and how students could be provided with the sufficient tools to learn about the environment in a fundamentally sustainable way.
DEFINITION: WHAT IS A DFE?
Previous research largely refers to ‘Virtual Field trips (VFT)’. However, the definition of the term varies and there is no restriction on the use of the name, so it is often used in a broader sense (Qui and Hubble, 2002).
To avoid confusion and to reimagine the design and application of this type of learning, we have termed our learning resource a ‘Digital Field trip Experience (DFE)’. We define this as:
“A Digital Field trip Experience (DFE) is an engaging and interactive learning tool comprised of mixed-media resources, from film production, 360-video, research articles, graphics to online assessments.”
This Project has operated from November 2020 to January 2022, in association with the Enhancing Accessibility Fund.
DURHAM UNIVERSITY TRIAL:
We recognise that digital learning should be tested before it is implemented, so we designed and produced a DFE for one specific second-year module, ‘Glaciers and Glaciation’, in the Geography (BSc) degree at Durham University.
The final DFE for Project RENU comprised of a multi-media web platform with short films, 360-videos, graphics, articles and an online assessment. The design concept is shown below, and please get in touch if you would like more information regarding the format or function of the DFE - please note that the DFE is currently only accessible for academic and research purposes.
Moreover, further information regarding the digital sustainability of the platform (i.e. how we minimised digital carbon emissions) can be found in Chapter 4, ‘Environmental Impact’.
METHODOLOGY & AIMS
The Project comprised of four main phases; pre-production & preliminary research (to plan and design the DFE), production (to film the DFE resources), post-production (to edit and curate the DFE resources and web platform) and the DFE Trial (trialling a DFE with Durham University). With this, the Project aimed to assess and evaluate the impact of a DFE on:
• student engagement & experience
• environmental impact; and
• student accessibility and inclusivity
The methodology for each sector is summarised below:
STUDENT EXPERIENCE & ENGAGMENT:
To assess the impact on the environmental, we analysed the carbon footprint of the physical field trip for the Durham University ‘Glaciers and Glaciation’ module and compared it to the DFE alternative. We used the Albert (BAFTA) carbon calculator for all estimations and received Albert the ‘Carbon Neutral and Sustainable Production’ certification for this Project. Additionally, we collaborated with Wholegrain Digital (i.e. Carbon Web Calculator) to estimate the digital carbon emissions of the DFE, as well as with Teach the Future to assess the wider environmental implications of applying DFEs beyond the Geography curriculum.
To consider the possible opportunities that a DFE could have for student accessibility and thus inclusivity, in the Geography curriculum, we partnered with Black Geographers. In this sector, we assessed the current state of Geography and field trips, whilst exploring the wider benefits of a more accessible and inclusive future for Geography.