Award-winning: computer gaming simulates field trips


A tool that uses computer gaming to simulate field trips has won a prestigious Times Higher Education award.

Students on courses with a Geology element can use the tool developed by the Virtual Landscapes team at the University of Leeds and Leeds College of Art to help them to prepare for field work.

Winning the award for Outstanding Digital Innovation in Teaching or Research, the tool enables students to 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.

The tool 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 said: “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.” 

Professor Randall Whittaker, Director of Studies at Leeds College of Art, said: “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. 

The awards were presented at a ceremony hosted by actor Richard E. Grant in London last night.

Leeds University Business School was also shortlisted for Business School of the Year 2016 at the awards. In 2015, Leeds received triple accreditation from the world's leading bodies AACSB, AMBA and EQUIS, placing Leeds in the top 1% of business schools globally. Leeds was also one of the first institutions to receive a Gold Award from the government's Small Business Charter, for its role in supporting small businesses. 

The School was recognised for its impactful research with organisations including Marks & Spencer, Rolls-Royce and the Leeds City Region Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP). The Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014 saw the School ranked 9th for the quality of its research, making Leeds the only UK business school outside London to be both triple accredited and in the REF top ten.

The Times Higher Education award follows Leeds recently being named University of the Year 2017 by the Times and Sunday Times’ Good University Guide. Editor Alastair McCall said: “The University of Leeds thoroughly deserves our University of the Year for prioritising students' needs first to last.” 

Read more here about how Leeds is investing and innovating in education

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