Over several years, the authors have pursued technology solutions to the difficult arena of moving geology practicum work into the online space (e.g., Tetley and Daczko, 2014). Through a partnership of teaching academics with professional staff trained in digitisation and software development, the authors have now solved the problem of verisimilitude and utility and opened a raft of future opportunities including a smooth and seamless transition to online teaching when presented with recent pandemic lockdowns.
“Teaching geology with digital tools advances students’ learning experience by providing access to high-quality outcrops, enhancing visualization of 3D geological structures and improving data integration.” (Senger et al., 2021) Our solution required innovation on several fronts. Firstly, 3D digitisation and gigapixel imaging processes and methods were tried, evaluated, abandoned and refined until an ideal solution was developed that could actually replace the physical rock hand samples. Secondly, software platform development and integration was required. We utilised a custom developed 3D platform (Pedestal 3D) and also developed a bespoke platform for virtual petrographic microscopy (ImageMatrix). Finally, as “the organisation, logistics and relevance of an OBL session is critical to its efficacy” (Chatterjee and Hannan, 2016), all of this needed significant pedagogical underpinning and integration to ensure learning and outcomes were not impacted by the technology shift.
We found that generally, digital resources allow for and encourage much more practice of the professional skills required for identification of minerals. “Most professional geoscientists spend much of their day in front of work-stations, interpreting or modelling digital data, in two or three dimensions.” (Bond and Wightman, 2012) so this mode of delivery is a naturally suited authentic task. On top of that, digital pre-lab work prepares students for being confronted with actual samples. Be