Developing geographical understanding through 3D immersive environments

Topic Description

This project will focus on the design of learning activities to facilitate students’ development of map interpretation skills within avatar-based three-dimensional (3D) simulations of urban and rural landscapes. Realistic 3D simulations will be used to support 'learning in context' by layering geographical/geological data over the landscape models that users can interactively explore. Potential studies could also investigate students’ understanding of the interconnections between physical geography and human geography, for example, with regard to the impact of river erosion, coastal flooding or deforestation. The potential user-groups and stakeholders that could inform and adopt the findings of this research include: education providers within the geosciences, such as schools and universities; commercial organisations involved in activities requiring spatial decision-making, such as city planning; and relevant public groups, such as ramblers and tourists. Depending on the successful applicant’s interests and background, the project could include the technical development of 3D landscape models and simulations (e.g. using a platform such as Unity), and/or evaluating how the affordances of 3D simulations (such as realism and authenticity of spaces, sense of presence, sense of space and collaborative learning) foster spatial literacy and map interpretation skills.

Skills Required:

You will need to have completed a Masters in Interaction Design, or Human Computer Interaction with a project related to geographic representation and visualisation, or in Geography with strong focus on use of technology and in user-centred design, or in Geographical Information Science. Prior experience of having worked in virtual reality or 3D virtual environments or as a programmer will be essential for this project.

Background Reading:

• 3D and Height, Ordnance Survey -
• 3D Virtual Geology Field Trip (includes activities around the use of geological maps and Ordnance Survey) -
• Maps and landforms in The Open Science Lab -
• BBC News (1st May 2015): Sat-navs and mobile apps 'threaten map-reading skills' -
• OU OpenLearn course: Why maps are made -

Report an error on this page