Modern field courses and problem-based learning; a comparison between industry and academia
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Problem-based learning (PBL) can provide an attractive learning situation in relation to field courses. Combined with information technology, the learning effect can be enhanced compared with more traditional courses that use lecture-based learning and no advanced technological aids. However, the use of information technology in field courses requires the consideration of fundamental pedagogic principles. In May 2003, two separate geological field courses were run at locations in Utah and Colorado, one for students and the other for industry employees. Both students and industry employees participated in a pre-field course before going into the field. In the field the participants worked in groups, solving both general and location-specific problems. Several geosimulators (advanced flight simulators) based on digital terrain models for Utah and Colorado were used both prior to and during the field course. Satellite images, photographs and maps where incorporated into the models in order to provide students and industry employees with a complex technological learning environment. Also, the courses made extensive use of interactive multimedia learning modules that could be accessed both before and after the field course. A specially designed learning management system was used for the administration of the field courses. The highly positive feedback from both students and industry employees documents the effectiveness of the course form and use of information technology in conjunction with field work.