Driving on google maps and guess the rock: Life on a Lancaster Uni virtual field trip

Students were virtually driven to the field trip using… google maps

Nobody needs reminding that 2020 is a weird year for the student experience. Online learning, periods of isolation, no clubs – we get it, it’s not the same. Walking through campus on the day Sugar paused operations was accompanied by a weird echo of the Ian Beale “I have nothing left” wail. It’s rough, and most of us want some kind of tuition rebate.

As much as we all want some sort of compensation for this 2020 edition of uni, Geography and Environmental Science students at Lancaster University are actually appreciating the efforts to replace their physical voyages to rainy, muddy english fields.

The idea of the virtual field trip probably would have been laughed off in the paradise of 2019, but we spoke to the students that are living it: jumping on a virtual mini-bus to Kingsdale in the Yorkshire Dales live from the comfort of their bedrooms.

“The journey via Google Maps was a little weird”

Welcome to Kingsdale, this is roughly what it looks like according to Google Maps

The first part of the trip involved hopping onto the virtual drive. Buckle your seatbelts everyone, safety always come first. The route was direct, straight from the uni to Kingsdale via Google Maps, which Nathan described as “a little weird”.

First year Geography student, Abbey, said: “We were told to book out an afternoon to work through these activities as part of a trip to Kingsdale in Yorkshire. There was like a five minute clip of the drive there through google maps sped up, and they spoke over it, so we could pretend we were on the drive there?”

Laura, also a Geography student, adds that once they ‘virtually’ arrived, they were taken to several locations “to see the evidence for past climates.

“This started off by analysing some limestone and sandstone which were adjacent to each other and learning about how to tell the differences between the rocks, including pouring some acid on the rocks to see if they reacted. As geography is a subject which fundamentally relies on seeing what we learn about in the classroom in a real world setting, going on a field trip whilst lying in my bed was a rather surreal experience.”

“It was an interactive lecture style thing”

The set to be five hours, but “only took two and a half” virtual field trip was described as a “one of those interactive lecture style things” where students were asked to “read through these bits of information about each locality” says Abby, “but before each task they set the scene: the bus dropped you off at a t-junction for example, and stuff like that”

Students were asked to guess the type of rock on screen (think: massive, grey, solid) and admire photos from previous trips to really get a feel of what could have been.

“It had weird rock puns throughout”

For Abby, the “highlight” of the trip was the rock puns throughout it. It’s hard not to imagine a lecturer throwing the peace sign with tears flowing from their eyes as they wrote these out.

The puns seem to serve as word of affirmations. Other suitable slogans: Let’s rock n roll back to uni?

When the virtual field trip finally came to an end, the group was virtually observing a waterfall. Laura said: “The virtual field trip finished by a waterfall where the different rock types were discussed as each rock type was formed at a different time.”

“I appreciate that the uni are trying to make our learning experience as engaging as possible”

Laura said: “Although nothing can compare to going on an actual field trip, I appreciate that the uni are trying to make our learning experience as engaging as possible. However, the end result was not the most engaging and I believe had a lot more potential to be engaging.”

Environmental science student, Nathan added: “It was a nice idea, some unis don’t have anything to substitute for a proper field trip.

“It was a strange experience, like here’s where you could have gone… but to be fair, some people in other unis don’t even have a virtual field trip! It was still really interesting, there’s just nothing that compares to going out, standing in shit weather, freezing and having no idea what to do.”

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