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VR: Postgraduate field trips are now virtual in this UK university

SOURCE: PASCAL PAVANI / AFP
MSc Petroleum Geoscience students participated in a virtual field trip to the Pyrenees.


By U2B Staff 

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The effects of COVID-19 have a significant impact on postgraduate and executive education while universities offering postgraduate education strive to bring education to home-bound students all over the world. Most of the learning has now moved online, which internships and even field trips will now be held virtually through the usage of technology and virtual reality (VR).

Not only are business schools and universities reinventing MBA and postgraduate admission processes, teaching and learning processes have also changed to mitigate the impact of the pandemic. In fact, more recently, MBA admission testing has gone fully online, pushing aspiring MBA and master’s graduate candidates to take online-based admission tests in order to qualify for the programmes.

Due to the uncertainty created by the current pandemic, business schools and universities are even making unprecedented changes to their application processes while many schools are pushing back final application deadlines for up to six weeks.

In fact, potential applicants can expect virtual admission interviews and campus tours as part of social distancing measures using VR technology. In the coming weeks, we will see many business schools conducting admission interviews virtually, online and the MIT Sloan Management School is one of the many schools which will implement VR technology in its admissions process.

Cornell’s SC Johnson College of Business is also organising virtual admission events and has also announced that all MBA admission interviews will be conducted online, through video conferencing application, Skype.

Students around the globe can also expect internships to be converted to virtual programmes.  Based on the 2019 Fall Recruiting Trends Survey published by MBA Career Services and Employer Alliance CSEA, many internship employers are responding differently to the COVID-19 pandemic which has since shuttered many businesses across the globe but in essence, internships will either have to be carried out virtually or scrapped altogether.

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In this report, the alliance finds that 79% of responding schools report employers going virtual with some or all internships while the same number report reductions in the number of internship-hires. While 60% of employers are reported to rescind internship offers, 45% are pushing back internship start dates.

Business schools, including Wharton Business School, will also be moving MBA campus tours online, where prospective students will get to walk the grounds of the campus, virtually. While admission processes have gone online, teaching and learning have also emulated the same model.

Postgraduate field trips have also gone virtual through the use of VR technology

Universities have recently begun integrating field trips into their Master’s programmes and courses at a curricular level and these compulsory filed trips are a component of programmes in several fields including anthropology, geography, sociology, international relations, and management. In addition to this, some postgraduate students are required to undertake overseas field trips and expeditions as a compulsory part of their programmes and courses.

The field trip is usually one of the highlights of the academic year for postgraduate students. As part of the Imperial College London’s move to remote learning, 35 of its MSc Petroleum Geoscience students embarked on a simulated overseas trip to the Pyrenees.

Dr. Lidia Lonergan, Reader in Geotectonics, and Professor Gary Hampson, Professor of Sedimentary Geology, led the virtual tour of the Pyrenees.

The simulated field trip students saw students discussing what could be interpreted from high-resolution images/photographs, Google Earth, and drone-scanned virtual models of geological formations shared courtesy of Professor John Howell, University of Aberdeen, and V3Geo, licensed under Creative Commons.

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Throughout the process, students received guidance from the Graduate Teaching Assistants (GTAs) through Microsoft Teams, which helped them to communicate effectively.

Even without the ability to physically interact with the Pyrenees’ well-known landscape, students had to master the art of interpreting not only the information provided in photographs but also a wider range of topographical and contextual information which was challenging but also rewarding, putting the students’ observations and sketching skills to the test.

One Master’s of Science postgraduate student, Maria Lake, who participated in the virtual field trip, was one of many to praise the teaching team and said, “It was a great virtual field trip, I thoroughly enjoyed it!”

Dr. Lonergan said that there were some unexpected advantages of conducting a field trip virtually, as students were able to use detailed photo panoramas to observe more detail than they would have been capable of in the field in person.

Dr. Lonergan also added that students appreciated the insight into the industry perspective and, combined with the new digital skills they learned, participants felt they had gained some new employability skills.

Commenting on the ingenuity of his colleagues and students, Professor Omar Matar, Vice-Dean (Education) in the Faculty of Engineering, said, “From research to education, to innovation, our Departments are committed to excellence. Sometimes that requires inventiveness and flexibility, and a virtual field trip perfectly exemplifies that.’