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Virtual Reality: Water Quality Monitoring

Updated: Aug 9, 2022

Teacher: Dr. Richard Cheung

Department: Department of Chemistry, City University of Hong Kong (CityU)


Nothing matches the experiences of joining field trips to explore things in person in an environmental science study. However, opportunities for field trips are greatly limited by weather and site conditions. Moreover, distance learning is encouraged during the ongoing pandemic outbreaks. To enhance student engagement and compensate for the missed learning opportunities, Dr. Richard Cheung, Former Associate Professor in the Department of Chemistry at City University of Hong Kong, has adopted a flipped-classroom approach to facilitate a virtual field trip in an elective course “CHEM4040 Environmental Impact Assessment. ” “Virtual Reality: Water Quality Monitoring” (VRWQM) is a multi-scene VR trip that provides students with a safe and interactive learning opportunity in water quality monitoring – from equipment calibration in the laboratory on campus to measurements at various locations near Fung Yuen Butterfly Reserve. With a smartphone, tablet, or computer, students can carry out the field trip without spending an entire day traveling, which spares more time for participating in-class group discussions. Dr. Cheung pointed out that compared to traditional video, VR uses 360˚ videos and photos; its immersive experiences place students in the story from a first-person perspective. However, the preparations require immense effort. In particular, detailed fieldwork design (lab apparatuses and procedures) and logistics planning (schedule, sites and transportation, and filming gears) must be well defined. He also highlighted that selecting virtual field trip locations is essential; Fung Yuen is a suitable place with fewer people and is one of the government water monitoring points.

Upon completing the virtual field trip class, a post-survey was conducted to collect students’ perceptions of their learning experience with the virtual reality field trip and flipped classroom approach. In general, the students appreciated this immersive learning opportunity. Although the time spent preparing the VR filming was lengthy, those VR scenes can be further used in upcoming courses for more virtual laboratory sessions, particularly due to the recent COVID-19 situation.

Dr. Cheung encouraged other educators to try creating immersive learning experiences even though the beginning might be difficult. VRWQN has been used repeatedly since its first launch in 2019. To continue, Dr. Cheung had prepared another VR field trip to Tai Tau Chau Fish Culture Zone for introducing marine water and sediment monitoring. He was confident that his team would complete the new development within a shorter timeline.

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VR lab and field trip:


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