Virtual teaching tool takes top award

University of Leeds award-winning Virtual Reality tool that simulates a geography field trip

FUTURE learning: University of Leeds award-winning virtual reality tool that simulates a geography field trip

A VIRTUAL reality tool that could revolutionise the teaching and learning of geography has scooped a prestigious award.

The Virtual Landscapes team at the University of Leeds, and Leeds College of Art, jointly developed the software which won the Times Higher Education award for Outstanding Digital Innovation in Teaching or Research at a ceremony in central London.

The programme enables students to simulate and explore a virtual landscape as they would a real one, interacting to collect real-time data, determine location, and map regional geology. This means that time can be used more profitably when they are out in the field.

It can also be used by students who cannot undertake fieldwork due to illness or injury, enabling the same skills and processes to be taught in a manner not previously possible.

Dr Jacqui Houghton, from the School of Earth and Environment at the University of Leeds, is director of the Virtual Landscapes project.

She says: “This is a fantastic example of team working, using experts from different disciplines and institutions to find a solution to a problem we had been grappling with for some time.

“Virtual Landscapes was developed from a pencil and paper exercise into a tool that has revolutionised the way that students learn about geology.”

University of Leeds staff can SIGN UP for a LITE Lunchtime Seminar 0n Thursday (1st December) in which Dr Houghton will talk in person about the award-winning software and how it has been used.

Professor Randall Whittaker, Director of Studies at Leeds College of Art, says: “We are absolutely thrilled to have won the Outstanding Digital Innovation in Teaching or Research Award at the Times Higher Education Awards 2016, the most prestigious awards for the UK education sector.

“This collaborative project demonstrates the benefits of using the creative and digital skills of our staff and students to address real-world problems and deliver engaging digital solutions.”

The tool has been so successful that it is being evaluated by other UK Universities, including Keele, Durham, and Liverpool, and used in universities in the USA, South Africa and Guyana.

Leeds Institute for Teaching Excellence (LITE) Director, Dr Raphael Hallett, says: “This an exciting and innovative piece of software that could pave the way to more inclusive, effective and time-saving teaching and learning.

“Well done to Jacqui and her team, I look forward to hearing more about this in the future and how it develops.”