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In searching for ways to improve undergraduate success in introductory geoscience courses, the importance of experiential learning in engaging students has become clear—and in geoscience, that is encapsulated best by field trips. However, as general education class sizes increase, so do the cost, liability, and difficulty of running a field trip. A solution for economically and conveniently bringing kinesthetic field experiences to a broader audience lies in the integration of technology through mobile-device games, apps, and augmented reality (AR) field trips. We report here an examination of learning gains at five colleges after intervention with augmented reality field trips to Grand Canyon. The AR field trips cover three topics taught in introductory geoscience courses: geologic time, geologic structures, and hydrologic processes.

Results involving nearly 1000 students show that overall gains are similar to control groups, with completion of the AR field trips being a predictor of student learning success in some cases. Prior interest in the geosciences, students’ base-level understanding of the material, and whether or not the student is a science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) major are strong predictors of improvement in geoscience learning. Gender and ethnicity had no statistical impact on the results, suggesting the AR field trip modules have broad reach across student demographics. Because these modules have been shown elsewhere to increase student interest in learning the geosciences, we advocate their adoption, leading to increases in student learning.

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This document was originally published in Geosphere by Geological Society of America. This work is provided under a Creative Commons Attribution license. Details regarding the use of this work can be found at: doi: 10.1130/GES01404.1