Increasing Undergraduate Interest to Learn Geoscience with GPS-based Augmented Reality Field Trips on Student's Own Smartphones

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Field trips are a reliable method for attracting students into geoscience, yet for many high-enrollment college introductory courses, field trips are often impractical. Furthermore, introductory courses are often taught with a traditional lecture style that is poor at engaging students. This study examines the impact of augmented reality (AR) field trip exercises on the interest levels of students using readily accessible mobile devices (smartphones and tablets) as a means to provide simulated field trip experiences to a larger number of learners. The results of this study, involving 874 students from five different institutions, show that students who completed three geospatially oriented Grand Canyon field trip game modules were significantly more interested in learning the geosciences than control students and participants who completed only one module. More comprehensively, results from hierarchical linear modeling indicate three strong predictors of student interest in learning the geosciences: (1) the student's initial interest, (2) being a STEM major and (3) the number of AR field trip modules students complete. Notably, the race and gender of participants are not factors. Augmented reality field trips for mobile devices have potential to be an accessible and financially viable means to bring field trips to a diversity of students who would otherwise experience none. Results indicate these AR field trips increase student motivation to pursue geoscience learning.