The geothermal world videogame: An authentic, immersive videogame used to teach observation skills needed for exploration
Interviews with geothermal professionals have identified geothermal concepts (i.e. knowledge) and skill sets that entry-level geologists commonly lack when beginning a career in the geothermal energy sector. To help address these issues, an authentic and immersive 3D free-roaming videogame called ‘The GeoThermal World’ was designed and piloted in 2012 at the University of Canterbury to teach undergraduate students about geothermal fieldwork and resource exploration. An experiment was carried out to compare students’ learning experiences in a real fieldwork activity at Orakei Korako to learning experiences in the virtual setting of the videogame. Both settings were designed with the same outcomes in mind: to provide the students with a level of background knowledge and operating procedures to do basic geothermal fieldwork. Several datasets were collected to characterize the students learning and to allow us to compare their overall experiences and perceptions of the tasks in different settings. In both activities, we aimed to teach the students how to observe, characterize and record geologic information at a hot spring. Preliminary results indicate that both settings are successful at teaching geothermal concepts with some strengths and weaknesses identified in both. However, the settings seem to be complementary to one another. Hence, ideally, field teaching experiences as a part of the undergraduate geology curriculum could be supplemented by digital or virtual experiences. This may cut down on the time required to ‘skill-up’ new entry-level geologists who may be lacking geothermal-specific field knowledge and skills. Further development of ‘The GeoThermal World’ will allow us to refine the authenticity and create more complex virtual geothermal settings and challenges.